Alaina Gunn

From an early age, I always had a fascination with science. So many discoveries and fun things to get your hands on! But isn't it always so fun to look back and see how God weaves your story together, even when you don't realize it at the time? I went to undergraduate knowing that I wanted to work in Forensics, but when I realized that the "CSI" life isn't all it's made out to be on tv, I found that I had an equal love for chemistry. Being an only child and a first-generation college student, my parents were always so excited to hear about what I was learning in school. Forensics is an easy thing to explain to people who are not in the sciences, but chemistry (and specifically physical chemistry)... well that's a whole other level. Since I loved chemistry so much, I decided to go to grad school (and get a Ph.D. in physical chemistry), but I had no plans of teaching whatsoever. I really didn't know what I was going to do afterwards, but I had it in my head that it was not going to be teaching. (This is one of those moments where God said, "You're funny, Alaina, thinking you know what you want better than I do.") About a year into my program, I realized that I LOVED teaching (thanks to being a lab teaching assistant for the department), and that along with my Ph.D., I was going to get a certificate in teaching as well. Fast forward to my final year of grad school where I was starting to apply for jobs and finish up my dissertation. My adviser and I had it in our heads that I probably wouldn't get a teaching job right off the bat since I was fresh out of grad school and a lot of positions required applicants to have a post-doc position first. But God did it again, and I was able to land quite a few interviews during my first round of applications, and eventually found myself working at my dream job. Had you asked me when I was little what I wanted to be when I grew up, you probably wouldn't have heard me tell you that I wanted to be a college professor. Looking back now, I know this is exactly where I'm supposed to be. God takes our stories and turns them into something even greater than we could have ever imagined. All we have to do is hang on for the ride.

My Life

Favorite Quote

"Life is not the mountain tops, it's the walking in between." -Ben Rector

Friends describe me

funny and creative

My hobbies

hiking, trying new baking recipes, and doing any type of craft or building project

Fantasy dinner guests

I can never think of a "good" answer to this question, so I'll just stick to having dinner with my best friends from college (and their spouses, kids, and pets).

Best advice I ever received

Everything doesn't always have to be perfect. Some things are okay just being "good enough".

My undergrad alma mater

Newberry College (Newberry, SC)

My worst subject in school


In college I drove

a light blue hatchback that I named Misty (and still drive today)

If I weren't a professor, I would

probably work as a home/interior designer or with an organization like Habitat for Humanity full time

Favorite books

Love Does by Bob Goff, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, and fantasy or thriller books

Favorite movies

any kind of movie, but I'm always ready to watch scary movies

Favorite city

My favorite to visit is Seattle. My favorite that I've lived in so far is Athens, but I'm sure the Upstate will make that list soon!

Favorite coffee

vanilla iced coffee, but I'm not picky about where it comes from

Nobody knows I

never learned how to do a cartwheel and still can't really do one to this day

My latest accomplishment

I adopted a dog from Greenville County Animal Care. Her name is Annabelle, but her friends call her Annie. She's a boxer mix who has a total goofy side but also loves a good nap on the couch too.

Current Research

Our atmosphere and the air around us is composed of tiny molecules that interact with each other on a daily basis. Sometimes these molecules are hard to detect by traditional methods because they are unstable and decompose quickly. With our detection method, we can essentially "freeze" these molecules in their unstable forms so that we can study them. We can also use different wavelengths of light to change the molecules while they are "frozen". It's a really "cool" technique that gives us a lot of insight into the world around us!