Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis.
I’ve been at Merck for just over 10 years now and am currently an Associate Principal Scientist in the Infectious Disease department. Our group is focused on the discovery of vaccines, antibodies and small molecules to prevent or treat a variety of infectious diseases. At Merck I’ve supported a number of vaccine research and development projects, spanning viral, bacterial and protozoan targets, and I’m currently leading a team of scientists, as well as collaborators from academia and biotech, in an effort to develop a novel viral vaccine.
How did you get your first job out of academia?
Connections were key! As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, I was supported in part through the Cellular Biotechnology Training Program, a program targeted toward students interested in careers outside of academia. One of the criteria for completing the program was for the trainee to conduct an internship with a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company. My thesis advisor knew some of the scientists working in the HIV antiviral drug discovery department at Merck Research Laboratories, and she helped me set up a short internship. Months later, while finishing up my thesis work and considering post-graduate options, I came across a Merck job posting that matched my scientific training. After consulting with my thesis advisor, I reached out to the scientists I had worked with during my internship who provided a recommendation.
Tell us about your academic background (describe your science at an undergraduate level)
As I entered my junior year at the University of Michigan, I began work on an undergraduate research project with one of the neurosurgery residents and his team. With an eye toward the promise of gene therapy to treat spinal cord injury and disease, we characterized adenoviral gene expression in the central nervous system of a rat model after delivery of the vector to remote sites. After receiving a BS in Microbiology, I joined the University of Michigan department of Microbiology and Immunology PhD program where my thesis work focused on understanding retroviral genomic RNA dimer partner selection.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now?
Make connections. You never know when that chance encounter, scientific conference conversation or research collaboration might turn into something more. The connections you make now might someday become the key for opening the next door along your career path.
Learn more or contact Jessica: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-flynn-574b0712