Andrzej Jesmanowicz, Ph.D.

Andrzej Jesmanowicz, PhD, Professor of Biophysics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, died on May 15, from cancer. He was 72.

Andrzej received his PhD degree in Physics from the Nicholas Copernicus University in Torun, Poland, in 1975. His PhD research was in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and his postdoctoral training in electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR). The combination of training in both NMR and EPR, and his strong mathematics background coupled to excellent practical engineering skills, made him a good fit with the research programs of Biophysics. He was appointed Senior Research Scientist at MCW in 1984.

His initial years of research at MCW were very exciting. In a two year time frame of 1986 and 1987, he published 23 papers. The MCW group pioneered the development of MRI surface coils for use in diagnostic radiology. His co-authors include these stellar physicians from the Department of Radiology: T. L. Lawson, J. E. Cerletty, G. F Carrera, D. L. Daniels, V. M. Haughton, W. Middleton, A. L. Williams, and W. D. Foley. And in all papers, Bruce Kneeland, then an Assistant Professor of Radiology, taught Andrzej and the rest of the Biophysics group the fundamentals of skeletal-muscular radiology. Tom Grist, our medical student and now Professor and Chairman of Radiology at the University of Wisconsin, was a frequent co-author. It was mostly Andrzej who made the coils actually work. By the early 1990’s the number of his surface coil papers had doubled.

Along came functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI) and functional connectivity (fcMRI). At the time we had a remarkably strong group of PhD students in Biophysics – attracted to the program by the success in surface coils. Data about the function of the human brain was extracted from a series of images. Processes had to be developed for signal processing, as well as for handling the vast amount of data. Andrzej developed the first course at MCW on the Fourier Transform, teaching the course from a point-of view, namely digital, that was consistent with the data that we actually had. His papers from the early fMRI phase of his career now include individuals from the Department of Neurology: J. R. Binder, S. M. Rao, and T. A. Hammeke. Individuals from other departments became Andrzej’s colleagues: R. Shaker (Gastroenterology), E. A. DeYoe (Anatomy and Cell Biology), W. M. Mueller (Neurosurgery). Prof. Jesmanowicz found himself engaged in a lot of informal teaching in addition to training of graduate students.

The third phase of Andrzej’s career was unfortunately cut short, but he leaves behind partially completed work on the new 7T scanner that may yet prove useful in head trauma diagnosis. His recent thrust has been to use radio frequency pulses of increasing complexity. The working hypothesis is that complicated pulses can now be designed using modern pulse techniques first developed for radar, and that these techniques will enable the extraction of more detailed information of a physiological character about the brain.

A remarkable statistic is that Prof. Jesmanowicz authored 167 scientific abstracts. These were actually short, dense, one page papers that were peer reviewed. He attended the annual meetings of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance regularly, defended his posters and platform presentations with great vigor, became well known, and was elected to Fellowship in the Society. He brought international recognition to the MRI research program at MCW.

There will be a visitation service for Andrzej on Sunday, May 22, from 2-4 p.m. at Becker Ritter Funeral Home, 14075 W. North Ave in Brookfield. Additional details are available on the Becker Ritter Website. The Department of Biophysics is planning a memorial service in the coming weeks; details will be forthcoming.