Syracuse University remembers Professor Stanley “Sandy” J. Bolanowski
Syracuse University remembers Professor Stanley”Sandy” J. BolanowskiJanuary 27, 2005Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
As a student at Syracuse University in the 1970s, Stanley “Sandy” J. Bolanowski may not have realized the impact his life’s work would have on the University, and on the field of neuroscience as a whole.
Bolanowski, 54, a professor in the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering in SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), also the associate director of the Institute for Sensory Research, died unexpectedly Jan. 13. At the time of his death, he was on sabbatical, writing and performing research at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
A native of Utica, Bolanowski received an associate’s degree in electrical technology from the State University of New York at Morrisville. He then came to SU, where he began working on bachelor’s degrees in psychology and electrical engineering-biosystems. He was one of the first students to receive the biosystems degree from SU-the first of the bioengineering degrees to be awarded by the University. It was at the Institute for Sensory Research, in the laboratory of Dr. Ronald Verrillo, that the roots of Bolanowski’s extraordinary career were planted.
Through the years, Bolanowski’s work touched on many areas within the neuroscience and biosystems fields-physiology, anatomy, psychophysics and others. After receiving his doctoral degree in sensory sciences from SU,
Bolanowski completed a postdoctoral fellowship and served as an assistant professor in the Center for Brain Research at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. There, he studied vision with renowned neurophysiologist Robert W. Doty.
Bolanowski had made such an impression upon Verrillo that Verrillo encouraged him to return to SU in 1988 to perform tactile research and carry on the work that Verrillo had started in his somatosensory laboratory. “Sandy started the whole program in tactile physiology at ISR,” says Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jozef Zwislocki. “He showed extraordinary skill, performed outstanding research and made some important discoveries.”
“Sandy was one of the most creative and vigorous people I have ever met,” says Verrillo. “He was full of energy and pursued things relentlessly. This is a great loss for the University and the neuroscience community as a whole.”
Bolanowski was named as an associate professor of bioengineering and neuroscience in 1992 and promoted to full professor in 1994. He was named associate director of ISR in 2002.
George Gescheider, professor of psychology at Hamilton College in Clinton, became friends with Bolanowski in the 1970s when Bolanowski was a graduate student at ISR. Their 1988 collaborative paper on a four-channel model of tactile sensory receptors became widely known within the field of tactile research, Gescheider says.
“Sandy was the author of many scholarly research publications that will continue to have a significant impact on the field,” Gescheider says.
Gescheider says that Bolanowski was passionate about his work. “As a teacher, Sandy’s students will remember him fondly for his nurturing mentoring and his enthusiasm for sharing knowledge,” Gescheider says. “His professional colleagues will remember him as a dedicated scientist who had a rare ability to conceptualize a problem in a unique and creative way.”
Colleagues also remember Bolanowski as someone who was very willing to share his skill and knowledge to advance research. He collaborated with researchers around the country, from Harvard University to the University of California-San Francisco. He was elected as a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America in 1993, and was a member of several prestigious professional organizations. He served as a consultant for many academic, governmental, industrial and commercial entities.
Over the past several years, Bolanowski played a key role in a multimillion-dollar, multi-year grant from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD) that has brought many members of the ISR together for work on auditory and tactile systems. His work was featured in a November 2002 National Geographic story on the complexity of skin and its function as a sensory system. He contributed a chapter to the recently released “Signals and Perception: The Fundamentals of Human Sensation” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)
Just before his death, Bolanowski received word that he was likely to receive funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for a study on skin receptors. ISR Director Robert Smith says Bolanowski’s colleagues will seek to move forward with the study and bring the work that Bolanowski started to fruition.
Bolanowski is survived by his wife, Pauline Dimitry; stepchildren and their spouses, Paul and Eileen Smith of Nashville and Dena and Al Germano of Rochester, N.Y.; three granddaughters, Emma, Sophia and Francesca; a brother, Thomas Bolanowski; and two nephews, Thomas II (Christine) Bolanowski and Daniel Bolanowski. A memorial service will be held April 10 at 1:30 p.m. in SU’s Hendricks Chapel.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Stanley J. Bolanowski Research Fund at the Institute for Sensory Research, 621 Skytop Rd., Syracuse, N.Y. 13244.
Checks should be made out to Syracuse University with “Stanley J. Bolanowski Research Fund” in the memo line.