October 18, 2018, Jeanie VanWinkle, 1967 Alumna, shares memories of her time as a graduate student in the department.


Please share your memories as a graduate student in the late 1960’s.

The graduate students gathered almost weekly at another students’ home. Joe was rumored to be a permanent fixture in the department. He was a 7th year graduate student and the instigator of fun times in Biochemistry. We held great events. One Halloween I wore a blond wig and false eyelashes and fooled lots of friends with my perceived glamor. We even collaborated to play bridge when volunteering for sleep studies!  Most importantly it was a type of bonding for our group.

Do you feel you had access to world class equipment?

I remember one terrible morning after an electrical failure an enormous freezer in my lab containing calf thymuses defrosted. The odor was toxic. Dr. Ed ward (Ed) Glassman’s drosophila lab was next to mine.

Jeanie VanWinkle PhD (1967 Alumna)

When my lab (which often contained rats and mice) was sprayed for bugs, the poor drosophila also hit the dust. Not happy times being on the receiving end of Dr. Glassman’s ire!

I worked on a state-of-the art DU spectrophotometer and often I needed matched quartz cuvettes. The DU was an investment for the department and the pride of our chairman, Dr. Irvin. When I got the nerve to tell him I had broken a cuvette, he looked at me with characteristic reserve and in a measured voice said…” it wasn’t one of the matched pairs ….was it?”  Heh heh. I crept out of his office in shame.

Are you thankful for the opportunities that had after receiving a PhD degree?

I have appreciated the expansion of life experiences while working with collaborators, training students and post docs and having leadership roles in medical schools as well as nationally. The Ph.D. has given me opportunities I would never have had, particularly providing a look into the collaborative efforts to determine scientific goals in fighting disease and the unanimous demand for integrity in the process.

What was your first position after you received your Ph.D.?

Photo of two of our alumni Barry VanWinkle PhD (1968) and Jeanie VanWinkle PhD (1967) standing in a cabin
Our Biochemistry Alumni Barry VanWinkle PhD (1968) and Jeanie VanWinkle PhD (1967)

My first position was as a Research Instructor at Baylor College of Medicine. This of course was a tentative, non-tenure track position. My husband then was also a Ph.D. In Biochemistry (a year after me) and was appointed as an Assistant Professor, tenure track.

Did you have women as role models?

Yes, thankfully there were strong and supportive women at the national level who have worked to overcome the discrimination of those times. I think more families (both mothers AND fathers) recognize the STEM talents of our girls. This has been a difficult path freeing our brains from the preconceptions of role playing and patriarchy.

Look back over your career, where did your adventures take you?

Two alumni sitting at a table over dinner Jeanie VanWinkle PhD and Barry VanWinkle PhD This photo taken in 2017 on Barry's birthday
Two alumni Jeanie VanWinkle PhD and Barry VanWinkle PhD (photo taken in 2017 on Barry’s birthday)

International meetings have taken me to Norway, Greece and the Isle of Kos and to cities across the US. These meetings have inspired more travels and mingling with a variety of cultures in Peru, Morocco, Santorini, northern India and Turkey. Politics and diplomacy learned in scientific venues translate well when integrating with a variety of cultures.

Both Jeannie (1967) and Barry (1968) VanWinkle were mentioned in the Knoxville News Sentinel (October 07, 2012) Retirees share stories of treasures for fall homes tour in Smoky Mountains

A special thank you to Alana Lauren Keller and Carolyn Clabo in our Development office for reconnecting us with our alumni and coordinating this interview. Please send us your news at the submit news link on our website.