Alumna Spotlight - Tasmiah Choudhury DRC'11
Tasmiah Choudhury DRC’11, a senior clinical scientist for Merck, knows the value of passing down her expertise to current Douglass students to help them achieve their goals. For the past several years, Choudhury has been deeply involved in Douglass programs. From her work as an externship site mentor to her role as a Douglass Career Conference speaker, Choudhury has made a transformative impact in the lives of Douglass students.
As a senior clinical scientist at Merck, Choudhury has gained critical experience to share with Douglass students. Each day, she supports clinical trials in oncology with a specific focus on immunotherapy, which is a novel technology that uses human cells to fight diseases. Her work makes an impact on patients with various illnesses, from melanoma to breast cancer.
“Ultimately, the purpose of our work is to understand the safety and efficacy of combination therapies,” said Choudhury. “When you’re going about your day to day activities, it can be hard to understand the impact, but when you take a step back, you see that these oncology studies and programs help further our understanding of treatment making a difference in the lives of patients.”
For Choudhury, the role is particularly meaningful, as her own father passed away from cancer when she was young.
“It’s personal to me, and to so many others who have been touched by the topic of cancer,” said Choudhury. “I’ve always had an interest in contributing to this topic and this space. I’m thankful I’m able to play that role now.”
Choudhury’s meaningful work in the STEM sphere positions her has an impactful mentor to Douglass students—over half of whom major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She also holds a master’s of public health from Rutgers School of Public Health in quantitative methods (epidemiology), allowing her a familiarity with graduate school pathways. She first chose to share her insights with students in 2019 by becoming an externship site mentor. An externship, offered to Douglass students through the Reilly Program at the BOLD Center at Douglass for Advancing Women’s Professional Development, is a job-shadowing opportunity in which students are paired with a professional site mentor in their field of interest. Site mentors, who are often Douglass alumnae, work with students for periods over winter, spring, and summer break to develop their career skills, build their networks, and find their passions. Since 2019, Choudhury has been a site mentor twice.
“I wanted to make sure the students got the most they could out of the opportunity,” she said. “It was a really great experience and I’m so glad it all fell into place.”
With the help of her team at Merck, Choudhury created an externship curriculum that gave Douglass students a taste of different aspects of the company—in the clinical space, statistical work, outcomes research, marketing, and even manufacturing.
“The students I was matched with were fantastic,’ she said. “They definitely appreciated the experience and I was really thankful to have the opportunity to provide them with mentorship. When I was their age, I had no idea about the pharmaceutical world. I wish I had that exposure when I was younger.”
As part of their externship, Choudhury also assigned the students an individual project focusing on scientific articles they then presented to her research team.
“Both students did a phenomenal job,” she said. “The project allowed them to build confidence in their ability to identify the fundamental components of scientific literature and its role in professional research settings. No matter what direction they choose, presenting, understanding complex readings, and learning how to interpret data findings are fundamental skills. It was a rewarding experience for everyone.”
In addition to hosting students at Merck, Choudhury spoke at the 2019 Christiana Foglio DC’84 Douglass Career Conference.
“I felt empowered to be able to speak and share my experience in my role at Merck with future generations of Douglass students,” she said. “There are so many ways you can make a positive impact. I appreciated the questions from the students and their genuine curiosity—it made for a really enjoyable and collaborative environment. I’m humbled and thankful for the opportunity.”
Choudhury first learned the power of the Douglass network as a student, where she made connections to peers that lasted a lifetime.
“I felt at home being surrounded by a group of supportive women,” said Choudhury. “I’m still friends with the people I met at Douglass, my friendships became part of a sisterhood, and they’re now my family. These amazing women are all making strides in their industries—they’re fierce and I love that. The network you form at Douglass is lifelong.”
Douglass thanks Choudhury for her willingness to extend a hand to current Douglass students and welcome them into her own Douglass legacy!
This month, Douglass students will finish up their applications to the Douglass externship program and attend the 2021 Career Conference. To learn more about Career Development at Douglass please visit douglass.rutgers.edu/careerdevelopment.