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Michael Friedlander, Ph.D.

Michael Friedlander, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute
Virginia Tech Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology
Senior Dean for Research, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Michael J. Friedlander, Ph.D. headshot

“This is one of the most incredible places in the world for cross-disciplinary research, where we're converging on answering some of the most critical health problems and challenges facing human kind today." 

Exploring the cellular processes underlying synaptic plasticity

How are synapses affected during development, learning, and in response to injury?

Michael Friedlander is the vice president for health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech, where he also serves as the founding executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and the senior dean for research at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. He has built the institute’s research programs to over $140 million in current grant value with more than 35 research teams and over 400 investigators and students since its founding in 2010. He has served as the principal investigator on multiple research grants on brain processes that mediate vision, developmental plasticity, and traumatic brain injury. His research has been published in leading journals such as Academic Medicine, Cell, J. Neuroscience, Nature, Neuron, PNAS and Science. 

Dr. Friedlander has held two endowed professor positions – as the Evelyn McKnight professor of learning and memory in aging at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and as the Robertson professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Friedlander served as director of neuroscience initiatives at Baylor College of Medicine and as the founding chair of the department of neurobiology, as the founding director of the Neurobiology Research Center and as director of the Civitan International Research Center on Intellectual Disabilities at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In addition to his university leadership positions, Friedlander is the founding president of the Association of Medical School Neuroscience Department Chairs. He has served as chair of the Council of Academic Societies of the Association of American Medical Colleges, representing over 90 medical and scientific societies, on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute - AAMC joint task force on the Scientific Foundations of Future Physicians, on the AAMC National Research Advisory Panel and as an AAMC distinguished service member. He served as chair of the National Association of Intellectual Disabilities Research Centers, as president of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, where he was also elected to the inaugural class of Experimental Biology and Medicine Fellows, and as an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He currently serves on multiple boards, including the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation Board, the Children’s National Hospital Research, Education and Innovation Board, the Valleys Innovation Council, the Virginia Bio Academic Board, the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation (Catalyst) Board, and is a member of the Go Virginia Region 2 Council, and also of multiple scientific journal editorial boards.

Friedlander is a recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship in Neuroscience, a National Institutes of Health Fogarty Center Senior International Research Fellowship to the Australian National University, a Lucille Markey Foundation Center Award, a W.M. Keck Foundation Center Award, the American College of Physicians’ Menninger Award for Mental Health Research, the University of Illinois Distinguished Alumnus Award in Molecular and Integrative Physiology, and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine. He has held visiting professorships at Oxford University, the Australian National University, and the University of Paris.

Friedlander completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Florida State University, a doctorate in physiology and biophysics at the University of Illinois, and postdoctoral training at the University of Virginia. Friedlander spent his childhood in Miami. He and his wife Sandra have five daughters and nine grandchildren.

  • Executive Director, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC
  • Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology
  • Senior Dean for Research, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
  • Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Science
  • Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, College of Engineering
  • Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, School of Medicine

Friedlander, M.J., C.-S. Lin and S.M. Sherman.  Structure of physiologically identified X- and Y-cells in the cat's lateral geniculate nucleus.  Science, 204:1114-1117, 1979.

Friedlander, M.J.  The structure of physiologically classified neurons in the kitten dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. Nature, 300:180-183, 1982.

Lal, R. and M.J. Friedlander.  Gating of retinal transmission by afferent eye position and movement signals.  Science, 243:93-96, 1989.

Sayer, R.J., M.J. Friedlander and S.J. Redman.  Time course and amplitude of EPSPs evoked at synapses between pairs of CA3-CA1 neurons in hippocampal slice. J. Neurosci., 10:826-836, 1990.

Montague, P.R., C. Gancayco, M.J. Winn, R.B. Marchase and M.J. Friedlander.  Role of NO production in NMDA receptor-mediated neurotransmitter release in cerebral cortex.  Science, 263:973-977, 1994.

Dudek, S.M. and M.J. Friedlander.  Developmental down-regulation of LTD in cortical layer IV and its independence of modulation by inhibition. Neuron, 16:1097-1106, 1996.

Kara, P. and M.J. Friedlander.  Arginine analogues modify signal detection by neurons in the visual cortex, J Neurosci. 19:5528-5548, 1999.

Saez, I and Friedlander, MJ, Plasticity between neuronal pairs in layer 4 of visual cortex varies with synapse state J. Neurosci. 29: 15286-15298, 2009

Zhu PJ, Huang W, Kalikulov D, Yoo JW, Placzek AN, Stoica L, Zhou H, Bell JC, Friedlander MJ, Krnjević K, Noebels JL, Costa-Mattioli M. (2011). Suppression of PKR Promotes Network Excitability & Enhanced Cognition by Interferon-γ-Mediated Disinhibition. Cell, 147(6):1384-96.

Saez, I and Michael J Friedlander, Role of GABAA-Mediated Inhibition and Functional Assortment of Synapses onto Individual Layer 4 Neurons in Regulating Plasticity Expression in Visual Cortex. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 3;11(2).

  • Wilhelmina Robertson Endowed Professor of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Chair, Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Director, Neuroscience Initiatives, Baylor College of Medicine
  • University of Virginia: Postdoctoral fellowship
  • University of Illinois: Ph.D.
  • Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine Distinguished Scientist Award
  • Elected Fellow of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
  • Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Board of Directors Distinguished Service Member
  • First Annual Neuroscience Society Distinguished Scholar Award of the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Wilhelmina Robertson Endowed Chair in Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine, 2005-2010
  • Evelyn F. McKnight Endowed Professor of Learning and Memory in Aging, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of Illinois Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Distinguished Alumnus Award
  • NIH Fogarty Center International Fellowship to the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Canberra, Australia
  • Elected member of the Dana Foundation Brain Alliance
  • WM Keck Foundation Award for Neurobiology Program Development
  • American College of Physicians William C. Menninger Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions to Mental Health Research
  • Lucille P. Markey Foundation Center Award for Program Development In Neurobiology
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Neuroscience Fellowship


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