Jessica Winter, on life in science
Editor’s Note: We asked each of the QSTORM investigators to respond to a set of questions we thought could help web visitors understand a little bit more about the personal side of working in science. These are Jessica Winter’s responses.
I like to think that I am “cool” although my family might beg to differ. My husband and I compete in ballroom dancing, not your usual scientific stuff. I’m also pretty feminine. I wear a lot of pink, have a pink computer, and a pink labcoat. And, I’m from Texas.
I really love the work of Richard Feynman. His books have been really influential for me and I would be happy if I could be half the scientist that he was. He was a beloved teacher and researcher and that is rare.
A little OCD. I can’t throw out newspapers but don’t always have time to read them and will end up reading 2 weeks in one go. Also, the interest in teenage fiction is a little odd. I am a huge fan of “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” and yes there are costumes involved.
I really, really love yoga and am scary flexible. It helps me to be aware of myself and my surroundings. I also like meditation. Balance is good. Dancing. Teenage fan girl stuff. I also have a women-in-science blog that I’ve been running for about four years.
I saw the announcement for the NSF IBIV workshop, and since I work in bioimaging I was immediately interested. Originally, I was part of a different team, which I was also excited about, but not sure that I could really contribute much to. At lunch one day, Peter asked me if we could make quantum dots that could be turned on and off. I told him I wasn’t sure, then remembered that we had already done this using pH as the trigger. I had never really thought of it as “turning them on and off,” rather as pH sensing, but that’s what it is. Then, he asked if we could do this with light instead of pH, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that we could. Then he explained STORM microscopy, and QSTORM was conceived.
Just having the opportunity to work with such a diverse team will enhance what we do. I am really excited about working with biologists, and I can see potential for Peter and I to continue to work together beyond this project.
If we could image molecules as they move in living things, we could learn so much more about the biology. In particular, I am interested in how nerve cells move. This would help me to see which molecules are involved in cell movement.
It’s always important to point out successes. In this field, there is not very much of that. Celebrating when you are successful helps you to get through the times that you are not. Also, it’s important to remember that we are doing something that has never been done before. If it were easy, it would have already been done.
Q. Where do you find inspiration when challenged with a difficult problem?
Yoga and meditation. I get my best ideas in that state halfway between asleep and awake. It is not uncommon for me to jump up at 3 in the morning and scribble an idea on a notepad for the next day.