UNMC scientist dies Saturday in gliding accident


Dr. Mike Boska was expert in magnetic resonance imaging research at UNMC.

Dr. Mike Boska whose expertise in magnetic resonance imaging research benefited countless scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, died Saturday in a one-man glider accident near the Blair, Neb., airport.

Dr. Boska, 59, 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.

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

“Mike was a good friend, trusted colleague and a great scientist,” said Dr. Craig Walker, professor and chair of the UNMC Department of Radiology.

“The loss is tremendous on multiple levels,” said friend and collaborator, Dr. Howard Gendelman, professor and chair of the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience.“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.”

Dr. Boska, who resided in Glenwood, Iowa, 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 Dr. Paula Turpen, 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.

Hang gliding was his hobby. In a 2008 interview in the UNMC Today newsletter, 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 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; granddaughter, Savannah of Glenwood; and many extended family members.