Born in Croatia, Jelica Nuccio moved to Alabama as a child. There, her parents enrolled her in the Alabama School for the Deaf. Nuccio's parents disliked having their daughter communicate in ASL, a language they did not understand, so they sent her to the St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis for oral training and later to a mainstream high school. Following high school, Nuccio went on to RIT, where she received her bachelor's degree in biology, and then to Emory University, where she earned a master's degree in behavioral services and health education. At the time of her Lyon lecture, Nuccio was a cryogenic technologist at the Emory Genetic Laboratory as well as a project officer for the Centers of Disease Control. Her Lyon lecture was titled "Breaking Barriers: Trailblazing in the Scientific Field."