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NCSA Welcomes Jessica Saw to the Center Stage!

A picture of Jessica Saw posing with two bronze statues at the Mayo Clinic Medical School.

(Captions provided by Jessica Saw) Graduation at Mayo - I skipped the ceremony because it was 2021, and I didn’t want to get COVID.

Jessica Saw poses with a goat. The goat is black and tan.
With a goat at Prairie Fruits Farm.

Jessica Saw has been with NCSA for nearly three years. She also has the distinction of holding both a Ph.D. and an M.D., evidence of her passion for interdisciplinary research. Saw is a research scientist with NCSA’s Visual Analytics Group and she works closely with the Health Innovation Program Office. You may even find her teaching a class or two on the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign’s (UIUC) campus or at Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Without further ado, take it away, Jessica!

What is your title and team?

I am a Research Scientist at the Visual Analytics Group, which sits in the Software Directorate. I work on a lot of healthcare projects so I also work with the team at the Healthcare Innovation Program Office.

A hazy image of Jessica Saw and team sitting at a table at the Big Grove Tavern.
Visual Analytics Group & Friends dinner at Big Grove.

Tell us a cool fact about your job.

I get to work with a creative, inquisitive, supportive, quirky (I think quirky is a compliment, by the way) and intelligent team. Everyone is so open-minded and encourages exploration and learning. Also, I think it’s really cool that I got to take a course in the School of Arts + Design (ARTD420, Design + Disability). I was a Piano Performance major in college, so I loved that I finally got to take a course in the arts again, and it was also applicable to my job as a scientist!!!

A group outside in the fall playing Kubb.
Gamemaster Lisa Gatzke (Lead, UIX Group) explains the rules for playing Kubb at a Visual Analytics Group / Healthcare Innovation Program office retreat.

What are you most proud of in your experience here?

I’d say bringing good energy and community to the people I work with. I like people and making connections. I love it when my previous experiences at Mayo Clinic and IGB (Institute for Genomic Biology at UIUC) collide with the current ones here at NCSA.

What would you consider your superpower?

Sharing joy! I’ve met a couple of people who I would say have a similar energy as me. When you put two of us together in a room, it’s a bit much. 

Two cats, each sitting on a different shelf. One is a gray and white tabby, the other is a black and white cat.
Cole (ornery black and white cat), Griffin (sweet gray and white tabby)

What might people find you doing outside of work?

Tons of house projects! A lot of sanding and painting and a moderate amount of wallpaper (can’t go overboard on that one). Now that the weather is nice, I’m gardening a lot. I also started working at Prairie Fruits Farms for funsies, so you may see me selling goat cheese at the Urbana or Bloomington Farmer’s Market or serving food at the weekly Farm Dinners. 

What are a few items on your bucket list?

I want to learn basic woodworking skills (if anyone has any tips on where to start, message me!), take voice lessons and explore playing piano outside of the classical genre.

Jessica Saw shows a visitor at the HarvestHub booth the app they're working on.
demo-ing HarvestHub (an app that connects farmers with food assistance programs) at the Illinois State Fair.

What are you binging now? Tell us why we should watch it, too!

I recently finished binging Death and Other Details on Hulu. I enjoy the occasional murder mystery, and this one was especially fun to watch because of the luxe fashion and interior design. Next up is 3 Body Problem on Netflix. Fellow Visual Analytics Group members recommended it to me. I’ve watched a couple of episodes so far…so far, so good. I like how we get to visit 1970s China and modern day. Also, why are all the physicists so fashion-forward? I’m intrigued! 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Shipoopi.” It’s a term from The Music Man that means a “girl who’s hard to get,” but it took on an entirely new meaning when I was in medical school. I was very stressed out about my first board exam, so one of my mentors, who was playing in The Music Man pit orchestra at the time, suggested that when I don’t know an answer to a question, I say “shipoopi,” forget about it and move on. I find that is helpful for other things in life, too. It helps to reflect, but sometimes, you need a little something to help you move on. Shipoopi, Family Guy rendition:

Jessica Saw in a photo from the back of a lecture hall at the AMIA conference.
My first clinical informatics conference!
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