Dr. Merissa Baxter

Research Biologist
National Institute of Health (NIH)
PhD Pharmaceutical Sciences. University of South Carolina

About Me

I am currently a Research Biologist at the National Institute of Health. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Elon University. When I was younger, I wanted to be a dentist but ended up being a different kind of doctor. I enjoy teaching, tutoring, and mentoring students of all ages.

How was your experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school?

I realized my love for science in the 8th grade when my teacher assigned a project on the central dogma and my interest in science continued throughout high school.  My chemistry teacher—an African American woman—majored in organic chemistry in college and was always so excited about the subject. Having her as my teacher helped me believe that I could succeed in science.

What’s next in your career path?

I’ll continue to work in the lab at the bench, but I would eventually like to transition into science policy and education in the future.

What do you do to unwind?

I’m obsessed with Netflix! I also enjoy reading, kickboxing and exercising.  

My Career

So what do you do at work everyday?
My job title is “Biologist” but I do a lot of biochemical and biophysical techniques to analyze the pepdites our lab makes. We develop stapled peptides to be used as therapeutics for infectious diseases and I help to analyze them. On any given day I am doing molecular cloning, protein expression and purification, CD spectroscopy, chromatography, developing biochemical assays, or helping to synthesize peptides.
What motivated you to pursue this career path?

As a graduate student, my research centered on drug discovery and pharmacology. I investigated the mechanism of action of the drugs we developed for cancer therapy. I knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to continue to work in drug development, so I was thrilled to join a lab doing just that.

What is the coolest part of your job?

The experiments are fun, but analyzing the results is even more interesting because that is when we finally get the answers to questions we’re asking. I also get to use some pretty cool equipment.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I would say that the most challenging part of my job is keeping up with all of the new literature being published that is relevant to my research.

Ever felt discouraged blazing this path?

YES. I felt the typical discouragement that many people experience as they work toward their PhD. I felt discouraged when none of my experiments were working and when my motivation was waning. In those moments I encouraged myself, gave myself a pep talk and reminded myself that this was part of the journey. I knew that eventually things would turn around if I just kept going. It also helped to have friends that were also pursuing their PhDs. My friends understood how I felt and encouraged me.

Who are the people that keep you going?

My family members are definitely my biggest cheerleaders. They cheered me on in grad school, they cheered me on as I was job hunting and they continue to cheer me on in my career.

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

“It’s not always going to be easy. Fight for what you want and it will eventually be yours.”  

What do you want to say to up and coming Melanin Genius?

You can do it! I believe in you! We NEED you!

Disclaimer: All of the information I provided is on behalf of myself and not the government. Nor is my participation a statement of endorsement on behalf of the government. I’m speaking and participating solely as a private citizen.

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