Pakistani Engineer Manages 700-Employee Facility, Oversees Life-Saving Drug Production

Usman Chaudhri dreamed of becoming an engineer, and by 23, he had more than achieved his goal. He had received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology and had his research on synthetic engine fuel published in journals around the world. Riding high on his accomplishments, he moved to Texas in 2010 to pursue his PhD at Lamar University.

After completing his doctorate, Chaudhri held several engineering positions at Texas-based refineries and chemical plants. Then, unexpectedly, a recruiter contacted him about a senior utilities engineering position at Merck. It was a different field in a different state, but Chaudhri took a chance. He moved to Harrisonburg with his wife. “I think I have the ability to fit in everywhere, and being an immigrant plays a role in that,” he says. “When immigrants come from overseas, especially developing countries, we are eager to explore opportunities that were not available back home.”

I get a lot of job satisfaction, because what I do matters. We make medicine that saves the lives of people around the globe.”

Chaudhri, who welcomed a U.S.-born daughter with his wife in January 2018, ensures that operations at Merck’s 700-plus employee facility in Elkton, VA run smoothly. Under his management, the company produces drugs like the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and Keytruda, which prevents various cancers. “I get a lot of job satisfaction, because what I do matters,” Chaudhri says. “We make medicine that saves the lives of people around the globe.”

To grow his career in Harrisonburg, Chaudhri is now pursuing his MBA in executive leadership at James Madison University. In addition to school and his full-time job, he also volunteers with immigrant and refugee communities through his local church. His goal is to help other newcomers acclimate to life in Virginia, so that they too can contribute to Harrisonburg’s economy and civic life.

“I love helping people,” says Chaudhri. “America is the land of opportunity. A lot of people who come to the U.S. just need a little push. If I can give them that through leading as an example, that’s good for the whole community.”

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