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Alex Walsh

Assistant Professor
Texas A&M University, USA

SPIE Early Career Professional Member

Alex Walsh

Country of Birth: USA
Country of Residence: USA
Educational Background: BE, MS, PhD, Vanderbilt University

 

My family is full of engineers—my parents, my grandfather, my aunt and uncle. My grandfather was a professor and ran a research lab. He and my parents cultivated a scientific interest at an early age. I remember visiting my grandfather’s lab, watching lab members work with lasers, and thinking that scientific discovery is exciting. Although I entered college thinking that I might want to be a (medical) doctor, after a summer research experience in a biophotonics lab, I knew biomedical research was what I wanted to do.

I think about science all day and work with people who are also passionate about science. I lead a research group that develops and applies microscopy techniques to personalize medical diagnosis and prognosis. Every day brings new data, new ideas, and new challenges. I encourage and support graduate students, write grants, teach classes, review papers, and am actively involved with professional societies including SPIE.

I found the search for a faculty position grueling. The process is like a roller coaster, with highs and lows. I persevered because I love research, writing grants, and mentoring students. I am also fortunate to have many incredible mentors with unending encouragement and support.

Often only successes like good data, published papers, awarded grants, and jobs received are publicized. But there are many experiments that do not work, grants that go unfunded, exams failed, and jobs not offered. Be happy when something works, but don’t dwell on what doesn’t, learn from it and try again. Be passionate about your work, do your best, and opportunities will eventually follow.

Find supportive peers and mentors that simulate your intellectual curiosity without being overly competitive. Change your institution, job, or mentor if the environment isn’t a good fit.

I received my first Women in Optics calendar around 2009 as an undergraduate student. I remember reading the profiles of the women scientists and was fascinated by their stories of success in a wide range of fields. It was very inspirational to me and I hope my words are likewise encouraging. The Women in Optics community is vibrant, and I encourage everyone to become involved!

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