Cynthia Selassie

Emerita Professor of Science and Professor of Chemistry
With Pomona Since: 1980
  • Expertise


    Cynthia Selassie is an expert in the area of Quantitative Structure Activity Relationships (QSAR). She was a student of the late Pomona chemistry professor, Corwin Hansch, the pioneer of QSAR. Thus her research interests include development of the QSAR paradigm, its coherence with molecular modeling and its applications to computer assisted molecular design particularly in the synthesis of antibacterial and antimalarial agents as well as assessment of radical-based toxicity of various phenolic compounds. Her synthesis projects focus on the design and synthesis of monofunctional and bifunctional inhibitors of  the enzymes, dihydrofolate reductase and histone deacetylase in Plasmodium falciparum. Her laboratory also examines the radical-mediated reactivities  of  various phenolic compounds including phenols, catechols and flavonoids in cell-culture systems.

    She has more than 60 publications in peer-reviewed journals and books. Her research program has been funded by the NSF, NIAID, NIEHS and organizations such as CUR, Dow Chemical, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. In the last eighteen years she has served as a reviewer/consultant for the NSF, the DOD and the NIH. She has also served as a member of the Pharmaceutical Science Advisory Committee for the FDA (CDER) from 2003-2007. In the last twenty-five years nearly 90% of the 80+ undergraduate student-researchers in her laboratory have pursued advanced degrees at the graduate and professional (medical. law, pharmacy, dental, public health) level.  She is also committed to increasing the number of underrepresented students in STEM fields at Pomona and has been active on this front with her mentoring of students from Pomona’s second Posse cohort, Class of 2010 and the current HHMI-High Achievement Program (HAP).

    Research Interests

    • Medicinal chemistry
    • Application of principles of computer-assisted molecular design to the study of antifolates, multidrug resistance and free radical mediated toxicity of phenolic compounds.

    Areas of Expertise


    • Organic Chemistry
    • Bio-Organic Chemistry
    • Medicinal Chemistry
  • Work


    With Rajeshwar P. Verma, "QSAR of Toxicology of Substituted-Phenols,” Journal of Pesticide Science, 40, 1 – 12, 2015

    With Theodore J. Zwang*, Kavisha Singh*, Malkiat Johal, "Elucidation of the Molecular Interaction between Cisplatin and Flavanol(s) and its Effect on DNA binding," Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 56, 1491-1498, 2013

    With Theodore J. Zwang*, Reena Patel*, Malkiat Johal, "Desolvation of BSA-Ligand Complexes measured using the Quartz Crystal Micro-balance and the Dual Polarization Interferometer," Langmuir, 28, 9616-9620, 2012

    With Rajeshwar P. Verma, Albert Leo “Modeling Chemical Structure-Log P," In Drug Design Strategies: Quantitative Approaches, RSC Drug Discovery Series. No. 13, D.J. Livingstone and A. M. Davis (Eds.), Royal Soc. of Chem. Publishing; Cambridge, UK, Chapter 7, 192-219, 2011

    With Rajeshwar P. Verma, "History of Quantitative Structure Activity Relationships," In Burger's Medicinal Chemistry, Drug Discovery and Development, Seventh Edition, Donald. J. Abraham and David P. Rotella (Eds.), John Wiley and Sons Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, Chapter 1, 1-95, 2010

    With Robert J. Rawle*, Malkiat S. Johal, "A Real-time QCM-D Approach to Monitoring Mammalian DNA Damage using DNA Absorbed to a Polyelectrolyte Surface, Biomacromolecules, 9, 1-9, 2008

    With Corwin Hansch,"QSAR A Historical Perspective and the Future," Comparative Medicinal Chemistry II, Volume 4: Introduction to Computer Assisted Drug Design, 2nd Ed. J. Mason, (Ed.) Elsevier Ltd. Oxford, UK. 43 -63, 2006

    With Sanjay Kapur, Rajeshwar P. Verma, Melissa Rosario,* “Cellular Apoptosis and Cytotoxicity of Phenolic Compounds: A QSAR Study," Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 48:7234-7242, 2005

    With R.P. Verma, S. Kapur, O. Barberena*, A. Shusterman, C. Hansch, “Synthesis, Cytotoxicity and QSAR Analysis of X-Thiophenols in Rapidly Dividing Cells," Chemical Research in Toxicology, 16, 276-284, 2003

    With R. Garg, S. Kapur, A. Kurup, R.P. Verma, S.B. Mekapati, C. Hansch,” Comparative QSAR and the Radical Toxicity of Various Functional Groups," Chemical Reviews, 102, 2585-2605 2002

    With C. Marlowe, D. Santi, "Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationships of the Inhibition of Pneumocystis carinii Dihydrofolate Reductase by 4,6-Diamino-1,2-dihydro-2,2-dimethyl-1-(X-phenyl)-s-triazines,” Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 38, 967-972, 1995

    With C. Hansch, T.A. Khwaja, “ Structure Activity Relationships of Antineoplastic Agents in Multidrug Resistance,” Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 33, 1914-1919, 1990

    With Z.X. Fang, R.L. Li, C. Hansch, T. Klein, R. Langridge, B.T. Kaufman, "On the Structure-Selectivity Problem in Drug Design. A Comparative Study of Benzylpyrimidine Inhibition of Vertebrate and Bacterial Dihydrofolate Reductase Via Molecular Graphics and QSAR," Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 32, 1895-1905, 1989

  • Education


    University of Southern California

    Master of Arts
    Duke University

    Bachelor of Arts
    Mount St. Mary's College

    Recent Courses Taught

    • Chemistry 099—Independent Study: Chemistry
    • Chemistry 199— Independent Study: Chemistry
    • Chemistry 175—Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry
    • Chemistry 110AL—Lab, Organic Chemistry
    • Chemistry 110BL—Lab, Organic Chemistry
    • Chemistry 110B—Organic Chemistry with Laboratory
  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    Pomona College Wig Distinguished Professorship Award for Excellence in Teaching: 1993 and 2000

    Appointment: Endowed Chair: Blanche and Frank R. Seaver Professor of Science: 2014

    Member of Special Study Sections, National Institutes of Health:1996 - 2015

    Advisory Committee for Pharmaceutical Science, FDA-CDER: 2003-2006

    National Institutes of Health, AREA Research Grant: 1992 -1994

    National Science Foundation: NSF-ILI, NSF-ARI and NSF-MRI: 1995-1999

    National Institutes of Health, NIEHS: 1995-2001

    National Institutes of Health, NIEHS: 2006-2008

    Merck/Assoc. Advancement of Science: 2006 -2009