An Unexpected Journey

Jarrod Cohen reflects on his journey into the industry and gives advice to new scientists
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What led you to pursue a career in chemistry?

My path into chemistry was one that took many unexpected turns. As I began my search for a college major, I was against being a chemist. Why? Well, it was simple: my mother was a chemist, and I did not want to follow in her footsteps. Now as I sit here and write this, my mother, who still is in the pharmaceutical industry, ultimately got the last laugh and I am enjoying my career as a chemist each and every day.

To me, chemistry allowed me to solve some of the world’s greatest problems and make an impact on the lives of so many people. Being able to contribute to developing a product that can help people is the most rewarding feeling in the world.

Tell us about your current role. What do you like best? What is the most challenging part?

I am currently a Senior Scientist in Vaccine Analytical Research and Development for Merck. I joined in this role just under a year ago and it has been one of the greatest decisions of my life. I found the job through the LinkedIn Careers portal which I highly recommend to any chemist on the job market.

By far, my favorite part of my job is the impact I can make with the work that I do. Now more than ever, vaccine research is a fast-moving and exciting field. Knowing that the products we work on can aid in ending pandemics, preventing severe illness, or in some cases, preventing fatality, is amazing.

The challenging part is the fact that we are moving so fast. When you work in pharmaceuticals, you know the work you are doing can really help people and you want it to be available as soon as possible to the public. Ultimately, you know there is a process and science takes time but you just want to help people as quickly as you can.

How has your involvement with ACS helped you in your career?

Being involved in ACS has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career. Specifically, ACS has provided me with endless amounts of leadership opportunities while continuing to fill my desire to help people. I have been able to find mentors for myself and also mentor others. I have met so many amazing people who have provided their perspectives on careers to help guide and shape mine. ACS is an invaluable community to be a part of and in my mind, everyone should be a member!

What advice would you share with other early career scientists?

As an early career chemist, the most important piece of information I would give to others is to meet people and grow your network. Whether it be through professional organizations like ACS, or social media like LinkedIn and Twitter, your professional network is everything. As big as the chemistry field may seem when you are just starting out, it is actually quite small. I run into people all the time who I never thought I would see again, and those people have been instrumental in my career.

One example for me was that the day I got a call to interview for my current role, I was at the ACS Leadership Institute and got sat down next to another director at Merck who shared with me how amazing it is to be an employee of the company.

What do you like to do outside of work?

For me, I always try to do my best to balance work and home life. Anyone that knows me knows that Disney World is one of my favorite vacation spots. Whenever someone asks me why, I laugh. The answer may seem silly but as someone who struggles to let go of work when I am away, Disney provides a social shock to my day-to-day life and makes me forget about work for a little to “be a kid again.” It also helps that my wife and family also love Disney! Whatever your happy place outside of work is, find it, and don’t forget to visit it often!

Jarrod Cohen, Senior Scientist, Merck
Jarrod Cohen, Senior Scientist, Merck

Jarrod Cohen is a Senior Scientist at Merck in their Vaccine Analytical Research and Development Separations Group. He received his BS in Chemistry from Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry with a focus on Polymers from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Outside of his day job, Jarrod is heavily involved with the American Chemical Society. He serves as Chair-Elect of the Division of Professional Relations, Member of the Divisional Activities Committee, and is chair of the member engagement committee for the Division of Business Development and Management. Jarrod’s passions include helping other younger chemists navigate and grow their careers, highlighting the importance of soft skills in growing your professional careers, and helping provide visibility and opportunity to underrepresented minority groups.  

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

Jarrod Cohen, Senior Scientist at Merk

Jarrod Cohen is a Senior Scientist at Merck in their Vaccine Analytical Research and Development Separations Group.

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