Debra Van Engelen

Professor, Chemistry

Debra Van Engelen


Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry, Oregon State University – Corvallis, 1986;

B.A.; Chemistry with ACS Certification, Washington University in St. Louis, 1974


Chemistry, Appleton Hall
P: 909.748.8547
P: 909-748-8370

Current Research, Academic Interests and Areas of Expertise

Analytical chemistry with emphasis on spectrometry, chromatography and capillary electrophoresis with applications in biological or environmental samples. Recent areas of research have included:

  • Separations and thermodynamic studies of chiral compounds using high performance liquid chromatography

  • Monitoring acidic deposition and effects on plant waxes by gas chromatography with mass spectrometry and also ion chromatography

  • Fluorescence detection and post-column derivatization for electrophoresis

  • Uses of Raman spectroscopy in chemical analysis

I also conduct research in phytoremediation of metal-contaminated soils and develop new group project-based undergraduate curricula in chemistry education.

Professional Background Highlights

My professional commitment is to excellence in teaching, innovative curricula and undergraduate research. I am an analytical chemist and teach courses in general and analytical, plus laboratories in biochemistry and spectroscopy. I am active in development of new types of chemistry curricula and project-based laboratory experiments and courses. As assessed in student outcomes and surveyed attitudes, these open-ended courses appear to improve the interest, confidence and achievement of students. I have received a number of significant grants for curriculum development including multiple grants from the National Science Foundation. While my research interests have been varied over the years, the common thread has been the development of innovative methods of separation, both utilizing chromatography and capillary electrophoresis, with sensitive and selective detection primarily with molecular fluorescence. Most of the applications of my research work have been in environmental chemistry and pollution analysis, although I also have a fairly strong background and interests in bioanalytical chemistry. I came to the University of Redlands in 2003 after seventeen years at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I have mentored over 50 undergraduate students in research during my professional career. In addition to my interests in chemistry, I have also taught many courses related to science and society in a variety of disciplines including Women's Studies and interdisciplinary humanities programs. I have served in numerous service and officer positions for the American Chemical Society.


Courses Taught

CHEM 106 Science and Society

CHEM 131/132 General Chemistry I/II and Laboratory

CHEM 301 Quantitative Chemistry and Laboratory

CHEM 330 Analytical Chemistry and Laboratory

CHEM 320L Biochemistry Laboratory

CHEM 333L Spectroscopy Laboratory


Previous Teaching Experience

Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina, Asheville, NC, 1992 – 2003

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, UNCA, 1986 - 1992

Professional Experience

Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Chemistry, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, Summer 1998 and Fall 2002 (sabbatical)

Visiting Research Professor, Department of Chemistry, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, Summer 1992.

Instructional Assistant, Napa Valley College, 1981-82.

Chemist, Baxter-Travenol Laboratories, Morton Grove, IL 1975-77.

Research Project Specialist, Department of Pharmacology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1974-75.


"Effect of Chelating Agents and Solubility of Cadmium Complexes on Uptake from Soil by Brassica Juncea," Debra L. Van Engelen, Rachel C. Sharpe-Pedler, and Kevin K. Moorhead, Chemosphere, 68-3 (2007) 401-408.

"Undergraduate Introductory Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory Course: Interdisciplinary Group Projects in Phytoremediation," Debra L. Van Engelen, Steven W. Suljak, J. Patrick Hall, and Bert E. Holmes, Journal of Chemical Education, 84 (2007) 128-131.

"Progressive Four-year Approach to Teaching Scientific Writing to Undergraduates," Debra Van Engelen, Teresa Longin, and Daniel B. Wacks, 232nd ACS National Meeting, San Francisco, CA, September 2006, this presentation was featured in the Chemical and Engineering News article entitled "Teaching Writing to Undergrads", October, 20, 2006, pp 45-46.

"Determination of Carbaryl and its Primary Metabolite, 1-Naphthol, by Reversed-Phase High Performance Liquid Chromatography with Fluorescence Detection", Kurt Massey*, Debra L. Van Engelen, and Isiah M. Warner, Talanta, 42 (1995) 1457-1463.

"Pesticides in Eastern North Carolina Rural Supply Wells: Land Use Factors and Persistence", Richard P. Maas, Darlene J. Kucken*, Steven C. Patch, Brian T. Peek*, and Debra L. Van Engelen, Journal of Environmental Quality, 24 (1995) 426-431.

Awards, Honors, Grants

University of North Carolina at Asheville, Distinguished Teacher Award, 2000-2001

Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society

Sigma Xi, Honor Society for Scientists

Phi Lambda Upsilon, Chemistry Honorary Society

Raman Spectroscopy for the Undergraduate Curriculum

, D.L. Van Engelen, Ocean Optics, Inc., Educational Grant Program, March, 2005.

Establishing a Biochemistry Program

, Debra L. Van Engelen and Bert E. Holmes, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Education Enhancement Grant, 2001-2002.

Participating Research Host at UNCA for Two Visiting Faculty Research Fellowships, National Science Foundation, Research Site for Educators in Chemistry (RSEC), with S. Douglass Gilman at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 2001 and 2002.

An Interdisciplinary Project-Based Laboratory Curriculum in Chemistry Based on Ion Chromatography

, Bert E. Holmes and Debra L. Van Engelen, National Science Foundation, Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI), Adaptation and Implementation, 2000 – 2003.

"Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry in the Chemistry and Environmental Science Curricula", Debra L. Van Engelen and Richard P. Maas, National Science Foundation, Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement (ILI), 1993 - 1996.

Invited Presentations

"Separation of the Enantiomers of 3-Hydroxypropionic Acid 1-Phenylethyl Ester with an Immobilized Chiral Stationary Phase," Aimee Lake and D.L. Van Engelen, Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research (SCCUR), California State University at Los Angeles, November, 2007.

"Analysis of Dry Acid Deposition on the Leaf Cuticles of Citrus Sinensis," W. Joel Livingston and D.L. Van Engelen, Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research (SCCUR), California State University at Los Angeles, November, 2007.

"Incremental Development from Traditional, Expository Experiments to Guided Group Projects in the General Chemistry Laboratory," Debra L. Van Engelen and David P. Schrum, First-Year Undergraduate Chemistry Education International Conference (FYI Chemistry Conference), International Center for First-Year Undergraduate Chemistry Education, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, May, 2005.

"Effects of EDTA and Available Calcium in Phytoremediation of Cadmium," Kia Ekbia and D.L. Van Engelen, Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research (SCCUR), University of California, Riverside, CA, November, 2005.

"Inquiry Based Laboratory Exercises in High School Chemistry Classes," Heather Glasser and D.L. Van Engelen, Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research (SCCUR), University of California, Riverside, CA, November, 2005.

"Laser Induced Fluorescence Detection for Capillary Electrophoresis," George Keepers and D.L. Van Engelen, Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research (SCCUR), University of California, Riverside, CA, November 2005.

"Raman Spectroscopy Using a Tilted Mirror Interferometer," Matthew Weeks and D.L. Van Engelen, Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research (SCCUR), University of California, Riverside, CA, November 2005.

"Interactions between Cadmium and Calcium Ions in the Chelate-mediated Metal Uptake of Brassica Juncea," Joseph Boyd and Debra Van Engelen, 229th ACS National Meeting, San Diego, CA, March 2005.

"Plant uptake relative to the solubility of cadmium in the phytoextraction of soil treated with chelating agents," D.L. Van Engelen, Kevin K. Moorhead, and Rachel C. Pedler, 227th ACS National Meeting, Anaheim, CA, March 2004.

"Bridging the Gap from Traditional, Convergent Experiments to Group Project-Based Inquiry in the First-year General Chemistry Laboratories," D.L. Van Engelen, L.E. Lewis, J.N. Parsons, and B.E. Holmes, 226th ACS National Meeting, New York, September 2003.

"Interdisciplinary Group Projects Based upon Phytoremediation in the Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory," D.L. Van Engelen and B.E. Holmes, 223rd ACS National Meeting, Orlando. FL, April 2002.

"Design of a Single-Stage, Post-Column Reactor for Fluorescence Detection of N-methylcarbamate Pesticides Separated by High Performance Liquid Chromatography", Nicholas H. Sieg* and D.L. Van Engelen,, Proceedings of the Fifteenth National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Lexington, KY, March 2001.

"Chelate Effects on the Phytoremediation of Cadmium-Contaminated Soil", Rachel C. Sharpe*, K. Moorhead, and D.L. Van Engelen, Proceedings of the Fourteenth Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Missoula, MT, April 2000.

"Cyclodextrin Complexation of Selected Aqueous Pesticides for Enhancement of Fluorescence Detection in Liquid Chromatography", D.L. Van Engelen, K.A. Massey*, and K. Fukui*, 1996 Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Greenville, SC, November 1996.


American Chemical Society

Council on Undergraduate Research

Project Kaleidoscope

United States Chemistry Olympiad Coordinator, American Chemical Society, San Gorgonio Section, CA, 2006-2009

Writing Coach, College Summit Workshops, summers 2004 and 2005