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Oral history interview with Mark Winey

  • 1998-Sep-14 – 1998-Sep-16
Photograph of Mark Winey

Mark Winey was born in Chicago, Illinois, where his father was finishing a Master's degree in chemistry at the University of Chicago. Some months later the family moved back to the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, near where both parents had grown up. Mark was followed by two sisters. The elder Winey finished a PhD in chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, and has worked on the bench at a research laboratory ever since. Mark's mother was at home with her children until they were established in school, at which time she began teaching English in the high school district where Mark and his sisters went to school. She also obtained a degree in counseling, and Mark likes to laugh that she practiced on the kids. For the most part, the family had a good upper-middle-class life in Bucks County, attending the local public schools and being active in their Presbyterian church. Mark's initial interest in genetics, however, resulted from his younger sister's galactosemia; she was very ill as an infant, and she was eventually sent to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where the uncommon genetic trait was diagnosed. CHOP was one of few places where this diagnosis could have been made. When he was in high school Mark, who had always been determined to be a scientist, took many science classes, which he thinks were excellent, and a number of liberal arts classes that he liked as well. His ninth-grade biology teacher cemented his determination to go into biology. During high school he also began his enduring love of the outdoors, spending much time climbing, camping, and hiking; he even held a part-time job at an outdoor-equipment store. These two interests combined in Syracuse University, where he could major in biology, but where SUNY Stony Brook also had its forestry school. Soon, though, he settled on just biology, working on blue-green algae in James Smith's laboratory. A class in microbiology taught by Ernest Hemphill convinced him that yeast was his research subject, and he maintains that love. Winey met his future wife at Syracuse and developed many friendships there as well. Yeast took him to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, where he worked with Michael Culbertson. His love for yeast he explains as having three reasons: it has good genetics; it is a good teaching medium; and it has applications to the study of human disease. For his postdoctoral work he and his by-then wife, Mary Darlington, went to the University of Washington, where he worked in the Breck Byers laboratory, studying centrosomes, screening for mutations that affect spindle pole body duplications. From Byers' lab he accepted a faculty position at the University of Colorado, taking his work with him. There he continues to do research on MPS1, MPS2, and NDC1; to write grants; to recruit graduate students; teach; and to write papers. He also must balance his work with his wife and three children, and they continue their outdoor activities.

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