March 12, 2017
During an unprecedented externship at Merck and Co., 18 Ursinus alumni working at Merck offered four students an insider’s look at the biopharma industry, as well as careers that they may not have considered as Ursinus undergraduates.
The Career and Professional Development extern program has grown from an initial 17 students in 2014 to 39 students this past January. From the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office to medical clinics and investment firms, Ursinus alumni and parents have stepped up to offer Ursinus students a look at what they do on the job and how they got there.
“I was always under the impression that with my major I could either go to medical school, become a teacher or do research,” said Abigail Goldstein ’19, a biochemistry and molecular biology major. “However, after my experience at Merck, I realized that there are so many options available with someone studying the sciences.”
Getting an Overview
At Merck, Ursinus alumni (and some non-alumni) gave students an overview of the company’s work, such as the role of biostatistics in drug and vaccine development, the clinical development process, drug safety and other aspects of the industry, including human resources. Organizer Chris Lamplugh ’89, executive director, Global Data Operations, said he read about the externships in an Ursinus newsletter and put out some queries. It grew from there.
In addition to Goldstein, externs Hailey Donahue ’18, a biology major and psychology minor, Jillian Janowski ’17, a biology major and ethics minor, and Kimberly Realbuto ’17, a biology major and accounting minor, learned for example, from Megan Dresher ’02, now associate director, Human Resource Operations, that human resources is also a career option for those with a science background.
After graduating from Ursinus, Dresher was not interested in the traditional biology paths such as medicine, teaching or research. “I did not know what I wanted to do,” she said. Dresher accepted a contract position in data management and was later offered a permanent position. She took her project management expertise to human resources, where she now leads various large-scale transition and process improvement projects. “Building a transferable skills set is important,” she said.
Her colleague, Kristin Laskowski ’02, who was a double major in psychology and communications at Ursinus, got a master’s degree in human resources development and leads a team based in Europe as associate director of EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) human resources service delivery team.
Natalie MacConnell ’02, a computer science major and math minor at Ursinus, was an intern at Merck for two summers and also worked as a contractor in the Merck IT division developing websites. Her focus now is in learning and development within human resources, building leadership capabilities among employees.
La Quita Garcia ’09, who was an evening center student, is, after 15 years at Merck, a global human resources learning leader.
Unique Job Journeys
Janowski said she enjoyed “getting the chance to hear from various individuals from different departments … I not only learned interesting information about Merck, but I learned so many professional tips from hearing about everyone’s unique journey within the industry,” she said.
The week at Merck, said Donahue, “opened my eyes to so many jobs in the industry and being able to talk with so many Ursinus grads who now love their jobs was an incredible experience.”
Other alumni who participated in the weeklong externship program were Jeff Algayer ’01, Michael Baganski ’93, Kimberly (Algayer) Bentz ’99, Maria Craze ’00, Jason Forsell ’99, Filippa Guerra Karcewski ’98, Brian C. Marks ’03, Sabrina Marsilio ’99, Anthony Petrino ’00, Brian Pro ’00, Krista (Maurer) Striano ’01 and Robert Tipping ’83.
Lamplugh noted that students received practical advice for entering the workforce. “I think the students walked away with a much better understanding of what opportunities are available to them post-graduation,” he said.