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Researchers Working to End Addiction

Portrait of George Wilcox.

George Wilcox

Professor — Academic Health Center

I am driven to develop nonaddictive pain medications

George Wilcox is a professor of neuroscience and pharmacology and also the RW Goltz Professor of Dermatology. Trained originally in chemical physics, engineering, and bioengineering, he has held academic appointments at the University of Minnesota since 1977 and has been director of the U of M’s Center for Pain Research since 2002. He has done extensive research in mechanisms of pain perception, spinal analgesia, and related topics. He makes a point of introducing neuroscience students to the campus’s high-performance computing laboratories, which are invaluable for biological imaging, modeling of large molecules, and simulating how neurons function. He is a three-time winner of the U of M School of Dentistry’s Teacher of the Year award for the third year of dental school. Among his collaborators is Carolyn Fairbanks.

Faculty profile

Portrait of Carolyn Fairbanks.

Carolyn Fairbanks

Professor — College of Pharmacy

I am driven to create localized painkillers that won’t reach the brain

Carolyn Fairbanks is a professor and associate head in the Department of Pharmaceutics and adjunct professor of pharmacology and neuroscience. She has served as co-director for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Pain Research and interim associate dean for research of the College of Pharmacy, for which she also designed and directs a graduate-level seminar, Advanced Neuropharmaceutics, and co-directs the Medicinal Chemistry and Neuropharmacology core course. She has also served on the board of directors of the American Pain Society. Fairbanks is committed to understanding how different kinds of pain originate and to developing pain management approaches tailored to specific chronic pain conditions. Among her collaborators is George Wilcox.

Faculty profile

Portrait of Kelvin Lim.

Kelvin Lim

Professor — Academic Health Center

I am driven to map the brain to predict those most likely to relapse

Kelvin Lim’s research interests include developing novel neuroimaging techniques to study brain disorders and ways of harnessing the brain’s ability to change and improve its function. A psychiatrist, he has been a staff physician since 2004 in the VA Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center in the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. He is director of 3 Tesla Services at the U of Ms Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, site investigator of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center in the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, and director of the Nun Study, a long-term study of nuns in Mankato, Minnesota, to learn factors that predispose toward, or protect from, Alzheimer’s disease. Among his collaborators is Mark Thomas.

Faculty profile

Portrait of Mark Thomas.

Mark Thomas

Associate Professor — Academic Health Center

I am driven to find the switch that turns off addiction

Mark Thomas is an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience and interim director of the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Center of Addiction Neuroscience. Before joining the U of M faculty, he held an appointment in the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. He is fascinated by how experience changes the brain and has published extensively in this area. Thomas has also presented his research at universities and conferences around the United States. He has been accorded many honors, including a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship from the U of M, a Kavli Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences, and a Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Award. Among his collaborators is Kelvin Lim.

Faculty profile

Molly Dingel portrait

Molly Dingel

Associate Professor — University of Minnesota Rochester

I am driven to understand how people make sense of their own addiction

Molly J. Dingel is a sociologist and an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Rochester. She is the first faculty member at UMR to achieve tenure. Her disciplinary research explores the bioethical dimensions of new genetic and medical technologies. Specifically, she explores the ways that knowledge created in scientific enterprise, like in research on addiction, is presented in the media and affects individuals. She has collaborated with partners at the Mayo Clinic and University of California San Francisco. She also studies the sociology of education research, with special interest in student diversity and inequality in postsecondary education.