Priscilla Bell

Department of Chemistry

562.907.4200, ext. 4498






Academic History

B.S., Mt Union College
M.S., P.h.D. Ohio State University

Academic Focus

  • Classical organometallic chemistry
  • Cultural influences in medicine
  • Chemical composition and action of herbs
  • Action of alcoholic herbal extracts on the growth of bacteria and fungi

Professor Priscilla Bell was a Research Chemist at Ashland Chemical for two years before beginning her teaching career at The Ohio State University. After two years at that large state university, Bell came to Whittier College where she joined the chemistry department as the Inorganic chemist.

During her tenure at Whittier, Bell has taught  general, analytical and inorganic chemistry along with courses designed for more general audiences (“Physical Science for Teachers,” “Medicine and Culture,” “College Writing Seminar”).

Over the years, Bell has been active with the preparation of students as chemists and preparing them for health science graduate schools. In the latter area, she has been the Co-Chair of the Health Science Advisory Council and developed the Whittier College Health Professional Shadowing program. The latter provides students with a short-term opportunity to observe a variety of health professionals in their practice. Bell also enjoys serving as the faculty advisor for Students for Community Medicine, a student-run pre-health science club.

Bell’s research interests have shifted from classical organometallic chemistry to cultural influences in medicine and finally to the chemical composition and action of herbs. Presently her research group has been studying the action of alcoholic herbal extracts on the growth of bacteria and fungi. Her research group has presented their preliminary results at the Spring 2012 meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Outside the classroom and lab, Bell enjoys reading, playing her recorders and singing, and baking, as well as serving as librarian at her church. 

Bell's Resume


Projects are varied and involve analytical chemistry and microbiology testing techniques. Presently she is looking at two general areas:

Chemical Properties of Medicinal Herbs: She is looking at herbs the antibacterial and antifungal properties of herbs with a goal of developing inexpensive alternatives to the treatment of diseases of the feet. These diseases plague immunosuppressed individuals as well as those with diabetes and the aging and there are limited numbers of medications available for them.

Cultural influences on the use of herbs: another area of recent work is studying the active ingredients in herbs recommended at local ethnic pharmacies for the conditions of headache and cold. The focus is analyzing for the presence of caffeine, theobromine and theophylline.