College of Arts & Sciences

UNCW Graduate Student Jared Wood Awarded an Internship at Merck and Co. Inc.

JUNE 17, 2022

This summer, UNCW Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate student Jared Wood embarked on a career-altering research opportunity. For the next few months, Wood will be completing an internship at Merck and Co. Inc., working alongside some of the world's most accomplished scientists. Merck is recognized globally as a leader in the pharmaceutical arena and their Process and Analytical Chemistry group is considered the standard bearer for the industry. Merck’s scientific innovation ranges from creating vaccines for more than half of the CDC-recommended immunizations to treating over 1 million cancer patients with Keytruda®, a breakthrough immunotherapy that has proved to be an unprecedented game-changing development in oncology. So, how did Jared Wood earn the title of being Merck's first UNCW intern ever?

For Wood, the sciences always came naturally to him. Since elementary school, math and science have been his favorite subjects, and when he discovered chemistry, it felt like a perfect combination of the two. This interest followed him into his graduate program, where he is pursued his Master's in Chemistry with a concentration in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

During Wood's past two years of graduate school, he has also been a member of the UNCW Drug DISCOvery team, an internal research group of students and professors whose primary goal is to help build the future of pharmaceuticals. Based in the Marine Biotechnology NC Center (MARBIONC), team members use advanced analytical technologies with the intent to discover new chemical structures that could lead to advances in the medical field.

Since joining the DISCO team, Wood has created an impressive research record with two high-visibility peer-reviewed publications with more publications and a provisional patent in the works. Wood's graduate advisor and co-director of DISCO, Dr. Thomas Williamson, attributes these accomplishments to what made Wood the ultimate candidate for the Merck internship. When asked what the most valuable part of this opportunity would be, Dr. Williamson said, “He will continue to expand his scientific skill set and perspective while at Merck and will be primed to contribute to the discovery and development of a broad array of medicines in the future after completion of his Ph.D.”

UNCW received approval this April from the North Carolina Board of Governors for our sixth doctoral program, Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. This highly anticipated program builds on the successful chemistry programs at UNCW and will provide students like Wood a comprehensive training in pharmaceutical and medicinal chemistry. Williamson remarks, “Wood’s landmark achievement will be further amplified by the fact that he plans to be one of the first students admitted to our new Pharmaceutical Chemistry Ph.D. program.” Graduate School Dean Dr. Chris Finelli describes the program as “designed to strengthen our connectivity with industry partners and collaborators so that, together, we can enhance our commitment to fostering a healthier tomorrow for our region and state."

While at Merck, Wood will continue his research on the structural characterization of natural product compounds and evaluation of their potential to become future therapeutics. Wood hopes that with this internship, he will learn various techniques and methods exclusively used in the industry and further expand his knowledge of the methods he already uses for structure elucidation. When Wood was asked what he was most excited about in anticipation of his position, he shared, “Knowing that the work I do could make a notable impact on the scientific community is fueling my interest and excitement the most.”


- Mary Ellen Frizzell and Arden Lumpkin