Dr. Herbert H. Winkler, professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology and former vice-chair of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, passed away on Aug. 2, 2016. He was 77.
Dr. Winkler, a native of Michigan, earned his bachelor of arts degree in biology from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and his Ph.D. in physiology from Harvard University in Boston. He completed post-doctoral work at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
During his undergraduate years, Dr. Winkler was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Summer Fellow at the University of Michigan department of physiology, where he also served as a research assistant. From 1961-1966, Dr. Winkler was a National Science Foundation predoctoral fellow at Harvard University. During that time he also served as a Harvard University teaching fellow. From 1966-1968, Dr. Winkler served as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University department of physiological chemistry. Prior to joining USA in 1978 as professor of microbiology and immunology, Dr. Winkler was both an assistant and associate professor of microbiology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.
“Dr. Winkler was an outstanding scientist dedicated to the highest level of scientific rigor and the pursuit of new knowledge in his field of bacterial transport. He developed an international reputation for his research on Rickettsia,” said Dr. Samuel J. Strada, senior associate dean of the USA College of Medicine. “Dr. Winkler maintained a record of continued National Institutes of Health research funding for more than three decades. This funding included a highly prestigious MERIT award from NIH, awarded to only a very small number of NIH-funded investigators.”
Dr. Winkler’s research interests focused on studying mechanisms of infection and growth by the intracellular bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii. Rickettsia prowazekii is a species of bacteria responsible for epidemic typhus, an infectious disease transmitted to humans by lice.
Dr. Winkler studied how rickettsiae enter the host cell, how they grow and divide in the cell, and how their metabolism has evolved. He performed extensive studies on the biochemistry of the rickettsial membrane and its transport systems.
“Dr. Winkler was one of the most intelligent people I have ever encountered. He was an icon in our department and around the globe in the research field of Rickettsia,” said Dr. David O. Wood, professor and chair of the USA department of microbiology and immunology. “His work on rickettsial transport changed a fundamental paradigm for Rickettsia research and in doing so built a world-class research facility at USA that continues today.”
According to Dr. Wood, Dr. Winkler was also an excellent mentor for faculty, post docs and students. “Having had the privilege of training under Dr. Winkler, I have personal knowledge of what an outstanding mentor he really was. He demanded high-quality work and encouraged me and others to explore areas that had not been previously investigated,” said Dr. Wood. “One of Dr. Winkler’s most impressive legacies is the many scientists he inspired and the important role he played in their development and success.”
The research initiated by Dr. Herbert Winkler helped to establish USA’s Select Agent Program centered on Rickettsia. This motivated colleagues to obtain NIH funds for the construction of a new research lab, the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases Building in USA’s Technology and Research Park. The building more than doubled the Biosafety Level 3 research capability at USA.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sue Ann Winkler; daughter, Elizabeth Winkler-Rogers (Raymond); sister, Mary Don Winkler; and brothers, Christopher Winkler (Sherri) and David Winkler.
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