Jayanthi Jayawardena ’96 Wolf, Ph.D.
Biochemistry | Lansdale, Pa.
Growing up in Africa, Jayanthi Jayawardena Wolf didn’t know if she would ever get the chance to pursue her passion for science. Wolf knew she wanted to study science since high school, but there were very limited opportunities for higher education in her home country, and her family could not afford to send her to college overseas.
So she focused all the more intently on her academic success, which eventually paid off. Upon graduating from high school, Wolf was awarded an international student scholarship from Susquehanna, which enabled her to study science in the United States and eventually travel down a career path that she says “has exceeded my expectations.”
At just 36, Wolf currently works as associate director of biologics safety assessment at Merck Research Laboratories in West Point, Pa. She manages a group of 19 scientists who support both the research and manufacturing divisions in order to test the safety of new vaccines.
She also actively participates in several drug development teams comprised of individuals from multiple disciplines working together to develop potentially therapeutic products—all the way from the laboratory bench through safety and efficacy studies, and eventually to licensing.
“It’s very exciting to be working on potential therapies that could improve human life in the near future,” says Wolf. “It’s particularly rewarding to learn about the real-life benefits to individuals when a therapy becomes a marketed product.” Prior to starting her career at Merck, Wolf majored in biochemistry at Susquehanna and then went on to study cellular immunology and molecular biology at Princeton University, where she received her doctorate degree in 2001.
“My undergraduate education in the life sciences at Susquehanna gave me a solid foundation for graduate school and beyond,” says Wolf. “The nurturing environment at Susquehanna also encouraged me to explore areas outside my scientific niche. For example, participating in extracurricular activities and becoming an officer in several clubs and volunteer groups enabled me to develop some of the organizational and leadership skills that I continue to use in my management position today.”
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