Michael L. Nickels, PhD, associate professor of radiology, was named the director of the cyclotron facility and nuclear pharmacy. Prior to his appointment, Nickels, who assumed responsibilities June 10, served as an assistant professor in the department of radiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. At Vanderbilt, Nickels oversaw the activities of the Radiochemistry Core, which focused on the development and production of PET and SPECT imaging agents for use in basic preclinical to clinical applications.
Nickels brings with him a research background encompassing radiopharmaceutical development and the labeling techniques used to incorporate radionuclides. He is currently investigating the use of microfluidic chemistry as a means to accomplish fluorine-18 labeling on both model compounds and authentic radiopharmaceutical agents. He also oversees the development of several new agents for imaging with PET radionuclides.
Nickels says MIR is one of the few institutions he’d consider joining. As director of the cyclotron facility, he aims to continue to make MIR a premier location for radiology and radiochemistry, as well as diversify research and radiochemistry innovation.
“The most exciting part about this facility is the people,” he says. “I’ve never been in as energetic of a location. The researchers are really motivated and want to get going quick.”
In some ways, Nickels’ presence at MIR has been a long time coming. He earned his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he studied new techniques for the incorporation of fluoride ion and explored technetium chelate chemistries. Because the university did not have a working cyclotron at the time, Nickels and his lab group traveled to St. Louis to use MIR’s — an experience he says taught him the value of strong collaborative relationships in the scientific world.
Nickels says that in his new role, he’s most eager to continue producing work that will help others. “The images of the things we can do speak for themselves.”