Diya Abdeljabbar *12, CBE

Director of Technical Operations, Merck

Diya Abdeljabbar is the Director of Technical Operations at the Merck & Company vaccine manufacturing site in Durham, NC. The scope of his current role includes technology transfer, validation, and commercialization of a manufacturing process to produce Merck’s nonavalent human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. This role involves building a team of 30+ engineers to support technology transfer activities and the start of commercial production in 2023.

Diya has led roles of increasing responsibility since joining Merck in 2012. Prior to his current role, Diya served as Director of Technical Operations at the same Merck site in Durham where he was responsible for supporting the commercial manufacture of drug substance and drug product for Merck’s chickenpox, shingles, measles, mumps, and rubella live virus vaccines. In this role, Diya led an organization of 60 engineers and scientists working on continuous improvement initiatives. Diya’s roles throughout his Merck career involved supporting health authority inspections, including the US FDA, EMA (EU), ANVISA (Brazil), South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

Prior to joining Merck, Diya obtained his PhD in Chemical & Biological Engineering from Princeton University. During his doctoral studies, Diya investigated the incorporation of synthetic amino acids into recombinant proteins produced in E. coli. Diya also received a Master’s degree in Chemical & Biological Engineering from Princeton University. Prior to attending Princeton, Diya received a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark, NJ. While attending NJIT, Diya was a Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Scholar, which is a program that encourages minority and first-generation college students to pursue doctoral degrees by conducting undergraduate research.

Diya grew up in Union City, NJ but now calls Durham, NC home. His charitable pursuits include serving as an instructor at the Durham Literacy Center, where he taught English to refugees, and the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program, where he taught mathematics to prisoners in an attempt to reduce recidivism among inmates. 

"Throughout my educational and professional career I've learned that effective leadership involves putting a massive emphasis on supporting people. Books and the media will tell you that it's about developing strategy and culture, and while those are important, it all comes down to the people you serve. Listen to them, care for them, lift them up, and advocate for them. If you do these things you will earn their respect and the title of "leader".

Graduate school can be a confusing time. You are still trying to understand where your journey will lead you. I think having that events like the Virtual Meetup Series are incredibly important to ensure graduate students hear from people in various fields. Obtaining a Masters or PhD is a fantastic achievement that requires mentorship and direction. I feel GradFUTURES can help provide that to many graduate students.

What advice do you have for current graduate students regarding their professional development?
Reach out, have conversations, explore nontraditional paths, and don't close any doors. Many students pursue a graduate degree to enter academia, but mathematically there are not enough jobs in academia to support the number of people earning graduate degrees. But there are a number of opportunities in places you may have never thought. Explore these opportunities by asking questions and considering all options."

Yes, I am open to being contacted by Princeton Graduate Students for an informational interview!

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