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J. Michael Fitzpatrick

Research Professor of Computer Science
Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus
Professor of Computer Engineering, Emeritus
Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus
Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Emeritus
Professor of Neurological Surgery, Emeritus

Computer Science

Intellectual Neighborhoods

Research Focus

Medical imaging, image processing, image registration, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


J. Michael Fitzpatrick received the Bachelor of Science degree (1967) in physics from the University of North Carolina, the Doctor of Philosophy degree (1972) in physics from Florida State University, and the Master of Science degree (1982) in computer science from the University of North Carolina. After a postdoctoral year at the University of British Columbia (1973-4), he taught chemistry for one year at Clemson University, and physics and mathematics at Newberry College (1975-80), chairing that department from 1978 to 1980. In 1982, he joined the faculty of the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt as assistant professor of computer science. He is a fellow of the International Society for Optical Engineering and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and became professor emeritus in 2010.

Professor Fitzpatrick’s research area spans medical image processing and surgical guidance. He has published over 190 papers and holds fourteen patents for devices and algorithms in surgical guidance. He has worked closely with physicians and surgeons in the Departments of Radiology, Neurological Surgery, and Otolaryngology, and from 1988 to 1995 he led the software development at Vanderbilt for the world’s first FDA-cleared surgical navigation system based on fiducial markers, a system on which the guidance systems in almost all present-day operating rooms are based. In addition, he and his students developed new approaches to the statistical assessment and theoretical prediction of accuracy in surgical guidance that have achieved worldwide recognition as a standard for the evaluation of guidance techniques and the alignment of magnetic resonance and computed tomography images.

Since his arrival at Vanderbilt Professor Fitzpatrick has taught a wide range of courses to undergraduate to graduate students, but he has focused on the early undergraduate years, teaching programming to thousands of first-year and second-year students. In 2001 he created a new course for non-computer science majors entitled, “Introductory Programming for Engineers and Scientists”, which grew to become the largest programming course in the School of Engineering.