Growing up in Mercerville in a household with four brothers, Braun always believed that her options for college would be limited. It was her mother, a licensed practical nurse at a doctor’s office in Trenton, who first gave her a glimpse into the world of science and inspired her to pursue it as a career.
“One time when I was visiting my mother at work, the doctor offered to give me a tour of the hospital. I was fascinated when he showed me the laboratory and told me about the work they did there,” Braun said. Shortly after graduating from Notre Dame High School, she enrolled in a laboratory assistant certification program at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton.
“I felt so blessed to know what I wanted to do at such a young age,” said Braun, who knew immediately she wanted to continue her education. Short on finances and with a wedding planned for the following year, Braun decided the best place to continue her education was Mercer.
“My family didn’t have a lot of money. I had to work the entire time I was going to school,” said Braun, who started working at St. Francis after earning her certification. She enrolled in classes at Mercer’s Trenton campus in 1971, and was then one of the first students to attend class at the new campus in West Windsor the following year.
Braun said her classes at Mercer proved to be useful in unexpected ways. She recalled a class in electronics that was very technical, where she learned to build an amplifier. “I thought I’d never get through it,” she said, adding that the class actually ended up having real world application, as she had to repair lab equipment in her first job after Mercer.
Braun married in 1972 and earned her degree from Mercer the following year. Soon after, she and her husband moved to North Jersey, where she worked for Schering-Plough Corporation (now Merck & Co., Inc.), a pharmaceutical company. She continued her studies, taking classes at night at Seton Hall University. After relocating to Connecticut for her husband’s job and continuing her education at the University of Hartford, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Science and Health Sciences in 1977.
But Braun didn’t stop there. She continued to take night classes at Hartford, teaching labs as part of an assistantship in exchange for free tuition. In 1979 she had her son, followed by a daughter two years later. “I used my small income from my job to help pay for a babysitter while I was in class,” she said.
Then, in 1983, Braun earned her master’s degree in Biology. “It took me 12 years to get there, but I finally achieved my goal. It was a great accomplishment in my life.”
The following year, Braun took a part-time job doing clinical work at Hartford Hospital, a position she held for six years until her family moved to Stroudsburg, PA. In 1990 Braun was hired as a researcher at Sanofi in Swiftwater, PA, where she worked in the immunology department, researching vaccines. Braun continued her work there for many years. In 2006, she returned to school and earned a certificate in project management from Lehigh University. She noted it was refreshing to be back in school again, this time taking courses online.
The time in school paid off. The following year, Braun was promoted to project manager of new vaccines at Sanofi. “I love getting up and going to work every day,” said Braun, whose son also now works at the company making meningitis vaccines.
“I get to see all the different aspects of vaccine development, approval and marketing,” said Braun, adding that she recently worked on the licensing of a new flu vaccine.
When reflecting on her education, Braun said she was glad Mercer was there to offer her the convenience of an education in her own backyard at a price she could afford. “I was able to get my education without college debt,” she said.
She recommends that other students consider studying laboratory technology at Mercer because of the important careers that are tied to the field, including ecology, water testing, veterinary services, and laboratory work that helps prevent illness and save lives.
“I feel like what I do at my job is really meaningful and all the steps I took to get to this stage in my career have really been worth it,” said Braun. “I’m glad Mercer was there to help me in my first steps to success.”