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Employee Spotlight - Sibling Edition: Jessica and Samantha Vellucci

Stratos Genomics Employee Spotlight is an intermittent feature on our blog that highlights our talented and dedicated staff. November's spotlight is a special edition of our Employee Spotlight, featuring sisters Jessica and Samantha Vellucci.

How long have you and your sibling been working at Stratos Genomics?
Samantha (S): I just celebrated my four-year workiversary with Stratos Genomics! I am excited to be embarking on the Order of the Phoenix.
Jessica (J): I started in June of 2015 so I am about half way through the Prisoner of Azkaban and am loving every minute of it!
S: For those that have not yet discovered the Harry Potter series, Jessica means she is ½ way through her third year at SG, and I’m starting on my fifth.

What has been your favorite part about working with your sibling?
J: My sister and I have always talked about science related topics, with her interest in biology and mine in chemistry.  Now, in addition to talking about those general interests, we get to discuss ideas that are specific to reaching the same goal while we try to solve the same kind of scientific problems. Samantha has such positive energy and when you’re around her, it’s contagious. She is very motivated and it’s hard not to get excited about something when working with her.
S: Before joining the team, my sister was living in Oregon getting her PhD in organic chemistry—with our hectic schedules, this meant we were only able to visit a few times a year. Even though we chatted on the phone most days, nothing beats chatting about molecules over lunch on a regular basis.

Have you and your sibling ever worked on a project together here at Stratos Genomics?
S: Yes and no. Jessica is a part of the team that pioneers the production of novel molecules and I am on the team that assembles these molecules in the final reaction leading up to SBX. Our two teams tend to have the same big picture goals, but our thinking and tools are typically quite different. I am super grateful to hear Jessica’s insight; her thinking is usually from a different angle that I hadn’t considered and she is always helping me to discover alternative solutions.
J: Although we haven’t worked on a specific project together, our two groups collaborate often and I agree with Samantha that we share those big picture goals. Samantha sees how the structures developed in my group behave in our SBX technology. Her insight in the assembly of these complex molecules provides a unique perspective on how reactions could be working and how we can improve our technology. When we make brand new molecules that no one has ever made before, it is so rewarding to share that excitement with my sister.

Growing up, was it common for you and your sibling to take on projects and activities together?
S: Ha, I wish! Jessica is very sweet and patient now, but only after years of putting up with me trying to do whatever she was doing. I distinctly remember her response to wanting to play with me would be “only if Alissa (our oldest sister) is playing.” This meant I’d have to trick Alissa into playing with us too. Luckily for me, now that we work together and Jessica lives next door to me, she really can’t get away from me!
J: Okay, so maybe I did try to play the cool, aloof older sister, but Samantha and I would read a lot as kids. We would often compete to see who could read the most books over summer vacation (thanks Scholastic Books!). We also used to read Harry Potter books together—from the same book, at the same time—which was a weird way to read, but perhaps even more fun than if we had been reading them on our own.
S: Oh! How can we forget karate?? We both participated in karate demonstrations at the county fair. Instead of winning awards for raising sheep like other kids, we would perform demos using weapons like the tonfa (my specialty) and the flying kama (Jessica’s specialty, an Okinawan variation of the sickle). We’d also run choreographed self-defense scenarios against our peers wielding fake knives.
J: That was a crowd pleaser to say the least! But it was a powerful way to show people that with practice, anyone can learn to defend themselves.

If your sibling wasn’t working at Stratos Genomics, where would she be working?
J: After seeing Samantha continue to excel at Stratos Genomics, it is really hard to imagine her anywhere else (although I know she’d kick butt anywhere!). But if I had to choose, I’d guess Samantha would be a farmer in New Zealand raising 40+ puppies. In all seriousness, Samantha is very passionate and cares immensely for others, so I could see her doing research to solve big problems like renewable energy or global sustainability of food and water.
S: Growing up, I would have guess Jessica would become a champion martial artist or body guard. She is super tough and has a black belt in karate! Alternatively, I could see her making an excellent teacher, because she has the ability to explain the most complex concepts simply and eloquently.

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