June Rae Merwin, Distinguished Scientist

Middlesex alumna June Rae Merwin, PhD, makes sure drug trials are safe.

A former licensed practical nurse, June began her career in the 1970s while raising her children, but soon thought, “Why not get a college degree?”

With her husband supporting the family financially, June—at age 33—enrolled at Middlesex Community-Technical College (the college’s name at the time). A convenient commute from Clinton to Middletown, the school provided her with the best value.

Competing mainly with 19-year-old classmates, June received her associate degree in general sciences from Middlesex in 1981. She was honored to be the class valedictorian and also received the top biology student award as well as the history award.

Her next wish was to attend Wesleyan University. However, due to cost, she transferred to Southern Connecticut State University, receiving a “triple BS” degree in biology, chemistry, and education in 1983.

But that’s not all. After student teaching in Branford, June received a full scholarship to study for Southern’s master of science degree in microbiology. She completed her thesis in the infectious disease lab at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven.

In 1985, June became a doctoral graduate student at the Yale University School of Medicine, first working toward a master of philosophy (MPh) in experimental pathology and then earning a PhD in the same discipline in 1990.

Afterward, June served as a post-doctoral fellow at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Wallingford, researching vascular cell adhesion molecules in the oncology department. By 1998, she had moved on to Pfizer Inc., working in several pharmaceutical research capacities over the years and retiring in 2012 as global senior director. Her primary contributions there were to oversee Pfizer’s Phase I clinical research units located in Ann Arbor, MI, Belgium, Singapore and New Haven, CT, where “first-in-human” clinical trials were run. Her responsibilities included the harmonization of the four locations, ensuring standardization and compliance, which involved substantial travel to Europe and Asia

Today, June is a global consultant for clinical drug trials, mainly in emerging countries such as India, Russia, Korea, Poland, Brazil and China. The medical institutions leverage her experience and knowledge as they prepare to operationalize Western pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials that require significant commitment, time and resources.

Looking back to her days at MxCC, June fondly remembers her first biology class with Professor Evelyn Moulton (retired). “All the benefits of community college—convenience, choice, location, transferable credits—and after 50 years, there is still something for everyone,” June explained.

June and her husband live in Clinton, CT. They are active skiers, kayakers and cyclists as well as volunteers with the Boy Scouts and at the Lutheran Church of Madison. Being retired, they spend a great deal of time roaming about in their RV.

A unique hobby that June recently picked up is chainsaw carving. Driving down her street, you can see wooden carved bears peeking out from behind trees in the woods. Snowmen and a full manger scene appear in the winter, and each holiday will have a carving to represent the celebration.

June’s philosophy is to constantly be in a position where there is an exponential learning curve. Her primary goal is to keep her life balanced with family, church, sports and work.

Written by Thea Moritz in 2017