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Grad alum Brea Manuel receives Merck Research Award

Recent PhD program alum Brea Manuel has received the 2024 Merck Research Award for Underrepresented Chemists of Color.

The Merck Research Award for Underrepresented Chemists of Color recognizes graduate students and post-doctoral fellows for their chemical science research across a range of focuses — such as computational, analytical, medicinal, biological and synthetic chemistry.

Brea graduated from Emory in 2022 from the Heemstra group with her dissertationBuilding Nucleic Acid-Based Technologies for Biological Sensing and Modulation.” During their time at Emory, Brea was a member of NOBCChE, Spectrum, and the Student Advocacy for Full Engagement (SAFE) committee. Brea is currently an HHMI postdoctoral scholar at University of Maryland Baltimore County under the direction of Dr. Michael Summers where her research focuses on elucidating the mechanisms associated with retroviral RNA fate.

Participants in the Merck Research Award program are paired with scientific mentors at Merck who are able to provide guidance, feedback and connections relevant to their research. The researchers then present their work to peers and mentors at an award symposium, where a team of diverse Merck scientists choose the winners. In addition to participants’ research, judges also consider their potential to be scientific pioneers and innovators and how they may help fellow underrepresented individuals in the future.

“Seeing how willing people are to share their stories and be vulnerable among their peers has inspired me to embrace my own personal story and share my unique experiences with my colleagues,” said Dr. Jennifer Obligacion, associate principal scientist and mentor in the award program. “I’ve found that this sharing enriches relationships with my colleagues, and I think it makes us better chemists.”

Congratulations, Brea!