Jennifer and Eoin
Dr Jennifer Cookman and Associate Professor Eoin Hinchy pictured in a laboratory in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at University of Limerick
Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Love was under the lens at a microscopy conference taking place at University of Limerick, as the event brought back happy memories for one couple.

The 48th Microscopy Society of Ireland (MSI) Symposium returned to UL last week, but for conference organiser and researcher, Dr Jennifer Cookman, it was where she discovered love nine years ago.

This year’s symposium featured a keynote address by renowned Professor Quentin Ramasse, posters, and a host of fascinating talks on the different areas of microscopy. But while love wasn’t exactly a feature of this year’s programme, it was a happy outcome in 2015 when Jennifer met her now husband Dr Eoin Hinchy - the last time the conference was held at UL.

Both were pursuing PhDs at the time which focused on the area of material science and had a chance encounter in the foyer of the Analog Devices Building in UL.

Eoin, who is now an Associate Professor in Digital Manufacturing and Automation at UL, explained: “I had a poster at the time, and I was hanging around the foyer because that is where all the posters were on display, and I got chatting with Jenn. My poster was on the repair of turbines; this was my first ever conference and I was working in industry finishing my PhD. I was only meant to be at the conference for one day, but I asked if I could get a few more days off to attend the rest of the conference after meeting her.”

Thankfully the end of the conference brought about another encounter as they met again, with both Jennifer and Eoin winning prizes for Best Talk on Material Science and Best Poster, respectively.

The week after the conference, the couple went on their first date with Eoin commuting home to Dublin every weekend from UL where he was completing his PhD, to meet Jennifer who was completing her doctorate in UCD.

Jennifer secured a postdoctoral position at UL in 2017 and Eoin soon followed, securing a similar position in 2018.

For Jennifer, it seemed that all roads were leading to University of Limerick.

“I really loved UL the first time I visited the campus for the MSI conference. One of the nights, we had dinner at the Pavilion. As we walked across the bridge it just lit up and the sun was coming down; it was absolutely stunning.”

The couple married in 2022 and both now work in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University. Jennifer organised the conference this time around and quipped that one of her PhD students might make a similar breakthrough.

“One of my PhD students was doing a presentation and I told her as well that nine years ago I was in her position. It’s her first conference and first presentation in the very same room, so who knows? She might find love too,” laughed Jennifer.