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Shinpei Ohki, researcher and professor of biophysics at UB

Jan. 1, 1933 – Nov. 16, 2017

Shinpei Ohki, a professor emeritus of physiology and biophysics at the University at Buffalo, died Nov. 16 in Burlington, Mass., from complications following a stroke. He was 84.

Born in Kawagoe, Japan, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kyoto University and was an instructor at Tokyo Metropolitan University while he completed his doctorate in physics with a focus on statistical mechanics at Kyoto. He worked under Dr. Setsuro Ebashi, a prominent physiologist.

He came to UB in 1965 as a postdoctoral fellow to work with Dr. James F. Danielli, who developed a physical-chemical model of the plasma membrane of a cell known as the Davson-Danielli, or “protein sandwich,” model. He joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1969 and became a full professor in 1986.

He was honored by UB for 50 years of service prior to his retirement in 2015.

Dr. Ohki held numerous visiting appointments at leading institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

He was visiting professor at Jichi Medical College and Science University Tokyo, visiting researcher at the Institute of Fundamental Physics in Kyoto, Japan, visiting scientist at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and corporate member at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., where he did cell membrane research on marine life.

The recipient of National Institute of Health grants for his research into membrane fusion and the biophysical properties of viral membrane fusion, he was author of numerous articles.

He also was an editor of the book, “Molecular Mechanisms of Membrane Fusion,” which collected papers presented at a ground-breaking symposium on the topic in UB’s Center for Tomorrow in 1987, and was co-author of another book, “Electrical Double Layers in Biology.”

He was a member of the Biophysical Society and the Society of Cell Biology.

He also was a member of Amherst Community Church for more than 30 years.

He was an avid classical music lover and collector of classical records. He was a longtime supporter of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, Mass.

At UB, he met Hungarian-born Catherine Balazs, a graphic designer. They were married in 1970. She died in 1996.

A Snyder resident for 45 years, he moved to Arlington, Mass., after he retired to be closer to his son’s family.

Survivors include a son, Thomas A.; a daughter, Elise C.; a sister, Teiko Munekyo; and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in Buffalo next spring.

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