Mikhail "Misha" Voloshin, 1953-2020

Professor Mikhail Voloshin of the School of Physics and Astronomy passed away on Saturday, March 20 from heart failure. He had been fighting lymphoma for some time. Misha was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1953, and grew up in the former Soviet Union. At age 17 he won a gold medal for the Soviet team at the International Physics Olympiad.

He attended Moscow School 57 (a secondary school known for its specialized curriculum) and graduated with a physics degree in 1970. He received his Masters in physics from the Moscow Physics and Technology Institute in 1976 and his Ph.D. the following year from the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) in Moscow. In graduate school he became one of the world pioneers of quantum chromodynamics (QCD) and one of the creators of heavy quark theory.

Misha joined the faculty at the William I. Fine Theoretical Physics Institute (FTPI) at the University of Minnesota in 1990, while continuing his affiliation with ITEP. His research topics over the years included: quantum properties of semiclassical field configurations, decay of a metastable vacuum, QCD sum rules, nonperturbative gauge dynamics, physics of heavy quarkonium, properties of hadrons with open heavy flavor, and nonstandard properties of neutrinos. His most recent work is a continuation of the studies of the properties of hadrons containing heavy quarks and also studies of properties of semiclassical field configurations.

His colleague Mikhail Shifman wrote of him, " Misha's career started right around the time of the discovery of the J/psi in November 1974 (The November Revolution). He became one of QCD's leading practitioners. He was a standard bearer in this area till his last days. He was a resource for both experimentalists and theorists throughout the world. He combined extremely high standards and principles with passion for physics as an experiment-based science. He hated questionable arguments and unsubstantiated assumptions."

Misha received the USSR Academy of Sciences Medal and Award in 1983, the J.J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics from the American Physical Society (APS) in 2001 and the Alexander von Humboldt award for a senior U.S. scientist in 2003. He was made an APS Fellow in 1997. He authored 265 academic papers and served as the director of FTPI for six years.

Misha is survived by his wife, Natalia and his two sons Alexei and Mikhail, all of whom live in the Twin Cities.


A Fellowship has been founded in his name at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota. To make a gift, visit the University Foundation website.