Dr. van Zijl graduated cum laude with a Masters in Inorganic Chemistry and continued to obtain a Ph.D. in Mathematics and Physics from the Free University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His thesis focused on the description of molecular alignment in magnetic fields and the changes in the Nuclear Magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra related to this. After completing fellowships in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) and MRI (National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute), he became a Research Assistant Professor at Georgetown University in 1990. In 1992 he was invited to join the Department of Radiology at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, where he was promoted to Associate Professor (1992) and Professor (1997). In 1999 he became the founding director of the F.M. Kirby Research Center for Functional Brain Imaging at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. This Center has since been awarded status as a National Center for Biomedical Technology Research funded by the National Center for Research Resources. Dr. van Zijl is a fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and has received the Society's gold medal award for scientific achievement. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Experimental NMR conference. He resides on the editorial boards of the journals: NMR in Biomedicine, Journal of Magnetic Resonance, Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, and the Journal of Cerebral Blood flow and Metabolism. He is an ad hoc member of several NIH review panels for several institutes.
Dr. van Zijl's present research focuses on developing new methodologies for using MRI and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) to study brain function and physiology. In addition he is working on understanding the basic mechanisms of the MRI signal changes measured during functional MRI (fMRI) tests of the brain. Other interests are in mapping the wiring of the brain (axonal connections between the brains functional regions) and the design of new technologies for MRI to follow where cells are migrating, and when genes are expressed. A more recent interest is the development of bioorganic biodegradable MRI contrast agents. The ultimate goal is to transform these technologies into fast methods that are compatible with the time available for multi-modal clinical diagnosis using MRI. He is especially dedicated to providing a comfortable scanning environment for children, where they can enjoy the experience in the MRI scanner. Dr. van Zijl's research is funded by several grants from the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering.