Michael J. Welch, PhD
Michael J. Welch, PhD, professor of radiology, is a pioneer in the development and widespread application of radiopharmaceuticals, or tracers, for medical research and clinical practice. His work has had a groundbreaking influence on the development and use of critical imaging methods such as nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Welch has developed practical techniques for the rapid, reliable synthesis of short-lived tracers, laying the foundation for PET to emerge as a critical tool in biomedical research and clinical imaging. His tracers are now used worldwide in clinical studies of hypoxia, tumor receptors and antigens, and chemotherapy outcomes.
Similarly, his work on O-15 tracers made it possible to measure cerebral blood flow and metabolism, a capability that spurred development of the entire field of functional neuroimaging. Welch’s most recent work includes an $18 million NIH contract to apply imaging to nanosystems for diagnosis and therapy.
In his 44 years at the university, Welch has been a major leader in building a world-class imaging center and the world’s leading radiochemistry program. His contributions to the field also include mentoring a large number of doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom now hold senior academic positions at other schools. He has received numerous prestigious awards, including Washington University’s Second Century Award and the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s Georg Charles de Hevesy Nuclear Medicine Pioneer Award; the society also established the Michael J. Welch Award in his honor. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and an honorary fellow of the American College of Radiology.
Welch received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cambridge University and earned his doctoral degree from the University of London in 1965. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Brookhaven National Laboratory before joining the Washington University School of Medicine faculty in 1967.