Merck’s postdoc program has definitely set me up for my future career goals.”
After students complete their Ph.D.’s, what is next for them besides framing the degree it took many years of rigorous study to attain?
For many, it's a postdoctoral appointment — called a "postdoc" — where they can pursue even more research, training or teaching, and gain insights into what a future career path in industry or academia would entail. At Merck, we hire postdocs to train within our Postdoctoral Research Fellow Program, which provides them the resources, reach and expertise of a large pharmaceutical company to help them excel in research and discovery.
Noreen Rizvi, Ph.D. is one of about 60 postdocs at Merck; she started as part of the ALIS Group in vitro pharmacology after graduating from Northeastern in 2015 with a Ph.D. in engineering.
“I chose to do a postdoc in pharma because even if I'm working in very early-stage drug discovery, the ability to see tangible results that may one day make an impact, make a difference or lead to new applications was a driving factor for me.”
Her postdoc project? Looking to target RNA using small molecules. Once thought to be a passive carrier of genetic information, RNA is now understood to perform a number of other key roles in the cell and its malfunction can lead to disease. Noreen’s group is trying to figure out whether or not we can target RNA with drugs (medicine typically binds to protein targets within the cell).
“It’s such a cutting-edge project; it’s at the forefront of science,” she notes of the research. “Since it’s so exploratory, I get to go in whatever direction my findings take me.”
For Noreen, this ability to “cross the aisles” is what sets Merck’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow Program apart. “I think something unique to Merck is that I get to work with such different people from different backgrounds. I work with biologists. I work with geneticists. I work with chemists. I work with informaticians,” she notes. “All of these people are coming together to work towards the same goal, but they bring such different things to the project. This benefits me as a scientist and helps me advance my own career.”
Noreen is based at our Merck Research Laboratories in Boston, a city she loves both for personal and professional reasons. “Of course, it’s a great city with great restaurants, sports, culture and everything you could want. But, from a career perspective, it's awesome because you get to collaborate with such amazing universities and researchers within some of the best schools in the nation.”
She has another year left in her postdoc, a time when she’s going to be hyper-focused on RNA. But she already knows how much the MRL Postdoctoral Research Fellow Program has done for her. “The postdoc program has definitely set me up for my future career goals. It’s not only advanced me as a scientist, but it's helped me understand what it means to work in a large industry. I would absolutely recommend the postdoc program; it's exceeded all my expectations.”
Merck Boston has a world-class facility in Affinity Selection Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) that uses Automated Ligand Identification System (ALIS) technology which allows the determination of protein binding in unpurified mixtures of compounds.