Growing up in a lower-income community north of LA, Jacqueline Saldana saw the destructive power of illicit drugs like methamphetamine on individuals and families, but could not yet conceive of a way to help. In high school, she began to study chemistry and fell in love. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” she recalls. “I saw chemistry everywhere – in my computer, in my desk, in my cup. The subject felt scary, but I really enjoyed the challenge.”
Saldana earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s in chemistry from California State University, Los Angeles, where she learned how to synthesize chemical compounds and other skills. Now, she is pursuing an interdisciplinary PhD in pharmaceutical sciences at Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences, a program that suits her interdisciplinary mind. She is a firm believer in bringing different disciplines and perspectives to bear on vexing health problems, and although she hasn’t firmed up her dissertation research focus, Saldana hopes to advance drug discovery around addiction issues and eventually join industry to make a difference.
Saldana also wants to be a role model. “I would like to set an example for younger Latinas interested in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields,” she says. “There aren’t enough of us spreading the word on how great it is to explore science.”