In Memoriam Michael J. Pikal

Michael Pikal, professor and department head of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Michael Pikal, professor and department head of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Emeritus Professor and former Department Head of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dr. Michael J. Pikal, passed away on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. He had been at the University of Connecticut, School of Pharmacy since 1996, retiring from his position at the University in December 2017.

Mike was instrumental in developing pharmaceutical sciences at UConn through his leadership as department head, cutting edge research, training contributions, and global collaborations. He was truly one of a kind and an inspirational personality in every way. He will be missed. — Dean James Halpert, UConn School of Pharmacy

Pikal received his B.S. in Chemistry from St. John’s University in Minnesota and his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Iowa State University. His postdoctoral training was with Dr. D.G. Miller in the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California. Before joining Lilly Research Laboratories in 1972, Pikal was assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Tennessee from 1967 to 1972.

At Lilly for 24 years, Pikal became a senior research scientist, and his contributions to the company were recognized with the 1996 President’s Award.

He returned to academia, joining the UConn faculty as Professor of Pharmaceutics in 1996. From 1998 to 2001, he served as department head of Pharmaceutical Sciences while maintaining a fully active and highly productive research program. On October 14, 2005, he was installed as the inaugural Pfizer Distinguished Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Technology.

Pikal was a leader in the field of freeze-drying technology and was the driving force behind the School of Pharmacy’s successful partnerships with groups such as The Center for Pharmaceutical Processing Research (CPPR), The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology and Education (NIPTE), and more recently The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL).

Mike succeeded doing what many have tried and failed… to be a highly successful and world-renowned scientist in both the industrial and academic settings. — José E. Manautou, Interim Dept. Head Pharmaceutical Sciences

He played a central role in the founding of The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology & Education (NIPTE) and was a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS). In 1997, Dr. Pikal was the recipient of the Ebert Prize from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Academy of Pharmaceutical Research and Science and the 1989 PDA’s Best Paper of the Year Award. He was the Busse Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin (1983) and the Enz Lecturer at the University of Kansas (1998). Dr. Pikal was also a Fellow of AAPS and received the AAPS Research Achievement Award in Pharmaceutical Technologies in 2001 and the Criofarma Award in Freeze Drying in 2006. In 2009 he received the AAPS’ highest ranking award, the Distinguished Pharmaceutical Scientist Award, an award that recognizes those that have made substantial contributions to the pharmaceutical sciences that have had a lasting impact. Fewer than 20 scientists have received this accolade.

Throughout his career at UConn, Pikal directed a prominent and diverse research program in the area of science and technology of freeze drying, solid-state chemistry/materials science of pharmaceuticals and protein stability. His contribution to enriching these areas was extensive with more than 170 publications. This scholarly work was notably characterized by strong collaborative efforts with an array of private industry and institutions.

Mike is just in a different league than most of the rest of us. One of the many things we love about him is that he never makes us feel that way. — Steve Nail, Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Pikal served as a member of the editorial advisory boards of Pharmaceutical Development and Technology and J. Pharmaceutical Science. His review service included NIH Pharmacology Study Section, Petroleum Research Fund, and Science Foundation of Ireland, as well as referee for multiple other journals in his various fields of expertise.

Pikal gave generously of his time and insight to junior and senior faculty members. His legacy will continue through the more than 40 Ph.D. graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scholars that he trained and inspired. His trainees have been highly sought by top pharmaceutical companies. The faculty, students and members of the support staff will genuinely miss him. Pikal’s wife, Janice, and their five children, Mary, Jon, Rob, Kathy, and Amy, are in our thoughts.

Calling and service hours are as follows:
Friday, March 2, 2018, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Bacon Funeral Home, 71 Prospect Street, Willimantic, CT  06226. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018, Service, 9:30 am, St. Joseph’s Church, 99 Jackson Street, Willimantic, CT  06226

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Michael J. Pikal Graduate Fellowship in Pharmaceutical Technology fund.  

Please make checks payable to:  The UConn Foundation, Inc. (Memo: Pikal fund) and forward to: 2390 Alumni Drive Unit 3206, Storrs, CT  06269. Gifts may also be made online at: