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Supporting the next generation of diverse scientists

Meet some of the Merck mentors and former mentees helping make the Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program a success

July 28, 2021

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scientist working with samples in a lab

“Diversity drives innovation – when we limit who can contribute, we in turn limit what problems we can solve.”

Telle Whitney

Former CEO and president of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

Increasing diversity across our scientific labs isn’t just the right thing to do — it helps advance our science as well. Innovation is enhanced when scientists from diverse backgrounds approach problem-solving from different perspectives.  

The Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program (SMDP) is just one way our company is nurturing the scientific talent of ethnically diverse students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). SMDP Biotech Scholars, who are students from underrepresented groups either in college or graduate school and early career researchers, are paired for a year with mentors who help them prepare for careers in industry. This marks Merck Research Laboratories’ (MRL) second year taking part in this mentoring program, with ten MRL researchers participating as mentors. 

This program is a win-win for both the Scholars and our company. The mentoring relationship provides meaningful support to underrepresented STEM students and early researchers, while our company benefits by establishing a connection with this talent pool of diverse emerging scientists. 

We spoke with two former SMDP Scholars who are now MRL researchers and two MRL colleagues who served as mentors in the program to learn more about its positive impact.  

Former SMDP Scholars turned MRL researchers

Philip Dorsey

“As a participant in the SMDP program, I was exposed to a variety of research career entry points within the medical technology and biopharmaceutical industries. Learning from a diverse group of experienced professionals about their journeys and the challenges they encountered and overcame during their scientific careers enhanced my understanding of the various directions I could pursue professionally. Moreover, the program connected me with resources and a peer network to support my transition from academia to industry. This enabled me to determine how and where I wanted to start my career as I finished grad school.”

— Philip Dorsey, senior scientist, discovery pharmaceutical sciences, supporting small molecule and adjuvant formation discovery activities in neuroscience and infectious diseases therapeutic areas

“The SMDP was my initial introduction to the biopharmaceutical industry, and the experience was invaluable. I learned the power of networking as well as the importance of seeking out mentors. Additionally, the program taught me to identify the necessary transferable skills in order to make a successful transition into this industry. Undoubtedly, these specific skill sets eventually prepared me for my role in MRL.”

— Danielle Brown, clinical scientist, clinical sciences and study management supporting the infectious diseases therapeutic area

MRL SMDP mentors

“As an African American in the field of science and medicine, I have always had a passion for sharing my own experiences with younger students in underrepresented ethnic groups in hopes that it may help them as they pursue their own careers within the field. Serving as an SMDP mentor has allowed me to interact with some amazing young STEM students who are interested in careers in pharma. Over the course of my own journey, I have had many mentors who have helped me along the way, and it brings me great satisfaction to know that by participating as an SMDP mentor, I may be able to serve in that same capacity for others.”

— G. Brandon Atkins, senior principal scientist and director, global clinical development, cardiovascular

“Serving as a mentor for the SMPD has been a great experience. The program has allowed me to engage with a diverse and impressive cohort of next-generation STEM leaders on a personal level. I was able to introduce my mentees to new career options, share advice on skills development, coach on interview preparedness, make connections to expand their professional networks or simply serve as a sounding board for their questions and concerns. I’ve also learned through the close relationships we’ve established, particularly regarding the unique life experiences and challenges that they have navigated. Our sessions often leave me in admiration of their accomplishments and resolve, excited about the impact they will make in their future careers and privileged to share a small part of that journey with them along the way.”

— Marian Gindy, executive director, pharmaceutical sciences and clinical supplies, supporting drug product formulation and process development