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A Chief Scientific Officer Talks Manufacturing Careers

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 For Ashley Daugherty, working in manufacturing meant being able to examine complex processes from beginning to end. The appeal of this sort of analysis drove her from undergraduate internships in chemical manufacturing to a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. Today, that same sense of excitement continues to fuel her work as the chief scientific officer for Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

A pioneer in the industry: When she began her career in manufacturing, Daugherty quickly encountered a very male-dominated industry, but she refused to let that stand in her way. In fact, she saw an opportunity to help make the manufacturing sector more diverse and inclusive.

  • “In all my internships, all my leads and bosses were male,” said Daugherty. “When I went to grad school, there was not one female tenured professor. I wanted to make an impact.”

A critical role: Through her work and education, Daugherty has been at the leading edge of some of the most important medical efforts of the modern era, from anticancer therapeutics to antiviral treatments that combat HIV. In her role at Nephron, she helps produce inhalation medications for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has helped hospitals facing shortages of important medications get the supplies they need.

  • “Seeing the direct impact of medication that could be used for the most advanced diseases and being a part of that—the impact on patients—is important to me,” said Daugherty.

Testing, testing: In the midst of the global pandemic, Daugherty also worked with Nephron to create COVID-19 testing facilities for all employees. Within weeks, the project was up and running, and today, the clinical lab offers COVID-19 testing with same-day results to all Nephron employees, as well as universities and major businesses across the state.

An example to others: The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—recently recognized Daugherty as one of the 2021 STEP Ahead Award honorees. The award is presented to women leaders in science, technology, engineering and production careers who exemplify leadership within their companies and in manufacturing in general.

Words of wisdom: Daugherty encourages other women to make a career in manufacturing, even if they might not have considered it previously. She also advises them to “be persistent.” “Don’t ever give up on your end goal and keep pushing until you get there.”

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