The Division of Life Sciences is excited to welcome Dr. Jessica Shivas, the new Director of the SAS Imaging Core Facility. She will be managing all the microscopy equipment and consult with the labs on the optimal imaging modalities. She joined us in June 2021 from Leica, the microscope company.
Tell me about yourself
My name is Jessica Shivas. I’m a lover of all things microscopy, but my research background is in Cell Biology and Genetics. I did my Ph.D. at University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is where I learned how much I loved imaging by spending hours hunkered down in a dark microscope room taking movies of live C. elegans embryos. The fun with microscopy continued after graduate school when I got a job with a microscope company (Leica) initially in their remote technical support group, then moving on to be a field-based confocal applications specialist. I loved working with researchers and educating them on how to get the most out of their confocal systems. I had that position until I got the opportunity to become part of the Rutgers community, which was an exciting change since I had already gotten to know several labs here during my time at Leica.
In my home life, I live in Verona with my husband, Jay, and our 3 year old daughter, June. When we’re not chasing her around, you can usually find me running, cooking, or more recently, ice dyeing whatever fabric I can get my hands on.
How did you become interested in science?
I have the strongest memory of science emerging as the clear path that I wanted to pursue during high school. I remember enjoying the portion of my biology class about Mendel’s peas and the bit of molecular biology we covered, which planted the proverbial seed that science might be my thing. Before my junior year, my chemistry teacher was creating a Molecular Biology class and encouraged me to sign up for it. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going in, but I figured it was worth a try since she was one of my favorite teachers. It ended up being heavily lab-based and the material just clicked for me. I loved the experience of “doing science”, for lack of a better expression. That class heavily influenced my decision to apply to universities that had Genetics/Molecular Bio programs so that I could pursue that path as my major.
As a student, did you do undergraduate research?
I did! I majored in Genetics at University of Georgia and I spent my last year there working in Sidney Kushner’s lab studying mechanisms of RNA decay in E. coli. I worked with a graduate student on a project studying a particular RNase. It turned out the mutant background had some replication issues, so we labeled the culture with DAPI (nuclear stain) and put them on a slide. When we looked at them on a fluorescent microscope, we saw these little E. coli rods transformed into long strands that looked more like a string of holiday lights. That small experiment led me to realize how much I liked being able to “see” the biology through microscopy. It stuck with me because the labs I decided to rotate through during my first year of graduate school had projects that involved imaging.
What is your role within DLS?
I’m the Director for the SAS Imaging Core – currently focusing on the microscopy resources in CBN and HGINJ. I make sure all of the microscopy equipment is working well, but the bigger part of my role will involve consulting with the labs on campus to help them decide which imaging modalities would best answer their research questions, what sample preparation considerations we need to make and ultimately show them how to get the best images that we can for their application.
What do you like about being at Rutgers?
The people. There is such a wide variety of cutting edge research going on at Rutgers, and the culture is so friendly and welcoming. I’m very excited that I get to be a part of this community and hope to help it grow!