The Smell of Success

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Early in his career as a researcher at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Charles Wysocki ’73 worked on a project to explore the inability of some people to detect certain smells.

Through his research, he and a colleague found that identical twins are essentially identical in their ability to smell androstenone, a chemical with a scent only 50 percent of people can smell and which is described by those individuals as smelling strongly of urine.

Because Wysocki was among those who could not smell it, he prepared the solutions for research. However, after a few months of working with the compound, he had acquired the ability to smell androstenone and a new line of research emerged.

Wysocki, who holds a Ph.D. in psychobiology (now neuroscience) from Florida State University, has spent four decades researching chemosensory science and has published and presented dozens of seminal papers and reports on the genetic influences, gender differences and impacts of age and the environment on odor perception. He has researched chemical communications and how people emit pheromones to identify individuals, alter hormone systems and modify moods and emotions.

He retired last year from Monell, but remains an emeritus member of the center and an adjunct professor in the department of animal biology at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Wysocki said he can trace his interest in neuroscience to an off-campus internship his senior year through SUNY Oswego’s Psychology Department.

“I studied auditory and visual perception in inbred strains of mice,” he said. “This was a phenomenal research opportunity that introduced me to the then emerging concept that genes may play a major role on neuronal processing.”

But Wysocki said his path was anything but certain when he first arrived at SUNY Oswego in 1965. He started out as a math major and decided he wanted to double major by adding psychology.

“This resulted in a major mistake on my part,” he recalls. “My grades tumbled and I left Oswego before completing the first semester of my junior year to join the U.S. Army.”

He ended up completing a tour in Vietnam before returning to Oswego to graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology. He remains close to the friends he made as a Beta Tau Epsilon brother and returns to campus each June for the annual Reunion celebration.

“The bottom line—the crossing of certain paths between me and Oswego members of the faculty, who took the time to take me seriously, set me on my career path.”

—Margaret Spillett, with support from Monell Senations: The Monell Center Blog

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