Uğurbil, Kamil (b. July 11, 1949, Tire), scientist awarded the Vehbi Koç Award for health in 2016. He won recognition for his studies into the brain, carried out using a magnetic resonance imaging technique (MRI) which he developed.
After attending elementary school in Tire, Prof. Uğurbil went to middle school at Izmir Maarif College (now Bornova Anatolian High School) and completed his secondary education at Robert College. He continued his studies in the USA, receiving a physics degree from Columbia University, New York, in 1971, followed by master’s and doctorate degrees from the same university in 1974 and 1977 respectively. After working at AT&T Bell Laboratories (1977-79), he served on the academic staff of Columbia University Department of Biochemistry (1979-82). In 1982, he began working at Minnesota University Department of Biochemistry as an associate professor. He has served at Minnesota University since 1985, a professor in the radiology, neurology and medicine departments. Prof. Uğurbil has served as founding director of the university’s interdisciplinary Magnetic Resonance Research Center since 1991 and also as director of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (2003-06). He currently works as a consultant at the National Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Bilkent University in Ankara.
Prof. Uğurbil received the Vehbi Koç Award in 2016 for “developing pioneering new technologies for understanding how the brain works using magnetic resonance” and describes his main field of interest as “developing methods of screening neurological activity, particularly brain activity, using ultra-high field MRI technology”. He aims to “develop our understanding of brain function by combining these procedural and technical developments with neurological practices relating to human and animal brains”. The development of equipment and screening methods used for this purpose form an important part of his work. High-resolution MRI technology developed as a result of Prof. Uğurbil’s research has enabled a better understanding of numerous diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and depression, and facilitated the development of treatments. This technology has recently been used in studies mapping connections in the human brain as part of the Human Connectome project, for which Prof. Uğurbil was the principal researcher. Professor Uğurbil has published over 300 scientific papers relating to his research, which have been referenced over 30,000 times.
Uğurbil has received numerous awards, including the Gold Medal from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and the Richard R. Ernst Medal (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - ETH, Zurich). He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, the US National Academy of Medicine in 2007 and the US National Academy of Inventors in 2014. He was also one of 15 members of the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Biotechnologies) Initiative, one of the Obama administration’s top-priority projects.