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Emily Joel Mercer, PhD ’17

Emily Joel Mercer


Since she first learned about Hox genes, Emily Joel Mercer has been perpetually curious about biology and how things work. Emily’s interest in genetics specifically was spurred by genetic disease within her own family.

In 2011, Emily, who grew up on the south coast of England, began a PhD program in pharmacology at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences (WCGS). Using zebrafish and human iPSC-derived cardiomyocyte models, she studied GATA-regulated pathways in the developing heart. Emily remained in New York after graduating in 2017.

Emily currently works as an associate consultant with IQVIA. There, she uses primary and secondary research along with data analysis to solve problems faced by a range of healthcare clients.

Why did you select Weill Cornell Medicine for your graduate training?

I first came to Weill Cornell as part of an undergraduate work experience program with the University of Surrey (UK). I worked in the lab of Dr. Steven Gross in the Pharmacology department, and the sense of community in this department pulled me back to Weill Cornell to pursue a PhD.


Do you think graduate students are being trained at Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences to meet the needs and demands of other industries such as pharma, biotech and consulting/finance?

Many of the core skills gained while working toward a PhD – scientific literacy, critical thinking and communication – can be applied to a large number of related fields. Over the years, WCM has made it easier to learn how to tailor these skills to lead to success in these industries.


What is your greatest takeaway as a graduate student at WCGS?

The network of support I have is certainly my greatest takeaway.


How did Weill Cornell Medicine prepare you for your current position with IQVIA?

The scientific literacy I gained during my PhD studies allows me to quickly get up to speed on new topics and hold my own in conversation with experts in the field. Coupled with an ability to think critically, this is really the lynchpin for success in my current role. Additionally, the opportunities to present my thesis work at departmental meetings and national conferences honed my ability to communicate effectively and at an appropriate level, a skill that I employ every day.


Do you have any advice for graduate students who want to pursue a non-traditional science career?

There are lots of opportunities to learn more about “alternative” careers at WCM. Always ask questions and take notes, even if you think you know what your next career move is going to be. That way, you’ll know what the options are, and what it will take to pursue them.