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Retired eye researcher shares love for Harpur

By Anika Michel

Barry Winkler

For Barry S. Winkler '65, intelligent, enthusiastic Binghamton students were just as prevalent in the 1960s as they are today.

"Harpur in the 1960s was just starting," he said. "And what it was sold as was a cheaper alternative to an Ivy League school, which it still is. There were definitely students back then, as today, who were bright, eager, and enthusiastic."

Winkler, Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Sciences at the Eye Research Institute at Oakland University in Michigan, visited Binghamton in April to discuss how his time as an undergraduate led to a career in eye research. Titled "From Growing Up at Harpur College to Maturing (Sort of) after Forty Years in Eye Research," the seminar was presented by the Biological Sciences Department.

Winkler began his talk by discussing his leisure experiences at Harpur College. He mentioned his university dining experiences in 1963, his witnessing of the first "Stepping on the Coat Ceremony" in 1962, and his time on the Harpur College basketball team. Winkler even wore a Harpur College sweatshirt to watch the Binghamton University men's basketball team play Michigan last season.

"According to the way you all know it today, Binghamton is a Division 1 school. Back then, I would say this league we played in would be like Division 2.5," Winkler said. He talked about the how the team competed against a number of other New York state schools, such as Stony Brook, Hamilton College and Union College. He also presented old photos of himself during his time at Harpur College.

"These were the freshman pictures. This is a typical picture of myself just sort of hanging around on the campus, and this is the graduation picture. And you can see the clear, clear maturity," Winkler said jokingly as he pointed to college photos.

Winkler said that it was Professor Roger Trumbore who influenced him to pursue a doctorate at a time when there was not much research at the university.

"He said 'Look, you really did well in my physiology class and you really like it. The University of Buffalo has a first-rate program. I think you should apply there.' I applied to only one graduate school in 1965 and I was lucky to get accepted, purely on the recommendation of Dr. Trumbore," Winkler said.

Winkler went on to receive his master's and doctoral degrees in physiology from Buffalo in 1968 and 1971, respectively.

Winkler worked for Everett Kinsey, director and founder of the Eye Research Institute of Oakland University. The institute opened in 1968, and there was a need for new faculty members. Winkler was hired to set up a retinal research lab.

During his time at the Eye Research Institute, Winkler studied the photoreceptor cell, the presence of mitochondria in the photoreceptor cell and how photoreceptor cells hyperpolarize to light.

"I was going to do more and more electrophysiology and solve these mysteries," Winkler said.

Winkler talked about how his experiments constantly affected the direction of his career. He also credited his success in his field to his curiosity, as he is always trying to find an answer.

"You never know when you are going to make that observation, that discovery, which is more significant than anything else you've done in your life," Winkler said.

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Last Updated: 3/1/17