Could you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your background?

My name is Chelsea Massaro. I am from Florida. I got my bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Florida State University. I took a gap year and did research at the University of Central Florida before coming to Austin and getting my Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry at UT Austin. I graduated from UT Austin in 2022 and immediately started here at Southwestern as a visiting professor, then became a tenure track professor this year.

What sparked your interest in chemistry, and why did you want to become a professor?

I’ve been interested in chemistry since I was in high school. My love for chemistry continued to grow in college, particularly when I took organic chemistry. I really loved organic chemistry. I decided that I wanted to do a Ph.D. and ultimately go into teaching when I started working in a lab in my undergraduate program. I really loved doing research, and I found that I was the most excited about it when I could share it with someone else and teach someone else about it. That led me to the teaching path.

Are you currently working on any research, if so, what is it?

I’m working with six students currently. We are designing small molecule inhibitors of an enzyme called JAK3, which is upregulated in various disease states, including cancer. We’re hoping to make a selective covalent inhibitor of this enzyme that we could eventually use as an anti-cancer treatment. The students do a lot of synthetic organic chemistry and then hopefully they’re going to have a chance to do some biochemical assays to test the success of their inhibitors.

How did you hear about Southwestern, and why did you want to work here?

While I was at UT, one of my close friends worked in the lab at UT where Dr. Zewail does sabbaticals. I had actually already met her and heard of Southwestern through that relationship, so it was on my radar. Southwestern had a visiting position open just as I was graduating. It just seemed like the stars aligned for me to be here. I really loved being here last year, so doing tenure track was an easy decision.

What classes do you teach?

I teach Organic Chemistry I in the fall, then Biochemistry II and Special Topics in Biochemistry in the spring.

What are you looking forward to teaching in the coming semesters?

I love teaching Organic Chemistry. I’m also very excited about teaching Special Topics again next spring. I am reworking the class to make it a public-engaged course and we’re going to focus on scientific rigor and misinformation on social media.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I like to read and bake. I bring a lot of my baked goods to classes for my students and they typically like that. I also like to garden.

What is something students would be surprised to learn about you?

I feel like I’m pretty open in class, but maybe they’d be surprised to know that I have a dog. They know how much I love cats, so I feel like my dog flies under the radar.