Fostering the next generation of scientific leaders is a key part of Merck’s overall commitment to science.

For our business to be sustainable, it’s essential for us to have access to the best-trained scientific minds around the globe. The relationships we establish with scientific leaders help promote the development and well-being of the communities in which we operate.

Merck has a long history of promoting science education at the precollege, undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels, and we have provided long-term support for programs that expand training capacity in the biomedical and health sciences. Our support continues through public-private partnerships with local, regional and national organizations, with a focus on evidence-based approaches to learning and rigorous evaluation.

In 2012, Merck completed a strategic review of its giving history and program portfolio, including its participation in the area of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education. As a result of this review, the Merck Foundation will be considering other critical needs in the STEM education arena, particularly in the advancement of women and minorities at the graduate and postgraduate levels. Beginning in 2013, we will be phasing down support of K–12 science education programs.


Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE)

The Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) was established in 1993 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving K–12 science education through teacher and program development.

MISE collaborates with teachers, school administrators and parents to improve science education in the classroom and to build consensus around the urgency for reform. The Merck Foundation has provided more than $50 million to support MISE since its inception. MISE has become a model for how corporations can support the nation’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education objectives and make a lasting difference in education reform by focusing on the specific goals of:

  • Developing and delivering research-based professional-development opportunities to enhance teachers’ knowledge and skills
  • Providing access to high-quality curriculum materials and resources
  • Building communities of teachers and administrators that are committed to strengthening science teaching and learning within and across schools and school districts
  • Promoting local, state and national policies that support effective science education

The work is guided by a vision of science education in which inquiry is an integral and regular part of the learning experience for all students. Inquiry-based teaching and learning imitate the thinking and methods of scientists and help students explore and understand the natural world. The MISE approach to instructional reform rests on the premise that when students are engaged in legitimate inquiry, they develop a greater interest in and deeper understanding of science than is possible through more conventional instructional approaches.

MISE also takes a long-term, systemic approach to science education reform, which focuses primarily on professional development to enhance the knowledge and skills of educators. MISE works in partnership with the New Jersey school districts of Elizabeth, Hillside, Linden, Newark (the state’s largest school district), Rahway and Readington Township, and the Pennsylvania district of North Penn.

MISE programs receive support from an advisory board composed of leading experts in research, evaluation and systems reform in science education. This Board provides MISE with access to research and feedback that reflects a national perspective.

MISE Transition

The Merck Foundation is shifting its focus within STEM education to address pressing needs at the graduate and post-graduate levels. Because of this change in focus, the Foundation will be phasing down its support of MISE in grades K–12 over the next two years. The Foundation, in collaboration with MISE, has developed a transition plan to ensure that the work of MISE will continue with its partner school districts during this two-year transition period. Through the summer of 2014, MISE will fulfill its commitments, including the completion of its signature professional-development program, the Academy for Leadership in Science Instruction, and the continuation of the Peer Teacher Workshop. In addition, MISE will develop a suite of tools that will draw on 20 years of professional-development experience. These tools will be disseminated to its partners, as well as to the K–12 science education field at large, to advance continuous improvement in the teaching of science.

Key MISE Programs

The Academy for Leadership in Science Instruction is a three-year professional-development program through which teachers, principals and district administrators are able to work in school- and district-based teams to deepen their understanding of the fundamentals of leadership and strong science instruction in classrooms. The program was launched in August 2008, with 420 educators currently participating.

The Peer Teacher Workshop is a weeklong professional-development program focused on building teachers’ capacity to engage in inquiry-based science instruction. During the past 17 years, MISE has offered more than 350 workshops attended by more than 5,000 educators.

The Peer Teacher Workshop program has served as a model for professional development in Thailand. Known there as UPGRADE, this program is in its third year of implementation. Although MISE is no longer directly involved, local agencies have taken the lead and expanded the program. UPGRADE is active in 531 schools in seven provinces, with 338 Thai educators qualified as teacher trainers. The legacy of the work of MISE is most apparent in the 23 master teachers from IN-STEP, who are now key to the development and implementation of UPGRADE, often serving as mentors to the teacher trainers. To date, approximately 40,600 students have received science instruction from an UPGRADE teacher.

For more information, visit MISE.

Evaluation of MISE Impact

MISE has had a significant impact on the teaching and learning of science in its partner school districts, according to research performed over a 20-year period by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE); Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI); and Westat.

The most recent reports from Westat focused on the impact of MISE’s work on science instructional practices and the ways in which schools and districts support science instruction. These 2011 findings suggest that an increased number of teachers and principals know and appreciate the practices shown by research to be effective. Teachers reported being prepared to use these practices and to collaborate with their peers to do so.  Teachers also reported that they had access to the materials and equipment they needed to teach science.

Additionally, principals reported an increased appreciation of various instructional approaches for building students’ understanding of science as a process. Because principals are the instructional leaders of schools, their understanding is crucial to supporting an effective science program.

Public Policy

While MISE has concentrated its efforts in local school districts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it has also sought to have a broader impact on state and national education reform through its public policy and stakeholder efforts.

MISE played a leadership role in the revision of the current N.J. Core Curriculum Content Standards in Science, which guide planning and instruction for K–12 teachers throughout the state.

MISE has played a significant role in the forthcoming Next Generation Science Standards, the new national standards in science instruction. MISE participated as a reviewer of the 2012 National Academy of Science publication  A Framework for K–12 Science Education, which served as a foundation for the standards. MISE staff also provided feedback to the state of New Jersey as official reviewers of the standards, providing support for its status as the lead state in creating and implementing the new standards.

Currently, MISE is providing support to the National Research Council (NRC) as it embarks on a study of effective professional development for teachers. Previous NRC studies have compiled and provided insight into research that has had a significant effect on schools and organizations nationwide, including MISE.

Other K–12 Programs

Girls Inc. Eureka Expansion Program

In 2012, Merck awarded a two-year, $365,000 grant to Girls, Incorporated, to implement the Eureka program in Memphis, Tennessee, which engages young women in hands-on STEM educational experiences on a college campus. The grant served as a catalyst for additional national and local investment, making it possible to expand Eureka from four to 10 communities in 2012. Results of the pre- and post-program surveys indicate that after one-year of participation:  about two-thirds of Eureka participants are planning to attend a four-year college; over 80 percent of participants have a more favorable view of math; and 95 percent feel comfortable in science class.

Liberty Science Center’s Young Learner Lab

National science leaders note that young children need opportunities to explore science by participating in enriching programs that help develop literacy skills. The Young Learner Lab sessions at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, designed for children between the ages of 3 and 8, provide developmentally appropriate learning sessions on such topics as elementary geology, simple machines, local flora and fauna, engineering, and architecture. Through Young Learner Lab sessions, children can develop early theories about scientific concepts that may stimulate their imaginative talk and play. Over time, children are able to reflect on their theories by evaluating evidence and constructing new theories. In 2012, Liberty Science Center offered 94 Young Learner Lab workshops, reaching 1,183 students and 323 adults.

Rutgers University Future Scholars Program

The Merck Foundation committed $750,000 over five years (2008–2012) to support the Rutgers University Future Scholars (RFS) program. This program is designed to address the critical educational needs of promising but underserved students in New Jersey, by identifying at-risk, low-income and first-generation students before they enter the eighth grade. Merck’s investment in the RFS program served as a catalyst for the university’s acquiring additional funding from corporate, private and family foundations, thus ensuring the sustainability of the program.

Every summer since 2008, the program has selected 200 rising 8th graders—50 each from New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark and Camden public schools—based on their financial need, academic records, teacher recommendations, and personal statements. Selection jump-starts long-term support that includes five years of “pre-college” preparation advising and instruction, tutoring, mentoring, on-campus summer activities and winter seminars with Rutgers faculty. By the end of the five-year grant term, 1,000 students will have been supported by the RFS program.

Nearly 100 percent of RFS participants have been retained for each cohort, excluding those who have moved out of state. Scholars who have relocated within the State of New Jersey are currently still in the Program. In association with the Rutgers School of Social Work, a transfer coordinator has been charged with facilitating the participation of the out-of-district scholars in RFS program activities. In addition, 100 percent of the scholars currently enrolled in the program are “on target” for high school graduation and expected to enroll in a post-secondary-education degree program. Should the RFS students qualify and elect to attend Rutgers University, they receive a four-year, tuition-free education.

Sesame Workshop Education and Outreach Programs in China

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Zhima Jie (Sesame Street) in China, is responsible for a number of educational initiatives in that country.

In 2010 Merck awarded Sesame Workshop a two-year, $2 million grant to create the TV series Zhima Jie’s Big Bird Looks at the World, which aims to foster children’s natural curiosity about their world and science and to promote “hands-on” exploration as a way of learning. By encouraging children to ask questions and explore those questions with age-appropriate experiments, this approach to science offers an alternative to China’s traditional memorization-based instruction. As of the summer of 2012, Zhima Jie’s Big Bird Looks at the World ran nationally on CCTV Kids, reaching over 16 million preschoolers (aged 4–6) and almost 30 million mothers (women with children aged 4–9) nationwide. This innovative TV series was the fifth-highest-rated program overall among children aged 4–6 nationwide.

Sesame Workshop also launched a two-phase Zhima Jie educational community, a multimedia outreach project on emergency response and preparedness to help children and families cope in the aftermath of natural disasters as well as prepare for future potential emergencies. In total, 75,000 emergency preparedness kits have been distributed through Hope Schools to individual families in provinces that are either prone to or which have recently experienced a natural disaster, including Hebei, Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Jiangxi, Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Hainan, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia.

National Academy of Sciences

In 2012, the Merck Foundation awarded a three-year, $1 million grant to the National Academy of Sciences to support a consensus study titled Strengthening K–12 Science Education through a Teacher Learning Continuum. The purpose of this study is to bring together experts who will review and synthesize available research on how to provide coherent support for elementary, middle and high school teachers’ learning across their careers. An expert committee will consider existing programs for induction and professional development. The committee also will outline a coherent professional-growth continuum for science teachers that is integrated with and supported by the school, district and state-level contexts in which teachers work. The final report will be published in 2014.

University of Colorado Foundation

The Merck  Foundation awarded a three-year (2011–2013), $900,000 grant to the University of Colorado Foundation to support a transformative professional-development program for teachers—Xsci Extraordinary Educator Experiences—through experiential learning.

The Foundation’s grant supports three primary activities: (1) The XSci Africa Science Learning Journey, in which two cohorts of urban, K–12 educators participate (one group from Colorado and the other from Michigan). On the journey, the teachers climb Mount Kilimanjaro (studying volcanology and ecosystem variation), experience the wilds of the Serengeti (studying biodiversity), and visit AIDS orphanages and guest-teach in local schools (studying health and culture in Tanzania). Additionally, the teachers each make personal documentary videos of their experiences, which serve as both a rich data source for the grant’s research component and a powerful tool for making science exciting and relevant to their students; (2) Research that examines the effects of these experiences on teacher identity-construction and on their classroom STEM instruction; and (3) the XSTEM conference—a new national gathering that explores and promotes a higher level of collaboration and support around experiential STEM learning theory and practice in both formal and informal education.

The 2012 XSci Africa cohort successfully completed its journey to Tanzania. The educators also completed their Teacher Documentaries and showed them at a film festival that was open to the public. XSci researchers have begun to examine the effects of the experience on the teachers and their work in classrooms. The 2013 Michigan cohort has begun preparation for its trip to Africa in July, which, through a partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute, will also include work with the Gombe Stream chimpanzee research station. Both teacher cohorts are now interacting through the project’s online community of practice, It is on this website that teachers can share stories, resources, journals, videos, curricula and classroom ideas. Planning for the X2013 STEM conference is well under way, in collaboration with newly established partners, REI Education and the STEMx national network, ( This collaboration now includes 17 U.S. states working to improve STEM education.

The Alliance/Merck Ciencia (Science) Hispanic Scholars Program is a pioneering partnership with the National Alliance for Hispanic Health (the Alliance) dedicated to supporting a new generation of Hispanic scientists.

Providing scholarship, summer research experiences, and the support of an extraordinary network of mentors, the effort is expanding Hispanic student access to higher education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Launched in 2008 with a $4 million commitment from The Merck Company Foundation, Ciencia is ensuring that Hispanic students with promise for study in the STEM fields are receiving the support they deserve to realize their dreams.

Every year, high schools and Alliance member community organizations and scientists in Brownsville, Texas; Elizabeth, New Jersey; and Los Angeles, California, partner to select a class of 10 Ciencia Scholars drawn from among high school seniors who have demonstrated promise for STEM study. Selected Scholars receive support of up to $20,000 in scholarships over their four years of college, up to $22,500 to support summer research opportunities, and the mentorship and support of the Alliance Ciencia network of some of the nation’s leading scientific minds. The community of Scholars now numbers forty, with 2013 seeing the first class of Ciencia Scholars graduate and become the first group of Ciencia alumni.

Ciencia Scholars are connected by online networks and attend an annual symposium conducted in partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), among other partners. The symposium offers the Scholars the opportunity to learn new skills, share their research, and support one another’s personal and professional paths.

The NAHH/Merck partnership also includes the awarding each year of the Ciencia National Scholarships, open to Hispanic college students with a declared STEM major from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories and Puerto Rico. The program awards a $2,000 onetime scholarship to help students with a demonstrated commitment and promise in their fields to complete their education. To date, 100 Ciencia National Scholarships have been awarded. By preparing a new generation of scientists, Ciencia is securing a brighter future not only for these students, but for our nation and world.

The Alliance has partnered with Harvard University to conduct an external evaluation to assess the impact of the Ciencia program. Data sources will include surveys, focus groups and interviews with leaders of partner organizations, the Ciencia Scholars, and the program manager.

For more information on the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, click click here. For more information on the Alliance/Merck Ciencia Hispanic Scholars Program, click here.

African Americans currently hold fewer than 3.2 percent of all Ph.D.s in the U.S. in the biological sciences and chemistry. To help address this disparity, Merck joined with UNCF in 1995 to establish the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative (UMSI).

This groundbreaking program seeks to expand the pool of world-class African-American biomedical scientists and, in so doing, to enhance economic competitiveness in the United States. Each year, the UMSI provides scholarship and fellowship support to 37 outstanding African-American students who are pursuing studies and careers in the biological and chemical sciences.

Awardees are selected through a national competition open to all eligible students at colleges and universities throughout the United States. The awards provide financial support, hands-on training, mentoring relationships and institutional support to help the UNCF/Merck Fellows devote their attention to education. Undergraduate scholars also may receive paid summer internships at Merck Research Laboratories.

UMSI was launched with a $20 million grant from the Merck Foundation. In 2005, the Foundation renewed its commitment to UNCF with a five-year, $13 million grant and in 2011 it pledged another $14 million to UNCF over five years.

UNCF/Merck Science Initiative awards are made at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels. The Initiative is aimed at key transition points in education: undergraduate students entering their final academic year; graduate students who are midway through their dissertation research; and postgraduate students entering their postdoctoral training. To date, Merck has awarded a total of 626 fellowships. Merck itself also has provided over $3 million to support a summer internship program for undergraduate Fellows between 1995 and 2012.

Mentoring and Networking with past Fellows

A key component of the UMSI program is the mentoring that UMSI Fellows receive from Merck scientists and external scientists working in the life and physical sciences. Mentors share their expertise, and career advisers and colleagues help to ensure that the Fellows move seamlessly from one educational level to the next.

Each year, the program also invites all current awardees to participate in Fellows Day. This event brings together Merck scientists and Fellows to share their research through scientific symposiums and poster sessions.

Last Updated August 14, 2013