Jenasia K. Shuler
Associate Scientist at Pfizer
Howell Group and Peczuh Group
These comprehensive research experiences [at UConn] prepared me to be confident and in control while conducting my own research at Pfizer.
What is your current (or most recent) job, what does a typical day look like, and how did UConn prepare you for this role?
I currently work at Pfizer as a Medicinal Chemist in the department of Inflammations and Immunology. A typical day of mine involves a few meetings discussing the current objective of the project I’m working on regarding its chemistry, either from a design viewpoint or synthesis. In between meetings, I’m in the lab enabling pathways to synthesize medical chemistry targets via singleton routes for my project. When I originally began at Pfizer my job primarily focused on parallel chemistry, which allowed me to emphasize my multitasking skills and attention to detail.
Tell us about your experience as a Chemistry student at UConn.
At UConn I participated in two research groups Dr. Amy Howell’s and Dr. Mark Peczuh, both groups prepared me tremendously for my current role at Pfizer. I started in the Howell group my first semester of undergrad without any exposure to organic chemistry, let alone an organic laboratory. While in the Howell group I was able to develop important laboratory skills as an organic chemist, as well as gain an understanding of organic chemistry furthering my love for the science.
The second lab group I was a part of was Dr. Mark Peczuh. I joined Dr. Peczuh’s lab during the rise of Covid, so initially I was unable to go into the laboratory. However, for the first semester of my senior year we worked on an academic literature investigation on the synthesis of Risperidone, a drug first developed by Johnson and Johnson subsidiary Janssen-Cilag. Through learning about the mechanistic development of the drug Risperidone, my interest in pharma grew. My last semester, I was able to return to the lab working side by side with Dr. Peczuh on sugar chemistry. These comprehensive research experiences prepared me to be confident and in control while conducting my own research at Pfizer.
Can you tell us about your experience post-graduation?
Immediately when I got home from commencement, I began reviewing and updating my resume and applying to both organic synthetic chemistry and analytical chemistry jobs on Indeed and Glassdoor. I received a few call backs as well as interviews and eventually accepted a position as a formulation chemist at Henkel Inc through Atrium Staffing. Two weeks before starting at Henkel, I saw a position for a Medical Chemist at Pfizer, read the qualifications and felt confident enough to apply. Within a week or two of applying I was contacted, and my interviewing process began. After a round of four interviews I was offered a position at Pfizer in Groton, CT. I have been there since August 2021.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to current students?
One piece of advice I would give to current chemistry students is participate in undergraduate research! Whether through a REU or during the semester at UConn, go for it! If you feel as though you may not be accepted into a program or a job still apply and if you don’t get it, don’t take rejection as defeat. Follow up with the program or job and inquire on why you were not accepted, so you know where you can improve to either apply again or for another program/job. Remember a rejection might mean that you were overqualified for the position, so don’t be afraid to inquire!