PSD Spotlight: Justin Jureller

January 17, 2023

The PSD January Spotlight is Justin Jureller, Chemistry PhD’06, Technical Director of the Materials Preparation & Measurement Laboratory in the James Franck Institute and Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Justin began his time at UChicago in 1999 as a grad student researching ultrafast microscopy and biophysics, advised by Profs. Norbert Scherer and Louis Philipson. Since then, he has become a PSD expert on materials research instrumentation and core facilities. We interviewed him about his interests and experiences below.

Justin Jureller
Justin Jureller

Where are you from?

I’m from a small town on Lake Erie a bit south of Buffalo, New York—so crisp snowy days feel like home to me.

What do you enjoy about being a part of the PSD community?

There’s really something special about the culture and community in the PSD. There’s infectious joy for deep ideas, open inquiry, and a willingness to try new things to see where they might lead.

You could be having a conversation in the hall over coffee and it’s just as likely—and just as welcome—for a renowned faculty member to stop by and enthusiastically join the discussion as it is for a student just starting out.

Tell us a bit about you.

I originally came to the University as a Chemistry PhD student. I loved the scientific community, campus culture, and city of Chicago so much, I stayed on as staff after graduation. I’ve been running campus shared core user instrumentation facilities for the last 17 years.

We just had our second child, so free time is not really a thing, but when I get a chance, I’ll be tinkering with computers, doing crossword puzzles, or playing pinball. Many years ago, I was the Grand Champion on the pinball machine at the Pub.

Who inspires you?

Our two young kids. They are both very active and inspiring—full of energy, curiosity, and fresh ways of looking at things. We want to give them the best possible world and help them pursue their interests and dreams as best as we can.

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?

Our lab maintains technical instrumentation crucial to research efforts in the PSD and on campus. We are responsible for training and assisting graduate students, postdocs, undergrads, and P.I.s to use our tools—so we have a supporting role in a lot of exciting campus research projects. The most interesting thing right now might be a new Atomic Force Microscope that will be installed soon. This microscope can create high resolution images of atoms, molecules, biologicals, and materials not by seeing them, but by touch. It’s essentially an incredibly precise laser-powered record player!

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

I think an important part of diversity and inclusion is working to create a community where all individuals can feel accepted, respected, and recognized. Everyone has their own unique life experiences, backgrounds, and personal characteristics. There’s great value in being open to experiences beyond your own, learning to listen, and striving for equity and the representation of as many different viewpoints as possible.

Who had the most influence on you growing up?

I was lucky to have had some great high school teachers and wonderful professors and colleagues in undergrad, graduate school, and beyond. They taught me how to think hard, keep an open mind, and follow my curiosity.

What three words best describe you?

Tall, loyal, and resourceful.

If they made a movie about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you?

Every 7 years feels like a distinct era to me, so maybe a documentary series like Michael Apted’s Up, which followed the lives of 14 children in England starting in 1964, but with a different actor in each entry.

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