Remembering Michael Buschmann

Buschmann in a sportcoat in a lab
Michael Buschmann was an Eminent Scholar and chair of the Bioengineering Department within the College of Engineering and Computing. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

George Mason University’s Michael Buschmann is being remembered by friends and colleagues as a brilliant mind and translational researcher with a gentle spirit and a burning love for jazz.

Buschmann, who died at his home last week, had been an Eminent Scholar and the chair of the Bioengineering Department within Mason’s College of Engineering and Computing since his arrival at Mason in 2017.

“In 2017, the department was only in its fifth year of existence,” recalled Ken Ball, the dean of the College of Engineering and Computing. “While it got off to a successful start, it was a young department that needed a strong and well-respected leader to take it to the next level and to build its research program commensurate with that of an R1 research university. Mike did exactly what we had hoped—he established a strong research culture while building a high level of collaboration and collegiality within the department, with students and teaching at the forefront.”

Buschmann came to Mason with his wife, Caroline Hoemann, a bioengineering professor in the College of Engineering and Computing, after having spent the previous 20 years at École Polytechnique in Montreal.

Sanjeev Setia, former chair of the Department of Computer Science and now the interim divisional dean of the School of Computing within the college, knew Buschmann well and praised his collaborative efforts with his Mason colleagues. He cited Buschmann’s entrepreneurial nature as the driving force behind his strong record of translational research.

“In the five or so years since he joined Mason as chair of Bioengineering, the department has become one of the strongest research departments in the College of Engineering and Computing,” Setia said. “This is a department that is ready to make the jump to the next level in national reputation, and Mike’s leadership was a big reason for this.”

But it was more than his impressive academic credentials that quickly endeared Buschmann to Setia—it was also their shared love of modern jazz.

“Mike and I were very good friends,” Setia said.

They frequently attended live jazz concerts together, along with Caroline Hoemann and other colleagues from the college.

But it was his passion for research that drove Buschmann most.

Most recently, he had formed the start-up AexeRNA Therapeutics Inc., in partnership with the university’s Office of Technology Transfer. He and his team had licensed the commercial rights of four patent applications to the company. The technology would make mRNA vaccines less costly, with fewer side effects and more readily available worldwide.

“Mike was a true intellectual,” said Ball, who also remembered Buschmann for being an outstanding mentor for many junior faculty and students alike. “There are many very intelligent people in academia, but Mike had a brilliant mind. He was able to see connections between different research topics and results that were not apparent to almost every other researcher.”