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Profile: T. Michael Gill, PhD

T. Michael Gill, PhD, is the director of Gladstone’s Neurobehavioral Core. He joined Gladstone after 13 years with the Ernest Gallo Clinic & Research Center at UCSF. He received his doctorate in experimental and biological psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Ohio State University.

What brought you to Gladstone?

When my former PI at the Ernest Gallo Clinic & Research Center at UCSF took a position at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, I started looking for a new job in the Bay Area. I discovered an open position for a director of the Neurobehavioral Core at Gladstone, and that’s how it all started.

What do you like about Gladstone?

I really like Gladstone’s independent environment and its associated freedom to develop common, collaborative goals that drive scientific discoveries. I also value Gladstone’s unique relationship with the larger UCSF academic community, and the benefits that come with it.

Were you interested in science as a child?

Not so much, but I was always very inquisitive. It was the marvel of the brain, spinal cord, and entire nervous system that fascinated me during my first semester in college and really got me into neuroscience.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I wanted to become a college professor to teach young minds and produce the same type of positive influence that I found in many of my own professors.

What or who influenced your decision to work in science?

My undergraduate professor at the California State University in Fresno, Dr. Thomas Breen. He taught the undergraduate Introduction to Physiological Psychology class and the upper division Psychophysiology course that had an accompanying practical lab. It was in that lab where I saw, firsthand, the information taught in the textbooks. When I first removed a brain and did gross histology, I was forever hooked on neuroscience. He encouraged me to transfer to a UC campus in order to get true research experience in preparation for applying to graduate schools.

What do you do when you are not working in the lab?

When I’m spending time with my two daughters, it’s A’s baseball, Warrior’s basketball, basketball, bocce, hiking, cooking, beaches along the central coast of California, and exploring new restaurants and cafes. On my own, it’s hiking, biking, running, wine tasting, wine collecting, golfing, and cooking.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Grape growing and winemaking.

What is your hidden/unique talent?

None. I’m a pretty open person, so most of my friends know my talents, which I do not think are very unique.

Name one thing that not many people know about you.

I qualified for the Boston Marathon while running my first marathon ever at age 46.

If you could meet any scientist from any point in time, who would it be and why?

There are several whom I’d like to meet:

Santiago Ramón y Cajal informed modern science of the structure of the brain, with its many types of cells, in artistic detail, more than 100 years ahead of technology. He is widely considered the father of modern neuroscience, with many of his discoveries ultimately leading to the “neuron doctrine.”

Karl Lashley informed physiological psychology with his seminal studies on the cortical basis of learning and memory that led to early theories of Mass Action and Equipotentiality. He laid the foundation for many of the modern concepts in the neural foundations of distributed memories and cognition.

Wilder Penfield was the first neurosurgeon to explore the neural locus of epilepsy at the same time as mapping behavioral/memory functions of different brain regions through electrical stimulation in fully conscious patients. He identified the temporal lobes as the repository of complicated, repeatable memories. He also developed the first functional maps of the cortex commonly referred to as the “homunculus.”

Why do you have three names: Thomas, Michael, and Mike?

My mother wanted to name me after my father, Thomas E. Gill, but I am not a junior. She also very much wanted a son named Michael, so she called me Michael from day 1. Most people, however, know me as Mike Gill. I like to honor my father and the positive influence he has had on my life by including T. Michael Gill whenever possible.