Nylon, ribbon and cotton are just some of the materials that make up cosplay costumes that fill convention centers.
Natalie Arnold often participates in these conventions, picking new, fictitious characters to bring to life in costume form. She enjoys the imaginative layers that it adds to her work.
Arnold has always been a theater kid, more interested in fine arts than math and science. She realized much later that science might be an option for her.
“I especially found earth science and atmospheric science extremely fascinating when I was younger,” Arnold said. “But a younger me would not have considered science a career field.”
One professor changed everything for Arnold, down to the type of science she would go into.
“I feel like biology can be seen as overwhelming and scary, but one of my professors took the time to make sure we understood and made sure things were interesting, not super dry,” Arnold said. “I was like, ‘okay, I’ll explore this possibility.’”
Arnold earned her undergraduate degree in biological sciences from the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri, where she thought she had found her scientific niche in microbial ecology — the study of microorganism habitats and how their interactions effect the environment. But she quickly realized she was looking for something different than a career in plant genetics. She implored the knowledge she had gained from her undergraduate professor, who revealed the many avenues of biology Arnold hadn’t seen before.
“She often talked about her industry and academic work experience she had prior to teaching,” Arnold said. “Hearing this as an 18-year-old who thought they’d be stuck doing the same thing for the rest of their life was definitely reassuring.”
This newfound excitement for science guided her to pursue a career in molecular biology by working as a lab technician at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and led her to Bond LSC.
“I was able to really broaden my skill set which allowed me to explore the many routes my career could go,” Arnold said.
Working at Bond LSC in the University of Missouri Genomics Technology Core, Arnold gets to interact with others in a more direct way than in the past.
“In my last job, I basically ran a lab by myself with students from time to time,” Arnold said. “It’s a new challenge working with a team, but I’ve enjoyed that trial-and-error aspect and seeing science in action.”
Arnold provides quality control for other research labs at Bond LSC to ensure procedures meet certain criteria needed to maintain accurate results. In the Genomics Technology Core, she sequences DNA and RNA to help construct sets of data that researchers can use to assemble a genome, which is the genetic information of an organism.
“We don’t do research here directly, but we’re able to assist in research projects, and I understand how much work goes into planning experiments and getting funding,” Arnold said. “Here I can assist with research for others and be able to help them.”
For Natalie, the worlds of research and cosplay share he desire to get into the nitty gritty details in an interest area.
“Going through experiments, there’s a lot of planning involved, and there’s a lot of planning and prep involved in sewing as well,” Arnold said. “Planning and organizing are two skills that I use in both aspects of my life right now.”
Although Arnold didn’t see the arts as a lucrative opportunity, science still allows Arnold to perceive the world in new and exciting ways while she keeps the arts alive through her hobbies and applying those skills in the lab as well.
“It gives me a chance to keep learning new things that I’m still surprised by, and it gives me an opportunity to keep growing my skills,” Arnold said.