Remembering: Mike Boska, Ph.D.

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public relations | May 16, 2017

Image with caption: Mike Boska, Ph.D.

Mike Boska, Ph.D.

Mike Boska, Ph.D., whose expertise in magnetic resonance imaging research benefited countless scientists at UNMC, died Saturday (May 13) in a one-man glider accident near the Blair, Neb., airport. He was 59.

Dr. Boska served as professor in the UNMC Department of Radiology, director of the bioimaging core and vice chairman of radiology research, and worked to develop improved disease detection methods.

"Mike was a good friend, trusted colleague and a great scientist," said Craig Walker, M.D., professor and chair of the UNMC Department of Radiology.

"The loss is tremendous on multiple levels," said friend and collaborator, Howard Gendelman, M.D., professor and chair of the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience.

Celebration of life

A celebration of life service will be Friday (May 19) at 11 a.m. at the Malvern Community Center in Malvern, Iowa, followed by a luncheon. A memorial has been established at the Glenwood State Bank for a scholarship for a UNMC graduate student.

A resident of Glenwood, Iowa, Dr. Boska joined UNMC in February 2000, and collaborated with many on campus, most notably the neuroscience community as his research focused on the development and application of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) methods. He was co-investigator on numerous grants and was an active published scholar.

In 2012, he was named one of UNMC's Distinguished Scientists.

"Mike was enthusiastic about his role as director of UNMC's small animal MRI imaging facility where he found creative ways to help researchers answer challenging bio-imaging questions," said Paula Turpen, Ph.D., director, research resources in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. "I thoroughly enjoyed working with Mike over the years and hearing about his soaring adventures. Mike was a great guy and he will be sorely missed."

Dr. Boska earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Michigan State University in 1980 and, in 1985, his Ph.D. in biophysical chemistry from the University of California-Berkeley, where he also took up the sport of hang gliding in 1982. He received his post doctorate in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in 1987 from the University of California, VA Medical Center in San Francisco.

Counselors available to UNMC faculty and staff through Arbor Family Counseling's Employee Assistance Program.

Hang gliding was his hobby - and a dream come true. In a 2008 interview, Dr. Boska said, "As a child I always wanted to parachute, but when I heard about hang gliding in the early 1970s, I thought, 'that sounds even better.' "

As a pilot, he had flown hang gliders with and without power for nearly 40 years. He particularly enjoyed soaring alongside eagles and Red Tailed Hawks, saying: "They are very curious and will come right up and fly with you during unpowered flights." He was an avid Telemark skier, making trips to Colorado and Utah on a regular basis; and enjoyed Latin rhythms, even learning how to play a set of three Valje congas.

Dr. Boska's step-daughter, Melissa Mellon of Plattsmouth, Neb., has worked the past 15 years as a radiology research associate in Dr. Boska's lab. Other survivors include: his wife, Margaret; son, Dan of Glenwood, Iowa; granddaughter, Savannah of Glenwood, Iowa; and many extended family members.

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Hani Haider
May 23, 2017 at 10:50 AM

UNMC and Nebraska have a modest number of insufficiently exposed science gems. Mike was one of them, and we have lost one of our best. My commiserations to the family, his lab team, and all in UNMC who feel the loss.

M. Albert Thomas
May 22, 2017 at 11:32 PM

I was deeply saddened to hear about the loss of my close friend and MR spectroscopy colleague, Dr. Michael Boska. Mike and I were post-doctoral colleagues at UCSF between 1987 and 1990. Mike was such a caring person! after he found out that I was looking for a mattress during the first few months at UCSF when I did not own a car, Mike offered to help me out without any hesitation and took me to the store in his pickup truck and dropped me with the mattress back at my apartment, During the recent conference in Hawaii, he and I were sitting next to each other in a session and had a brief chat about my NIH funding situation these days. He was such a good friend and adorable professional colleague all these years. I have lost my great friend and excellent human being! My deepest condolences to his wife and family! M. Albert Thomas

Jullie Pan
May 22, 2017 at 10:19 AM

I met Mike through other colleagues, and realized that he was a real renaissance guy who really enjoyed thinking about science, engineering and physiology.. Also distinctive in that he lived and worked as consistent with his speech.. I always enjoyed seeing him at meetings and will miss him very much.

Nicholas Reo
May 22, 2017 at 6:48 AM

This is very sad news, indeed. I was a colleague of Mike's during his tenure on the faculty at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. Mike and I worked together in the NMR field in vivo, and we developed and taught the first course on NMR in vivo at Wright State back in the 1990s. I have many fond memories of those early days in both of our careers. Mike was a great man, friend, and colleague. He will be missed. But I'm sure he is flying high among the clouds! Nick Reo

Dominic Sappey-Marinier
May 21, 2017 at 3:31 PM

I have met Mike during my post-doctorate (87-90) in Mike Weiner's lab at VA-UCSF. Mike was the most humble and brilliant man, I ever met. His inner humanity translated everyday into a deep friendship shared with all of us. He was always opened to share his knowledge, his numerous talents and his enthusiasm. He was a man of passion, of love, who sought truth in all things, in all encounters, in every moment of life. It was always a moment of happiness to meet him regularly at our jMRUI meetings during ISMRM congress, of which he was one of the best suporters. We will miss your smile, your talent and your fraternity forever. Dominic Sappey-Marinier

Monson Shaver
May 20, 2017 at 1:18 PM

I had the wonderful amusing experience of tele skiing with Mike every winter on Utah's slopes. Very unassuming, it took me some years to learn of his research and professional life. We spoke of how skiing was so close to flying which would lead to when I was going to really soar with him. I sat and watched his gps'd flights he would send me....beautiful soaring loops across the landscape. Quiet, thoughtful, he had the ability to explain his research in laymen terms, if I asked. From parallel universe's to the drumming of Mickey Hart. Those conversations on the porch over beer and pipe smoke were a great pleasure. Mike will be dearly missed here in the Rocky Mountains. What a great guy. What a gentleman.

Peter Barker
May 20, 2017 at 12:49 PM

Very sad news indeed. Mike was a great guy, and a great scientist. I worked with him at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit in the 90s where he was in charge of the Neurology MR systems. In addition to the fun times we had working together (using sometimes rather challenging equipment) he was also a wonderful family man to socialize with. Since then, whenever I ran into him at a conference he would always greet me with a broad smile. He'll be missed. Sincere condolescences to Marge, Melissa and family

Danielle Graveron-Demilly
May 20, 2017 at 11:20 AM

For several decades, I have appreciated working with Mike. He was a good asset for the jMRUI MRS software package and I acknowledge his contribution. I was always pleased to invite and welcome him as speaker in the jMRUI meetings. Mike was such a pleasant, helpful colleague and friend. The only consoling is that during his last moments he was doing what he loved. Mike will remain in my memory. I address my most sincere condolences to his family. Danielle Graveron-Demilly, Dr.

Dieter Meyerhoff
May 18, 2017 at 1:24 PM

The world lost a beautiful man, caring family man, loving, open and well-spirited friend and a valued scientist. Having had the privilege of knowing Mike and work with him since his early NMR days at the VA and UCSF, I remember his warm smile, his sparkling eyes, and his deep and infectious laughter coming from deep down in his belly and often enough from behind a big billowing cloud of pipe tobacco smoke. Since Mike left for Nebraska, I did not meet him that often anymore. From the distance, I admired his innovative work in both HIV infection and dementia and was so happy to see him become such a successful academician and unparalleled hands-on NMR guru. The few times I did meet him at meetings, mostly together with his lovely wife, I have nothing than fond and warm memories of happy hours spent together, sampling beers, stories, and good food. So sad that my wife and I have not had a chance to be with this beautiful couple more often. The only consolation that remains for a friend and family man taken too early from this world is that he died doing what he loved to do so dearly! Keep on soaring Mike!!

Shea Lundeby
May 17, 2017 at 10:17 AM

He was that free spirited, double black diamond skiing, hang gliding, published, computer programming, grant writing, Grateful Dead listening drummer... An incredibly smart scientist/professor/PhD. Wildly influential and inspirational leader - the best man I have ever worked for and had the pleasure of playing music with!

Mariano Uberti, PhD
May 16, 2017 at 4:29 PM

Dr. Boska -“Mike”- was a remarkable human being: highly intelligent and open minded, hard working, softhearted, kind, generous... I am very grateful to have shared all these many years, having him as a mentor, working and learning from and with him. What he started as a small lab with a postdoc in 2000 is today a very solid bioimaging facility with great technical and human capabilities. While it will be very tough to assimilate the lost, I will do as he used to tell me: “Don’t sweat the small things….and everything is a small thing”. Mike, thank you! You will be forever missed. Mariano Uberti, PhD at Dr. Boska's lab

Yazen Alnouti
May 16, 2017 at 11:42 AM

I had the honor and the pleasure to work closely with Dr.Boska on numerous projects for the last 8 years. In addition to being a world leader in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, Mike was a wonderful human to interact with at all levels. We already miss you Mike and you will be missed for a very long time. Yazen Alnouti

Betty K, Chin
May 16, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Memory eternal🙏

Yutong Liu
May 16, 2017 at 9:31 AM

Mike was a great leader. He fostered the growth of small animal imaging research in UNMC with great vision. He mentored me with motivation, inspiration and kindness. It is a huge loss to UNMC and to biomedical imaging research community at large.

Greg Karczmar
May 16, 2017 at 8:52 AM

Michael was a wonderful, brilliant, and very positive person. I knew him in graduate school at Berkeley and later in Mike Weiner's lab at UCSF - it was a real privilege to be his friend and work with him. He was one of the rare people who made people around him happier. He was a great scientist and did very early pioneering work on biomedical applications of magnetic resonance spectroscopy. He was a great experimentalist - always very careful and precise but also very innovative. He was always happy to share his knowledge and impressive skills and expertise with others. He helped me tremendously when we worked together at UCSF. I will really miss him - this is a tremendous loss for the research community and for his friends and family. Greg Karczmar, Ph.D. University of Chicago

Guangshun (Gus) Wang
May 16, 2017 at 7:34 AM

It was like yesterday when we were together talking about magnetic resonance, a common language we have. This is now refreshed and will always be remembered. Thank you for your kindness, understanding and great help! You will be missed for ever!

Irving Zucker
May 16, 2017 at 7:15 AM

I knew Mike less well than others at UNMC but we were colleagues in the Nanomedicine CoBRE for many years and were actively writing a component of the CoBRE renewal when Mike passed. I knew him as a hard working quiet intellectual and a very kind and gentle soul. He will be missed...Irv Zucker

Michele Aizenberg, M.D.
May 16, 2017 at 7:11 AM

So sad to learn of this.

Siddappa Byrareddy
May 16, 2017 at 6:30 AM

Mike and I had several discussions to upgrade imaging science in campus. Great person to interact and I can't believe that he is no more. We can't replace Mike's capacity in campus. We miss you Mike.

Howard Gendelman, M.D., chair, pharmacology and experimental neuroscience
May 15, 2017 at 10:39 PM

We learned from an early age that the world stands on three pillars; the pursuit of knowledge, kindness to others and hard work with devotion to cause. Mike captured all three then took each of them two steps forward; through his wholeness in wisdom his zest for life and his breaking boundaries through adventure. Thank you Mike for being casting this broad net. We learned not by embracing who you were but what you still are. May God bless that special soul and may your memory continue to live on. Thank you for your leadership.

Jennifer Larsen, M.D., vice chancellor for research
May 15, 2017 at 7:43 PM

Dr. Boska was both incredibly knowledgeable, patient, and kind. His unique skills in bioimaging were instrumental to the success of many investigators, and he built a wonderful team. He is already acutely missed by many.

Brad Britigan, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine
May 15, 2017 at 4:34 PM

“This is a tremendous loss for the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine community. Dr. Boska was a difference maker. His work in radiology was instrumental in many significant research projects on campus, including Dr. Howard Gendelman’s pioneering research work in Parkinson’s disease. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. He will never be forgotten.”