Nautilus Senior Research Associate, Jessica Nicastro is an incredibly curious person. She says she gets this attribute from her family, many of whom are engineers who would encourage her to tinker with anything and everything when she was growing up. This is why young Jessica could often be found by her father’s side working through the innards of a radio or other electronic device.
Jessica’s curiosity has remained a constant in her life. She gets excited about something, dives deep with intensity and a love for learning, and then moves on to a new passion once she has, at the very least, become competent in the skill at hand.
I was not particularly focused on biology in my high school days. I had a bunch of other passions like swimming, Envirothon, theatre, and band. These extracurriculars did however help me develop the focus and multitasking abilities I would need to be a successful biology researcher. In college, I continued doing similar activities but also took on an internship in a lab studying HIV. Upon learning about the intricate, highly coordinated way in which viruses like HIV function, I was hooked. The inner workings of viruses and cells stirred the same curiosity that taking apart radios did when I was a child. I was so taken by this research that I went on to do a masters in the same lab and have not left biology since.
As part of my graduate work, I worked on vaccines for HIV. This excited an interest in the applied side of biology and motivated me to begin my industry career at a startup focused on similar projects. There I also learned a ton about DNA sequencing technologies and was fascinated by the way they accelerated research.
As I was thinking about my next career move, a friend who worked at Nautilus told me about the company’s mission. I applied and was impressed both by Nautilus’ welcoming atmosphere and the potential for Nautilus’ technology to revolutionize research in much the way DNA sequencing has. Even in my interview, I recognized the massive impact Nautilus could have on all aspects of biology and I was delighted to join the team when I got an offer.
I’m the type of person who likes to jump on to new hobbies ranging from learning languages, to making thousands of paper cranes, to gratitude journaling. At Nautilus, I can similarly begin new exploratory projects, dive deep to see if they make sense, and quickly move onto new ideas as necessary. This has been useful because there are many ways things like probe binding could work and my diverse interests help keep me excited about exploring the possibilities. I can jump on new designs, succeed or fail quickly, and come to optimal solutions rapidly. Indeed, my managers both encourage and help through this process by teaching me how to prioritize and determine when it is time to move on.
In the future, I hope to leverage my knowledge in any position where I get to communicate a bit more. Although I consider myself shy, I’ve realized that, when communication has a distinct purpose, I’m very good at it.
Jessica’s curiosity, tenacity, and communication skills will surely lead her to career success at Nautilus and beyond!
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