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Scientist Spotlight: Michael T. Bardo, PhD
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Scientist Spotlight, 5th Edition, December 2014

From Our Field…

 Scientist Spotlight: Michael T. Bardo, PhD


Interview conducted by: Christie D. Fowler, PhD

In this edition of the Scientist Spotlight, Dr. Michael Bardo offers insight and advice based on his more than 30 years as a scientist in the addiction field. In 1980, Dr. Bardo earned his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at Iowa State University under the supervision of Dr. Richard Hughes, and during this time, he investigated the development of tolerance to morphine in infant rats. Thereafter, he completed postdoctoral training in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Iowa under the supervision of Dr. Gerald Gebhart. Since 1982, Dr. Bardo advanced through the ranks in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky to hold his current positions as Professor and Director of the NIDA-funded Center for Drug Abuse Research Translation. During this time, he made a remarkable impact on the field, as evidenced by an impressive list of publications (200+) while serving as mentor to 12 postdoctoral scholars and 18 PhD students. Thus, it is not surprising that he has also received a number of awards, including two most recently for mentorship from the University of Kentucky and College on Problems of Drug Dependence. In addition to his primary academic research appointment, Dr. Bardo currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (Dr. George Koob, Consortium Coordinator) and on the Board of Directors for the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.


1.    Why did you choose to become a scientist?

My undergraduate mentor at Eastern Illinois University (Dr. Frank Hustmyer) inspired me to go into science and I enrolled in the masters program there to work in his laboratory.   


2.    What are your current research interests?

I am most interested in understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of addictive behaviors, primarily using drugs of abuse including nicotine.  In one line of research, I am studying how individual differences in reward- and impulsivity-related behaviors predict differences in drug abuse vulnerability.  In another line of work done in collaboration with Dr. Linda Dwoskin in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky, we are pursuing novel medications for the treatment of stimulant abuse.  


3.    How have your research interests evolved over the course of your career?

I first started in the pain field working with Dr. Gerald Gebhart in Pharmacology at Iowa to do electrophysiological recordings in the descending pain inhibitory pathway. From there, I become interested in morphine as a pain reliever, but one that has high dependence liability.  This led me to the addiction field.   


4.    What do you view as the main challenges for your field? From your perspective, what do you view will be the next biggest breakthrough(s)?

The issue of translating findings from rats to use in humans is still challenging.  Computer simulation may be the next major breakthrough. 


5.    Do you currently or have you served as a scientific consultant for a company, as an editor for a journal, and/or a position in a scientific organization (e.g., SRNT, SfN, etc.)?

Yes, I am both on an editorial board and serve as consultant.  The major advantage is that you have greater access to decision-making on a larger scale than what typically comes from a single laboratory.  The biggest downside is the time commitment. 


6.    About how much time per week do you commit to professional organizations, administrative duties, teaching, clinical requirements or similar?

At least one half of my time is spent on these activities.  


7.    How much time per week do you spend writing papers for publication and/or grant applications?

The other 50% of my time is devoted to these research-related activities.


8.    Have you achieved a balance between work and personal priorities? How do you prioritize work and non-work activities?

I am tipped too far toward work priorities, but as I become more seasoned, I have become better at time management which allows me to be more invested in personal matters. 


9.    What strategies have you found to be most beneficial for managing all of your commitments?

Time management and setting up priority list.  Delegating some tasks also is important.  


10. What is the current size of your laboratory? In your opinion, what is the best balance of postdocs, graduate students, and technicians?

I currently have 3 postdocs, 2 graduate students, 2 staff and 6 undergraduates.  I consider these numbers to in good balance for vertical training, from postdoc to graduate student to undergraduate. 


11. What is the best advice that you ever received from one of your mentors?

“You are charge of your own destiny.”  


12.  What advice would you have for students starting their academic career? What qualities do you look for when recruiting graduate students or postdocs?

A strong work ethic is by far the most important trait.  The ability to work both independently and in a team also is highly desirable.   


13.  What advice would you have for postdoctoral trainees transitioning into faculty positions?

Make sure you go for first-authorships in high impact journal outlets. 

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