I think diverse teams are certainly our strongest teams, and I think we, as women, have a lot to add. ”
You may not know every position on a soccer field, but you'll always recognize the goalie.
That's because goalies are unique — in both positioning and job function. They see the entire field and can direct the defense while communicating with teammates about their line of sight. And, of course, they are the last line of defense.
Merck’s Rebecca Ruck just happens to be a goalie – as well as a process chemist here at Merck, a job that utilizes her athletic background.
“Growing up, I was told you have to be a little ‘off’ in order to play goalie; to repeatedly throw your body against the ground of your own free will,” she remembers (Becky, as we call her, plays for the NY Skulls). “I think it conjures up a good feeling and a willingness to put your body out there — just like you're putting your chemistry out there.”
In the labs, Becky has to be able to put everything "out there." In her role, she leads a team responsible for developing innovative chemistry processes to safely, efficiently and sustainably produce drug candidates in large enough quantities to support clinical trials and, ultimately, commercial manufacturing. Often charged with ‘simplifying’ a chemical synthesis, this department uses creativity, insight and innovation in order to invent new ways to build molecules.
Becky takes that courage into the lab with her, every day. “If we’re going to come up with the best synthesis of our compounds, we must explore scenarios that others might not. That's what's going to lead to our most innovative discoveries.”
Becky also works to build upon Merck’s culture of scientific excellence and commitment to diversity and inclusion through her work as a mentor, co-lead of our women in chemistry symposium, and active member of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Women's Chemist Committee (WCC). “I'm a big champion of women in chemistry and diversity in general. I think diverse teams are certainly our strongest teams, and I think we, as women, have a lot to add,” she says. “I want to make sure that all the best women are coming to Merck, so having a great culture and a great community is really important.”
Becky, who also helps run recruitment in her department, pushes her organization to make emerging female scientists and chemists aware of the opportunities here. Most recently, they’ve partnered with the ACS, and have created the WCC Merck research award to recognize emerging female chemists. Awardees are assigned Merck mentors and the opportunity to present their research at an awards symposium held during the annual ACS national meeting. She is also the 2018 winner of the ACS Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.
Although she notes she may be biased about her group (she does have a hand in recruiting, after all), Becky is confident that Merck attracts the top talent in the field. “We've been hiring a lot over the past couple of years, and it's really invigorated our group. We have youthful energy coupled with our more experienced folks, who provide deep insight in how to successfully carry out process chemistry. It’s a wonderful community.”