SEBS’ alumna Chelsea Phuangthong graduated in 2021 with a major in biochemistry. Following graduation, Chelsea works at Merck, a pharmaceutical company located in Kenilworth, New Jersey. After working at Merck for nearly two years as an Associate Scientist, she was recently promoted to Scientist this past November. As a scientist at Merck, she works in bioprocess research and development and upstream biologics. Chelsea creates proteins by manipulating the conditions of the cell culture and loves to see how the culture is impacted by scale-up. As a part of her job, she often travels to places like Switzerland to follow protein production on a larger scale. Chelsea also has two publications under review and is working on a third.
Aside from technical contributions, Chelsea is a big supporter of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Merck. She has facilitated in-person activities at staff meetings and given a TedTalk on the dangers of groupthink. She also publishes yearly cookbooks with the department celebrating cultures around the world.
Chelsea’s academic success and research at SEBS gave her a solid foundation for a career in biochemistry. At Rutgers, she began her research working in the Department of Biochemistry. Chelsea says her work in the lab opened doors to other research opportunities, helped her to better understand the scientific method, and allowed her to form strong relationships with others students and professors. She went on to write her senior honors thesis with the lab, researching early sex determination in zebrafish using anogenital morphology.
During her time at Rutgers, Chelsea was a SEBS Ambassador, working with international students and domestic students alike. As a child of immigrants and a first-generation college student, it was especially important to Chelsea that she helped to make the transition for international students as seamless as possible. As an ambassador, she also led tours for incoming students, where they would have the opportunity to shadow her for the day. Chelsea also worked as a learning assistant for a biochemistry class throughout her senior year, where she held study groups, helped to create exams, and further connected with Rutgers students.
Chelsea says the most rewarding part of all her time at SEBS was making friends and the incredible faculty: “The faculty is extraordinary and distinguished. Because SEBS is a smaller school, an individual faculty member can have a bigger impact on the culture. The friends and faculty I met through SEBS are still the support system that I use today.”
One piece of advice that Chelsea has for incoming students is, “Find that one friend that you love, admire, and enjoy being around, and stick to them like glue.” Chelsea says being a student with a competitive edge is difficult, and strong friendships will give you the emotional stamina that you need to make it through.
This article was written by OPOC intern Emily Ranieri.