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Heather Wilkins, PhD

Heather Wilkins portrait
Assistant Professor, Neurology

Professional Background

In 2008, Dr. Wilkins earned a Microbiology degree at Kansas State University. Following completion of her undergraduate degree she joined a research laboratory at the University of Denver for PhD training. The focus of her dissertation was mitochondrial oxidative stress in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Dr. Wilkins received a distinguished thesis award, and earned her PhD in 2013. Upon receipt of her PhD, Dr. Wilkins joined the KU Alzheimer's Disease Research Center as a postdoctoral fellow in August 2013. Dr. Russell Swerdlow was her mentor. Dr. Wilkins transitioned to faculty at the University of Kansas Medical Center in 2019.

Dr. Wilkins' research interests are centered on understanding how brain energy influences Alzheimer's disease pathology. She uses induced pluripotent stem cells from human subjects to develop neurons, glia, and cerebral organoid models ("mini brains in a dish") of sporadic Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Wilkins is an assistant director of the KU Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Mitochondrial Genomics Metabolism and Biomarker core. Her role in this core is to direct new biomarker development for Alzheimer's Disease. She is a member of the Alzheimer's Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer's Research and Treatment group and the Alliance of Women Alzheimer's Researcher group.

Education and Training
  • BS, Microbiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
  • PhD, Biology, University of Denver, Denver, CO
  • Post Doctoral Fellowship, Neuroscience, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS



Dr. Wilkins uses novel human brain and brain cell models to understand the relationships between brain energy metabolism and Alzheimer's disease pathological mechanisms. Dr. Wilkins directs novel biomarker development for the KU Alzheimer's Disease Center.