University of Michigan


Brian Athey, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, University of Michigan Visible Human Project
Collegiate Professor (Designate), Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics
Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Internal Medicine
Chair (Designate), Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics
Director, Academic Informatics
Associate Director, Informatics and IT, Michigan Institute for Clinical Health Research (MICHR)

Dr. Brian Athey received his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology (Biophysics concentration) from the University of Michigan (1990), with a research focus in macromolecular structural biology. Dr. Athey is currently an Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics in the University of Michigan Medical School Departments of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine; Brian is also an Associate Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in the UM Bioinformatics Graduate Program, and he is an active course master in the Program. In addition, he is founding Associate Director of the University of Michigan Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics (, which has responsibility for the university-wide bioinformatics  graduate program, interdisciplinary pilot grant programs, and for providing access to computing and data infrastructures for “omics” and systems biology technology throughout CCMB and beyond to medical school and campus researchers.  Brian is the Principal Investigator of the NIH National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics (, only one of seven NIH National Centers for Biomedical Computing (NCBC), a centerpiece of the NIH Roadmap initiative.  He is also the Director of the funded Clinical and Translational Sciences Award (CTSA) Biomedical Informatics Program, housed in the Michigan Center for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR). He has responsibility to direct the U-M Health Informatics Research Organization (HIRO), the U-M wide health informatics faculty consortium, and oversight of the MICHR Clinical Research Informatics Core. Dr. Athey is co-chair of the national CTSA informatics consortia working group.
During his Ph.D. thesis research in the 1980s, Brian proposed the double helical crossed-linker model for the structure of chromatin, at that time controversial, but now thought to be the correct model for this critical macromolecular complex, and featured in many textbooks.  In the mid 1990s, Brian served as the Director of Biological Imaging Programs at the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM; now part of General Dynamics). Dr. Athey is also a founding member of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biology ( Brian was also a longtime collaborator and friend for the world famous and late Professor Emmett Leith, the inventor of off-axis holography. He and Leith invented and demonstrated an incoherent white light holographic microscope in 2001 with their student Kurt Mills and collaborator David Dilworth.  Brian is well known for his work with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Visible Human Project where he has been a leader in establishing a nationwide Internet2 end-to-end test-bed demonstration project with NIH/NLM sponsorship in collaboration with Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center ( The NLM VHP naturally lead to the establishment of the very successful DARPA Virtual Soldier Project (VHP) (, a nationwide consortium of which he was the Principal Investigator, which builds from the VHP to extend it from basic human anatomy to physiological modeling, functional simulation and prediction after a traumatic injury.  Many of these projects are well known internationally.  Dr. Athey has published over 50 papers in the scientific literature, and has given well over 200 talks nationally, including several keynotes and plenary talks.  Brian was awarded  a Peace Fellowship of the Federation of American Scientists ( in 2000, for his efforts in the 1990s to prevent biological warfare and terrorism. He is also a founding board member of Scientists and Engineers for America ( information about Dr. Athey's work can be found at


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