GPI - Shelli Waetzig, Professor of Chemistry and Food Science
By Raena Doty
What is your professional and educational background?
I was an undergrad in chemistry at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and from there, I went to get my Ph.D. at the University of Kansas in organic chemistry. I did a one-year postdoctoral stint at the University of Kansas and then moved to the University of California-Irvine and did a postdoctoral stint there as well. And from there, I moved out of Boston and did a two-year full-time temporary position at the College of the Holy Cross, and there I taught chemistry, which is what I teach here, and I started here in 2013.
What interested you the most in the field of chemistry?
I was originally a biology major, and I took my first intro to bio courses at the same time I took organic chemistry. And my instructor was amazing, and it was just a really fun class. I did not get 100% on every exam, but it was something that challenged me and I really enjoyed that challenge, and I’m somebody who likes puzzles, and this course offers a lot of those kinds of challenges in terms of trying to figure out how to put things together.
What do you think students can get out of learning about chemistry?
Most of the people who come through my door, specifically because I teach organic chemistry, are those who will end up in science somewhere. But either way, I really think that chemistry - it offers the opportunity to find a lot of resilience. Very rarely is there a time when someone doesn’t - I don’t want to say “fail” because … failure looks different for everyone, right? - but they may not achieve their goal at some point in the course. And really finding a way to navigate that disappointment and, you know, having that grit to change something and turn it around - it’s a really important life skill to learn how to study and potentially change the way you study. … I truly believe that anybody can do chemistry and it’s just a matter of sticking to it and putting in the hard work.
Do you have any advice for students?
Go to class, do your homework, and get to know your professors. I really think it’s important that we’re at a small school and you need to take advantage of the fact that I enjoy getting to know the students because that’s why I enjoy Framingham State - the size of it is just right. And I think the students should really recognize that as being a strength of FSU and really take advantage of getting to know their professors. Because they’ll find, I think, that they have a lot of advocates for themselves if they did that.
What do you enjoy the most about FSU?
A lot of it is the size, like I mentioned before. I think that if you give people the opportunity, we have the ability to look out for each other, and there’s often times in my class where I see a student that’s not there, and I haven’t heard from them, and I’ll try to reach out and say, “Hey, is everything OK?” So I like that it’s tight-knit enough that we can … be aware of what’s going on around us. So I really enjoy that part of FSU. … I also enjoy the diversity that our campus brings in terms of our student population and the background as a pre-health advisor - I’m chair of the pre-health committee. It’s really, really fun to see students who come in and navigate Framingham State, and then watch them graduate and go on to do the thing that they want to do. It’s fun, because we are so small, to watch those students mature from freshmen to their graduation day.
What is something students would be surprised to know about you?
It was funny because I was talking to a friend about this last night and I was like, “You know, I did not ace every single chemistry exam that I ever did - like, quite a few of them.” So I think maybe just letting people know that professors aren’t perfect and I am included in that, right? So there were certainly even organic chemistry exams that I did not get A’s on, and then you can still go and do that thing, right? So I think that’s kind of a fun way to look at it - we all have a journey.