I want to make a difference. I want to solve problems of relevance to humanity, and do the very top tier science, and do it in a way that it can help people get better."

Tim Cernak, Ph.D.

Tim Cernak spends a lot of time working with – and thinking about – automation. As an associate principal scientist at Merck Research Laboratories in Boston, Tim’s research is incredibly technology-focused. Or, as he says, “I have the luxury of seeking out better science for drug discovery. Today, that means exploring robotics and automation.”

Making the molecules that make the medicine

Tim describes his work as “making the molecules that we hope eventually make the medicine. I am at the stage where we invent them for the first time – I piece together atoms and try to make new molecules in what we hope will be helpful medicines.”

Tweaking ideas and concepts from the computer industry to evolve Merck’s laboratory devices and procedures is a large part of Tim’s work. “We are miniaturizing chemistry processes in ways similar to how computer microchips keep shrinking and getting better and faster; we are trying to learn from and apply those principles to turn up the horsepower on the way that we do chemical experimentation.”

Accelerating the drug discovery process

All of this work and advancements in technology, he hopes, will accelerate the drug discovery process. “We’re using robotics to run thousands of experiments in a day; these experiments consume much less material than was previously possible. We hope to eventually get to the place where drugs are invented and developed in a much more rapid format than they are currently.”

A leader in science and technology

A Merck scientist since 2009, Tim is drawn not only to Merck’s incredible history in chemistry and drug development but also to its investment in the future. He sees his role as building on Merck’s strong tradition in cutting-edge technology and science. “Merck is a great place to be if you’re interested in technology,” he says. “If I look at what Merck has contributed to technology and to science, we’re recognized as a leader. And I believe that the science that we’re developing now and sharing with society and humanity is leading science and leading technology.”

Name: Tim Cernak, Ph.D.

Title: Associate Principal Scientist, Discovery Chemistry – Automation and Capabilities Enhancement

Education: B.Sc., University of British Columbia Okanagan; Ph.D., McGill University; Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University

Favorite Downtime Activity: Yoga

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