In this edition of BMB’s Alumni Spotlight, we feature Erin McCarthy, Ph.D.
Erin graduated from the Department’s Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Program in 2020. While a student at Penn State she worked and studied under the guidance of Evan Pugh University Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Squire Booker. Currently she lives in Cranford, New Jersey, and is employed as a Senior Scientist at Merck.
Let’s chat with Erin, talk about her experiences while at Penn State, and catch up with what she’s been up to.
What do you do at Merck?
“In my role as a Senior Scientist in the Small Molecule Analytical Research and Development (SM-AR&D) department at Merck, I work on developing methods to analyze potential new drugs with the hope that they will eventually be marketed and delivered to patients. The process from identifying a new potential compound to delivering the drug to patients is a very complex process, and involves a concerted and collaborative effort among many departments, including the SM-AR&D team.”
What was it that made you want to come to Penn State, and BMB, to pursue your education?
“After receiving my B.S. in Biochemistry in 2014 from Mercyhurst University, I worked for a year in industry and decided to get an advanced degree to further my career. I applied to Penn State/BMB at the recommendation of one of my professors who was previously a postdoctoral fellow in Phil Bevilacqua's lab. After interviewing and visiting Penn State, I knew it was the place for me. The research opportunities in the department were phenomenal, and it seemed to be a collaborative and welcoming environment. Also, I loved the State College area (and still miss it).”
How do you feel Penn State, and BMB, prepared you for your current position or career?
“The nature of the work in my current position differs greatly from my graduate experience. However, I have found that, even when moving to a very different subject area, the core foundational skills gained in graduate school transfer very well. Above all, my ability to solve problems as a result of my training in BMB has set me up for success in my current position. I have confidence that when I encounter a problem or if I haven't used a particular technique before, I can figure it out. The ability to present data and technical writing skills are also things my advisor emphasized during my training, and have been incredibly useful skills in my current role.”
Share with us an interesting, or fun, fact about yourself.
“When I was younger, I was always very interested (and better) in English class and writing. When I was in 7th grade, I was named the Pennsylvania State Handwriting Champion. I even started college as an international relations major before switching to biochemistry on a whim and ended up loving it.”
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
“I really enjoy reading books of almost every genre. I also enjoy spending time outdoors, running, swimming, hiking, and plants. I have always had an interest in staying involved in the community. I have recently joined the Rahway LINK (Leveraging Internal Networks and Knowledge) Volunteering Subcommittee at Merck, which focuses on engaging Merck employees to externally enrich the community. Examples of activities include a school supply collection to support the United Way, toy drives around the holiday to support the United Way, Food drives to support the local food bank, and several planned outreach days at local venues.”