February 14, 2022

Perspective: Jess Tucci

Jess Tucci is Principal Scientist, Process Science working in the Tech Ops Manufacturing team. Jess is based at our Navy Yard facility, in Philadelphia, and shared how she became inspired to pursue a career in science.

How did you first become interested in science and biotech? Who inspired you?

Honestly, falling into biotech was a happy accident! I was passionate about psychological research (sensation vs. perception) and wanted to pursue a masters in Neurology then do academic research. I couldn’t find a masters that would accept a BA and was compatible with working full time, so I started a night biotech Professional Science Masters at Temple University and fell in love with the science! I’ve been most inspired by the passion and innovation of people within the field and the ability to have a meaningful impact on someone’s life.

What is it about science that drives your passion? What do you accomplish every day in your job?

Every day I get to help people. The methods I work on help patients receive safe and effective treatments. The role I’m in allows me to help younger scientists develop their careers.

Greatest obstacles and opportunities you’ve experienced establishing yourself in the industry? What has been your approach to succeeding in the field?

The biggest obstacle was moving from a psychology and business background to a science field. A BA in Psychology and 7 years of franchise operations was not going to get me a lab-based position, so going back to school was a must!

I had to call around quite a few schools to find one that would even consider my application for any MS without having a BS (regardless of day or night program!). Only the Temple University program allowed me to prove myself in non-matriculated coursework prior to applying. Two classes with A’s and they allowed me into the program. They guided me through co-op applications, and three co-ops later I had my first lab job.

My approach has been to sprint and walk. I am always taking on things that are hard and building my expertise. Once I start them, I sprint to rise to the challenge. Then I walk to really put in the thought, consideration, and collaboration required for success. Overall, applying my operations and management experience to the field has been incredibly useful, even though my role is very technical at times.

What needs to be done to ensure that more women like you enter STEM fields?

We need to give people with diverse backgrounds a chance to prove themselves. There are a lot of brilliant women out there who don’t know what they want to do at 18. I know I didn’t know what I wanted to do! Getting a BA allowed me to finish school earlier, which was important at the time since I didn’t have much financial assistance. I didn’t realize it would make it almost impossible to get into a MS program. If it weren’t for the program at Temple University giving me a chance, I wouldn’t be in STEM.

What advice would you give to the women and girls pursuing careers in STEM?

If you’re a late comer like me, don’t be surprised when you hear a lot of “no”.

There are MANY avenues to get into STEM. You could be trying to open one door, only to find another creaking open (like looking for one program and discovering something else interesting or taking an unrelated job at a company and then training into a role you’re more passionate about once you’ve proven yourself).

Stay curious, don’t get discouraged by the “no” and keep digging for the “maybe” or “no, BUT” or even change the question you’re asking. Sometimes you have to step into the unknown to figure out where you really belong.