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DR. MICHAEL JUSTICE
Research Fellow at Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway, New Jersey.
Dr. Michael Justice is an alumnus from Binghamton University and is presently studying the biology of yeast in the infectious diseases department at Merck Research Laboratories.
Merck does research at every level, from basic biological research to manufacturing. Merck currently has 4:1 ratio of biologists to chemists at one of its largest sites located in Rahway N.J., though it is looking for more chemists to hire in order to balance out the two. While the hiring potential for biologists in pharmaceuticals is less than that of chemists, it is greater at the BS/MS level. The approximate starting salaries for entry- level biologists (with BS, MS, and a thesis) is mid-$40,000/$50,000. Those with a PhD are hired based on experience and Merck's needs, usually receiving a starting salary of approximately $90,000 out of graduate school with 2-4 years of post-doctoral experience. Those with a PhD are often placed on the management track as opposed to the science track; upper management generally boasts dual degrees, such as MD/PhD. Promotions are based primarily on results, and less emphasis is placed on whether or not research is published, although a minimum number of publications is required for advancement. For upper level management positions, Merck scientists must be recognized leaders in their fields.
While the research pace in a pharmaceutical company is comparable to that of a university, there is a greater degree of freedom in academia. Dr. Justice advises against doing post-doctorate work with a pharmaceutical company because research often cannot be published. Up- and- coming biologists should look first into smaller biotechnology firms if they are interested in that industry.
Dr. Justice has mentioned that there is a research internship opportunity available at Merck for juniors and seniors which includes 8-12 weeks of pay from $15-$20 per hour. He also adds that many are asked come back or are hired later based on their internship performance.