Jacqueline Gunther

Jacqueline Gunther - 2021 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Postdoctoral Researcher in Biophotonics
Tyndall National Institute
University College Cork, Ireland

Jacqueline Gunther

Born in USA
Resides in Ireland
Educational Background: BE in Biomedical Engineering, State University of New York Stony Brook; MS, MPhil, and PhD in Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University

My grandfather was a huge inspiration to me. He was one of the engineers who worked on the lunar module that sent the first people to the moon. As a kid, I thought that was amazing! He told me that I should become an engineer. I did not really believe him until I got to high school and took physics. Only then did I realize how much I enjoyed the subject. However, I also loved learning about biology, so I was confused on what to do. I found out that the universities that I applied to offered a degree in biomedical engineering, which was perfect! So I went for it.

I work on two main projects. The first is developing methods for acousto-optical tomography, which involves combining light and ultrasound so that when the light travels through the focus of the ultrasound it becomes “tagged.” I find ways to detect this “tagged” light, which has a very small signal. The second is an industry project I lead. I communicate with the CEO and the other directors of the company as well as perform the necessary research to reach their goals. I also mentor PhD students and help them along on their journey to graduating. I lead the lab meetings, organize the journal clubs, and manage the laser lab space. Additionally, I give tutorials for the PhD students and post-docs who are looking to better their MatLab or statistical skills.

Sometimes dealing with different personalities can be difficult. There was a time, while working, in which some of the people around me were not helpful or not even very nice to me for whatever the reason. I had to learn how to progress despite these challenges. I overcame it by learning when to stand my ground and when to extend an olive branch.

I wish I had learned earlier how to balance my life. STEM is a worthwhile field that requires hard work, but it should not come at the expense of your well-being or pursuing other goals outside your career. Young women interested in science, you are smart enough for STEM! There will be times when you will think, “They picked the wrong person for this work,” or “I don’t think I’m qualified for this project,” but it’s not true! I suggest finding other women in STEM to connect with so that you can help support each other.

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