Dr. Neuman was born and raised in Milwaukee and went to Cleveland to study at Case Western Reserve University. He earned his undergraduate degree, as well as a PhD in electrical engineering in 1966 and an MD in 1974, all from Case.
In his 50-year academic career he initially taught at his alma mater before teaching at Duke, Memphis and finally at Michigan Tech, where he arrived in 2003 as Professor and Chair in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He continued to teach after he stepped down as Chair in 2010.
Before going to medical school Neuman taught electronics in Case’s electrical engineering department. He developed a strong interest in medical electronics, which was a new field at the time. He was particularly intrigued by fetal monitoring, but he knew nothing about obstetrics. “My colleagues encouraged me, and asked me why I didn’t go to medical school. So I did,” he once recalled.
Neuman joined Michigan Tech at a point in his career when some faculty might be considering retirement. Instead he seized the opportunity to do more teaching, and to help young faculty develop their individual research programs.
“Mike has, and will always be, a transformative force in my life and my family, says Associate Professor Keat Ghee Ong. He brought me to Michigan Tech, essentially gave me my first “real” job and helped me grow my career. I know he helped a lot of faculty members and their families the same way, too.”
“Mike had a keen eye for hiring faculty who were strong in both scientific ability and collegiality,” adds Associate Professor Jeremy Goldman. “As the faculty grew in size and capability, it retained the friendly camaraderie more typically found in smaller departments.”
Assistant Professor Smitha Rao joined the biomedical engineering department about a year ago. “I was fortunate to have met Dr. Neuman and received guidance from him in the very short time that I knew him,” says Rao. “It was amazing how he remembered experiments and details from a long time ago as well as what is currently being used. I feel I only saw a glimpse of the great scientist and wonderful human being that he was.”
As an engineer, Dr. Neuman had a very strong background in physics and materials, as well as in electrical circuits, and a vast knowledge of medicine, all of which allowed him to develop novel biomedical sensors constructed using micro-fabrication techniques and accessed by wireless technologies.
“Not only he was able to envision these concepts before anyone else, he was able to utilize the tools of the semiconductor industry that were available at the time to construct these devices,” says Michigan Tech Professor of Practice Orhan Soykan. The two first met when Neuman was Soykan’s PhD advisor at Case.
Writing on behalf of Neuman’s students, Soykan adds: “Those of us who were fortunate enough to meet and work with him all know just how easy he was to be approached, how willing he was to help others and how he did his very best to mentor all his students, ranging from three-year-olds to graduate students to new assistant professors.”
Neuman continued to teach after he stepped down as Chair in 2010. Soykan says Neuman wouldn’t miss an opportunity to teach, “whether it be the properties of metal-to-metal bonds, flow rate of lymph fluids or the best way to feed goats without being bumped from behind.”
Dr. Neuman’s daughter Elizabeth Rose wrote, “No memory of my dad can be complete without mentioning his goats. An engineer working in his lab at Case introduced him to his first goat; a large floppy eared goat named Sam I Am. Sam was quickly followed by a group of other goats that became my dad’s favorite hobby. He spent many happy hours in his barn with his goats (and later miniature horses) taking care of them and listening to classical music with them.” He truly loved showing them off to many faculty, staff, and especially their children.
Professor Martyn Smith worked with Neuman on many senior design projects over the years. “Whenever we needed ideas or background Mike would always provide insight and guidance to the project. He had a wonderful mind with superb recall on the topics needed. He was truly a gentleman and a scholar. I miss his wisdom.”
Toward the end, even while his health was failing, he was still trying to share his joy with others around him by writing limericks to introduce various topics to his students.
When one of his students learned Neuman was ill, he wrote a limerick and asked Smith to read it to him:
There once was a man named Mike
And engineering he very much did like
I’ve only known him for a year
But his teachings I hold dear
And my inspiration he truly did spike
Dr. Neuman is survived by his wife of 43 years, Judith Borton Neuman, his daughter Elizabeth Neuman (Joshua) Rose, grandchildren Emma Kathryn and Christopher Michael Rose, and a sister Bonnie Neuman.
A remembrance of the life of Dr. Michael Neuman was held last week at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. A second memorial gathering will take place in Cleveland with details to be announced. More information and a guestbook is available here.
Dr. Neuman will always be remembered as a devoted father and husband, a wonderful person with a subtle and ironic sense of humor, and a committed professor and scientist.
Mike, we are already missing you.