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Please, Bother Us | Meet Dr. Paula Shively

Dr. Paula Shively, a longtime technical service expert, guides scientists through challenging moments in the lab. A decade later, she vividly remembers one conversation. 

Paul Shively sits at her desk wearing a headset. Behind her her desktop screens are blurred

October 30, 2023 | 3 min

Dr. Paula Shively is a time traveler.

Well, at least when she talks to another scientist and works through a protocol or question. She often thinks back to moments in her career when she struggled with that same technique.

Shively joined Merck over 18 years ago. She came to the company with a deep history in the lab, holding a B.S. in biochemistry, a Ph.D. that focused on mucosal and molecular immunology and a post-doc that centered on cancer genetics and pancreatic cancer. Now, she manages a team of technical service experts, fielding a wide range of questions from customers.

We recently caught up with her to learn more about her work.


INTERVIEW 

Note: This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. 

Interviewer: I’m curious. You worked at the bench for so many years. When you talk to customers, do you ever get transported back to the lab? 

Paula: Oh, yeah. Anytime I’m really familiar with something, I can get in the weeds with the customer and explain it and feel very confident about talking it over with them. Honestly, a lot of folks reach out because they’re stuck. Something's wrong, you know?  

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Do you have interactions over the years that really stand out? 

Paula: One immediately pops into my head. A handful of times, customers who have called or messaged have been people I worked with in the past. And I’ve actually managed to get my former labmates on the phone and that’s pretty neat and kind of funny. 

Interviewer: Wow, that’s really cool. 

Paula: One time, even my old high school biology teacher called — that was kind of fun, too. One of my colleagues got the call first and I happened to accidentally stumble into the ticket. I quickly realized, “That’s Sister Mary Jane!” So, I asked my colleague if I could take the call instead.  

When I got on the line, I said, “Sister Mary Jane, I just want to let you know who this is.” She could barely believe it. [laughing] 

Interviewer: It seems like, if you went on to complete an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and then pursue a Ph.D., you must have enjoyed taking her classes. 

Paula: She was probably one of my biggest influences to pursue science. I took a genetics course she offered as an elective senior year, and I absolutely loved it. After that, I was like, “Well, this is what I want to do.” She was a very smart lady. 

Interviewer: Do you remember when she called in? 

Paula: Oh, it’s been a while now. Probably more than 10 years ago.  

Interviewer: That’s really special. I'm sure she told some stories to her students the next day. 

Paula: Yeah, I’m sure she did. [laughing] 

Interviewer: I guess you really never know who’s going to be on the other end of the line, huh? 

Paula: Yup, you just never know. It’s one of the reasons I love my job. 


About the Series 

“Please, Bother Us.”  

This simple phrase graced our printed product catalogs for decades. It encouraged researchers to reach out and ask questions or share roadblocks. If a solution didn’t exist, we worked hard — and still do — to get it, find it or create it.  

Today, we might not print catalog books, but we continue this legacy of always keeping customers top of mind. When researchers have trouble getting a protocol to work, our technical service is only a click, phone call or message away. From tricky to outright uncooperative experiments, the team is always ready to support customers. In this series, we flip the script on the technical service experts who are normally the ones fielding questions every day to highlight their memorable moments and fascinating interactions with science.   

Contact the technical service team

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