Asela Chadrasinghe ’19 Blends Math, Physics and Computer Science in Computational Chemistry

Asela Chandrasinghe ’19 is pursuing a way to constrain the addictive effects of smoking.

She’s doing so, not bent over a microscope or hanging out in a smoky nightclub, but by studying a computer image that simulates the behavior of a protein.

This is known as computational chemistry, and it provides a way for researchers at Pacific University to tinker with molecules and proteins to see how they interact with chemical substrates. Chandrasinghe hopes to find a substrate that will reduce addiction.

“The end goal is to try to figure out which potential substrates can act as inhibitors,” she explained.

Pacific is the No. 1 private research institution in the Pacific Northwest, according to a National Science Foundation survey. Pacific students have the opportunity to conduct original research and scholarship across the sciences, arts, humanities, education and business. 

Chandrasinghe didn’t start out with the belief that she would become a computational chemist, but thanks to the opportunities she discovered at Pacific, now she hopes it becomes her life work. 

She said she hopes to get a graduate degree in computational chemistry, then work in the industry, helping to develop new drugs or materials.

This story first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Pacific Magazine. For more stories, visit

Tuesday, May 21, 2019