Joseph Kunkel, Alum
Columbia College 1964
My favorite person at Columbia was Professor Arthur Pollister, with whom I took Histology and Quantitative Cytology. I also worked for Dr. Pollister in my senior year as a lab preparator for Histology, and I took care of his Xenopus tadpoles, larvae of the African Clawed Toad, which became an important model experimental system.
This work in my future biology profession replaced working as a bartender at the Men's Faculty Club, where I earned a sumptuous three meals a day (sumptuous because I gave a shot of bourbon to the head cook each evening). For my work with Dr. Pollister, I earned $20 per week, which allowed me to eat knockwurst and beans plus a beer each evening at the local bar on Broadway.
However, giving up the gourmet food at the Faculty Club was more than repaid by working in Dr. Pollister's lab and playing with his private microscope collection, which included a Leitz Interference Scope, a Cook-Dyson reflecting optics microscope and (my favorite) a new Zeis Interference Microscope, which one could use to see cells in vivid color, due to the different densities of cell organelles.
Dr. Pollister would take time from his busy schedule to show me things in the lab and encourage me to make an effort to measure things in my research: "If you can't measure it, forget it!" This dictum has stayed with me in my biology career. He also showed me the joy of his research and admitted to me that he really enjoys doing the research so much more than writing it up that much of his research went unpublished. He quickly added that I should make the effort to publish.
My first publication came from quantitative work I did on the regulation of cockroach development done in my junior and senior years at Columbia. The cockroaches came from an infestation of cockroaches I discovered in the Faculty Club bar. Dr. Pollister said "That is probably the greatest contribution to science in the history of the Faculty Club!"
Dr. Pollister was a Corporation Member of the Marine Biology Laboratory at Woods Hole. I became a Corporation Member of the MBL the year Arthur Pollister died. He is my hero!