Innovation

STEM mentorship program helps underrepresented students shine

How we joined forces to develop a new program aimed at boosting diversity in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries

June 1, 2022

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Diversity and inclusion have long been recognized as key attributes of high-performing teams in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Unfortunately, ethnically diverse groups are underrepresented in the STEM (sciences, technology, engineering, and math) fields.  

It’s essential to our industry and society that we do our part to nurture tomorrow’s rising diverse STEM experts. So, two of our discovery scientists decided to take action.  

The STEM Hub for Industry Networking and Exchange (S.H.I.N.E.) program 

Believing that companies working together could drive real change, the scientists launched the STEM Hub for Industry Networking and Exchange (S.H.I.N.E.) program. S.H.I.N.E. aims to work collaboratively across the pharmaceutical and biotech industries to diversify, build and prepare future talent.  

A successful pilot for the program ran in early 2021, with 13 companies providing mentors for over 180 underrepresented students from more than 33 schools, including many historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Many students obtained internships and job opportunities, and 76% of the mentor/mentee pairs continued their relationship beyond the timeframe of the program.  

A S.H.I.N.E-ing success for STEM students and leaders  

The second cohort, which began at the end of 2021, boasts over 275 students from more than 80 schools with approximately 25 companies participating, according to S.H.I.N.E. program administrator Donmonique Chambliss.  

Fiona Marshall, head of discovery sciences & translational medicine and an executive sponsor of the committee focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in research and development, said, “We are very proud of Merck’s leadership in fostering STEM talent. Innovation isn’t easy, but when scientists with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds come together to tackle a problem, great progress can be made.”  

Here’s what some of our mentors and mentees have to say about the S.H.I.N.E. program:

Shaun Brim

“My mentor has completely increased my passion for helping individuals behind me, that look like me, and who maybe just need one opportunity to get through the door and excel.”
– Shaun Brim, senior at Morehouse College

“The program has led to an enhancement in my coaching, leadership, management and mentoring skills and has also increased my exposure to a diversity of thoughts, styles and personalities.”
– Francis Kwofie, senior scientist, chemistry, Merck

Francis Kwofie
Netgie Laguerre

“My experience with SHINE was so invaluable – not simply from the advice I received, but also the lifelong support and connections. I will always be grateful for this program, and I hope to pay it forward!”
– Netgie Laguerre, 5th year Ph.D. student at Princeton University, plans to join Novartis in 2022

“I’m proud to share that my first mentee overcame obstacles and worked diligently in her interview preparation to obtain a terrific STEM job in the pharmaceutical industry.”
– Rob Garbaccio, VP, discovery chemistry, Merck

Rob Garbaccio

To learn more, visit www.mentorshine.org

Merck Research Laboratories (MRL) continually works to foster an inclusive and collaborative culture that fuels creativity and promotes scientific exchange. Explore some of the other mentor programs across the organization:

Merck scientists launch research award to support rising chemists of color

Supporting the next generation of diverse scientists

Women in science? Absolutely.