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As director of Analytical Method Development for the Biologics BioProcess Development group, Daisy Richardson is the first to admit her role is one that’s a bit more behind-the-scenes.
“My parents, neither of whom are scientists, ask me all the time what I do,” she says with a laugh. “You never really think about drug quality and safety. People always assume there is some control over it, but they don’t realize the complexity behind it. But there’s this incredible intricacy behind the molecules in the vial or syringe of medicine they are receiving. It needs to be safe and consistent.”
Daisy oversees a team which creates tests to monitor the quality of the medicines that Merck manufactures. “It’s a big responsibility,” she notes. “Sometimes these tests might have a lifetime of 20 or 30 years. So you need to have a vision to make sure Merck continues to make products which remain safe and consistent during that time span.”
Daisy strives to be a role model for other women in her department, as well as for her two young daughters. “It’s wonderful how many strong, female leaders there are in my department. And I think that speaks a lot to Merck and their investment to women in science,” she notes.
Having so many female colleagues is a bit of a novelty for the Mississippi native, who says there were very few women in the science disciplines as she was progressing through school. “I was the only girl in my physics class in college, and once I was told by my professor, ‘You can take the notes because you are the woman and you can be the secretary.’ There just weren’t a lot of female role models. So, to me, being a role model is something that drives me.”
That responsibility starts at home. “My two girls are my biggest sources of motivation to come to work every day,” she says. “It’s really important for me to set a good example, and to show my kids that women can be in science. Women can be leaders in science, and they can be technically strong, and they can succeed.”
For now, Daisy’s oldest daughter seems to be following in her mom’s footsteps. “My oldest daughter, who is four, is able to sign up for ‘elective’ classes at her daycare. And she always signs up for the science class,” recalls Daisy. “The other day she came home, ran up to me and said, ‘Mommy! Look at me! I’m a scientist!’ And she was so happy.”