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Suzanne Dettling

Organic Chemistry
Specialist, Global Vaccine Technical Operations at Merck

Education:

Master of Chemical Sciences, University of Pennsylvania ’19
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Psychology, University of Michigan '17

Suzanne Dettling discovered her aptitude for chemistry in an unlikely setting: a neuroscience lab where she worked as a biomolecular science major in college. “Most people really enjoy the behavioral aspect of neuroscience,” she explains, “What I loved was the research on the other end: the immunohistochemistry, working with microscopes, looking at brain tissue.” Suzanne wanted to continue pursuing her combined interests in neuroscience and chemistry, but worried that this professional path wasn’t open to her without a graduate degree; at the same time, she was hesitant to commit to a lengthy doctoral degree program when she really wanted to explore her options. “Penn’s Master of Chemical Sciences program seemed like the perfect way to further my education,” she recalls. “The program director was very involved and responsive in the application process, which made me feel very comfortable coming here.”

Now in her second year, Suzanne is completing her coursework while partnered with a chemical proteomics lab, where her research is focused on an amyloid precursor protein that is strongly correlated with Alzheimer's disease. “I’m learning a lot of new neuroscience techniques while keeping a strong base in chemistry,” says Suzanne. “There’s a constant learning curve in a new lab, where you’re doing experiments that nobody’s done before. It’s nice to be creative in chemistry—it’s a problem-solving field.” Suzanne’s lab work also helped her find a solution to the dilemma that brought her to graduate school: whether she wanted to pursue a doctoral degree. “I'm taking the exact same courses as the PhD students, and I work the same hours they work in the lab,” says Suzanne. “My research project is shorter in scope for obvious reasons, but I'm doing all the same experiments they're doing.” To her surprise, the immersive academic experience opened her up to possibilities outside of continuing education. “I think there are abundant lab opportunities for me in the pharmaceutical industry if I want to keep doing benchwork,” she says. “But I’ve recently become interested in the business side of things, and Penn has great opportunities for that.”

For Suzanne, opportunities to collaborate and support other students and scientists are important components of her studies at Penn. She volunteers on the board and mentoring committee for Penn Women in Chemistry, a student organization that provides professional development and support for women in the hard sciences. “It’s been a very positive experience, and I’ve also made industry and academic connections through the group,” she adds. She also values the camaraderie of her PhD lab partners and her fellow master’s students. “My classmates and I are all doing totally different areas of research,” she says, “but we all stay really well-connected, and I feel very supported by this community.”

Theoretical and technical expertise

Theoretical and technical expertise

A blend of core concentration courses and electives allows students to create an individualized academic schedule.

Am I eligible to apply?

Admissions to the master's program is highly selective. Learn more about applicant qualifications.

Creating the right chemistry

See how our Master of Chemical Sciences program makes it possible for students to link their academics to industry experience.