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Merck On-campus Employer Info Session Thursday, July 27, 2023

Posted by on Wednesday, July 12, 2023 in Upcoming BRET Office of Career Development Events .

The VU Graduate Program in Chemistry and the BRET Office of Career Development ASPIRE Program is excited to welcome Merck to campus for an Employer Information Session.

“Merck Pharmaceutical Research & Development”

Brandon A. Vara, PhD
Associate Principal Scientist, Discovery Chemistry

Following completion of my undergraduate studies in Chemistry at James Madison University in Virginia, I enrolled in Vanderbilt’s Chemistry PhD program, ultimately defending my thesis in enantioselective organocatalysis and small molecule synthesis from Jeff Johnston’s group in 2015. After completing my postdoctoral studies in Nickel/Photoredox catalysis with Gary Molander at the University of Pennsylvania, I started my career in Discovery Chemistry at Merck Boston in 2017 where I have been ever since. I have had the privilege to work across disease areas including oncology and neuroscience, and several programs have advanced molecules into human clinical development.

David Westover, PhD
Sr. Scientist, Analytical Research & Development

David is a Senior Scientist with the Analytical Research & Development group at Merck. He completed his post-doctoral work at VUMC with Christine Lovly. Collaborating with other VU and VUMC labs, David and colleagues identified novel mechanisms of resistance to osimertinib, an FDA-approved tyrosine kinase inhibitor and first-line therapy in lung cancer patients with an EGFR-activating mutation, and published strategies to circumvent that resistance. Prior to his role at Merck, he served as a Staff Scientist in the Vanderbilt High-Throughput Screening Facility where he developed and automated large-scale chemical screens and biological assays.


Merck departments being represented include Discovery Chemistry, Informatics, Analytical Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Analytical R&D.  They have recently hired PhDs with expertise in a variety of fields including immunology, neurology, mass spec, hemodynamics, oncology, organic chemistry, informatics, and mechanical engineering.

Representatives who will be visiting are all VU PhD or Postdoc alums and are primarily recruiting for West Point, PA (near Philly); Union County, NJ (near NYC); and Boston, MA locations.

Join us on July 27 to learn more from Merck:

Merck Employer Information Session
Thursday, July 27, 2023
Light Hall 208

After the session, from 11am-12:30pm, there will be a meet and greet lunch with Merck representatives in Light Hall 419. Graduate students, postdocs, and summer students can casually continue Q&A over pizza.

Please RSVP here  if you plan to attend. For questions, please email

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