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Professor Aoife Gowen

Aoife Gowen

Associate Professor Gowen's is an expert in hyperspectral imaging. Her research is multidisciplinary, involving applications of hyperspectral imaging to biological systems, including foods, microbes and biomaterials. Her European Research Council (ERC) project Biowater, aims to uncover new knowledge on the interactions between water and biomaterials in order to understand processes involved in biocompatibility, biofouling and biodegradation.

She says “Understanding how water interacts with surfaces will help in the design of better materials and indeed will create more resilient and flexible structures across a range of applications.”

There was an interesting exchange between Aoife and the artist Blaise Smith who painted the group portrait, in relation to which object Aoife would choose to represent her domain. Blaise shared this reflection with us:

    Aoife had originally mentioned holding a prism in the first meeting. This presented a problem for me pictorially because I was going to have to provide a beam of white light coming from somewhere and hitting it and then a surface where the refraction would show up as its constituent colours. And I already had a sun to contend with!

    I knew at the time she was expecting her first child, and I thought it might be nice to bring that into it. However, Orla, my wife put me straight on that—saying it was a typical characterisation of working women and shouldn't intrude into this painting which is about what these scientists do, not their private lives. And after all, it would be unlikely that such an idea would have occurred to me at all if she were a man.

    So, with that "bad" idea safely consigned to the scrapheap, I re-read her bio and then decided a jug of water would represent her research about water's interaction with surfaces. When I met her again, I discovered I had perhaps focused too much on the water side of things and what she was really doing was analysing water with spectroscopy.

    That made me think of light hitting water, so I thought rainbow—which Aoife liked as it covers a lot of the constituents of her work and it looks very optimistic.

Associate Professor Gowen has been successful in gaining funding awards to support her research activities, including a European Union Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship and a European Research Council (ERC) starting grant.

You can follow Aoife on Twitter @eefieg