"What is most exciting is to be able to invent a new sort of chemical reaction one day, and use it in drug discovery the next day. And that’s just something that doesn’t happen in academia."

Spencer Dreher, Ph.D.

Spencer Dreher isn’t 100 percent sure of his job title.

“I’m not a person who thinks of that stuff too much,” he says with a laugh. “So I apologize while I look it up superfast.”

A chemistry detective

What he does spend a great deal of time thinking about is much more important: As a principal scientist of chemistry in Catalysis and Automation at Merck, Spencer spends his time figuring out solutions to complex chemistry issues. “Anywhere a chemistry problem comes up, we get involved,” he says. “I’m constantly trying to build new tools which allow us to solve chemistry problems more effectively. The complexity of solving real world problems is just thrilling and it’s a lot of fun.”

A dedication to science

Chemistry has always been a vital component of our research and development at Merck, and our commitment to chemistry has always been a part of our company’s deepest traditions. “There aren’t many companies who focus on chemistry as much as we do,” says Spencer. “In fact, many companies just see it as a commoditized resource. But Merck has always championed Chemistry. It’s important; it’s our focus. I think Merck’s greatest strength is the fact that we have such strong scientists and a dedication to science,” he says. “It goes all the way from the top of the company down to the bottom.”

Highly innovative, highly rewarding work

For Spencer, his role as a problem-solver is highly innovative, highly rewarding work. “What is most exciting is to be able to invent a new sort of chemical reaction one day, and use it in drug discovery the next day. And that’s just something that doesn’t happen in academia. The lag time between someone inventing a reaction in academia and it actually being used in drug development is usually five or ten years. We can do this in a day. We can find something new and use it right away.”

Name: Spencer Dreher, Ph.D.

Title: Principal Scientist, Chemistry, Catalysis & Automation, Merck

Education: B.Sc., Macalester College; Ph.D., Columbia University; Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University

Favorite Downtime Activity: Coaching his children’s sports teams

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