Petra Van Koppen

Professor Emerita

Contact Phone

(805) 893-5512

Office Location

3670B PSB-N



Petra van Koppen received her Ph.D. degree from UCSB in 1984. After a postdoctoral position with Professor Bowers, she stayed on as a research associate. Teaching in the General Chemistry series, Petra was named Mortar Board Professor of the Year in 1998. She was a recipient of an Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award in 1999 and the MESA Schools Program at UCSB presented her with the Math and Science Outreach Award in 2001. She also received a Margaret T. Getman Service to Students Awards in 2003. She joined the department as a full time lecturer and laboratory coordinator in 1999.


K-12 Outreach Program:

Current Research

My research has focused primarily on transition metal ion chemistry in the gas phase in collaboration with Professor Bowers.

We developed a Gas-Phase Ion Chromatrography technique, which allows us to study state specific transition metal ion chemistry as well as the isomeric structure, abundance, and growth mechanisms in carbon cluster ions. Application of this technique to biological systems has added another important dimension to our research.

Over the last four years my research focus has turned to education. I have developed a number of labs and published two general chemistry lab manuals. In addition to a traditional labs I have developed cooperative learning labs for general chemistry and honors general chemistry courses. Honors students and students who have successfully completed a year or two of High School chemistry can choose to enroll in the cooperative learning labs.


In the outreach program, my efforts are not only directed to improve educational opportunities for K-12 students, but also to help students succeed in their transition from high school to college and from college to graduate school. I have initiated and developed an outreach program to help teachers develop curriculum units that meet the 5th grade physical science standards for California Public Schools, and to inspire 5th grade students to pursue science and higher education. I participate in programs such as ENLACE and the MESA schools programs that seek to increase the number of Latino students in the Central Coast schools who are prepared for higher education. I also participate in the Summer Institute in Mathematics and Science Program to help underrepresented students succeed in their transition from high school to college.

Each quarter 8 to 10 workshops are offered for 5th graders in the lab at UCSB. Each workshop includes a class of 25 to 30 students, parents and teachers. Training workshops are provided for teachers prior to their visit. Undergraduates in the chemistry club and in general chemistry lecture classes are provided with the opportunity to teach in the chemistry outreach program. Undergraduates work with the students on a number of exciting hands-on activities in the laboratory.

As a follow up activity, trained undergraduates go into the elementary school classroom to reinforce the learned concepts.

The outreach program encompasses over a thousand K-12 students and teachers in the community every year. According to teachers and principals at local elementary schools: "the workshops have strengthened the instructors' knowledge of important grade level physical science standards and increased their ability to deliver inquiry-based science instruction to their students." A series of chemistry "labs" for fifth grade students in the school's science center, have been enthusiastically received by students and teachers alike. The labs have served as springboards for additional teacher-directed lessons in chemistry. In an era of tight school budgets and increased pressures on elementary school teachers to narrow the scope of the "core" curriculum, the ongoing support for science instruction and learning at the elementary school level is both invaluable and greatly appreciated.


Student Initiated Outreach Program (SIOP)

As one of two Faculty Advisors for the Chemistry Club, the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society, we applied for a Student Initiated Outreach Program (SIOP) grant. The SIOP grant provided support to continue and expand the chemistry outreach program for underrepresented and minority elementary and high school students.

Faculty Outreach Grant (FOG)

The FOG grant provided funds to initiate a program to develop curriculum units that meet the 5th grade physical science standards for California Public Schools.

Summer Institute for Mathematics and Science (SIMS)

Outstanding entering first-year minority students are selected to participate in a three-week residential bridge program providing a comprehensive introduction to UCSB and its programs in the mathematical, life, and physical sciences. I have participated in this program every year since 1997 to help students make a successful transition from high school to the University.

UC Leadership Experience through Advanced Degrees (UC LEADS) program

I have participated in this program to help identify and mentor educationally or economically disadvantaged undergraduates in science, engineering and mathematics who are likely to succeed in graduate school.

Saturday with Scientists Program

The Los Angeles Basin Initiative and ENLACE y Avance School Partnerships Program for underrepresented high school students from Los Angeles, Oxnard, Filmore, Ventura, Lompoc and Kern county. I participate in these programs to increase the number of Latino students in Central Coast schools who are prepared for higher education. Students visit UCSB for a day and they work with a number of faculty, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and undergraduates in interactive lectures and hands-on activities in marine science, chemistry, robotics, oceanography, marine life touch tanks and the marine science institute. Eight to ten Saturday with Scientists workshops are offered each year, serving 30 to 50 students and teachers each workshop (approximately 350 students and teachers).

South Coast Science Project (SCSP)

The South Coast Science Project provides standards-based content experiences (including readily-useable classroom lessons) for participating K-12 teachers in a summer institute.


Selected Research Publications

Discovery and Analysis in the Laboratory Chemistry 1AC, 1BC, 1CC and Chemistry 2AC, 2BC, 2CC Petra A. M. van Koppen, Hayden-McNeil Publishing, Inc., Plymouth MI, 2002

General Chemistry 1AL, 1BL, 1CL Laboratory Manual Petra A. M. van Koppen, Hayden-McNeil Publishing, Inc., Plymouth MI, 2002

General Chemistry Laboratory Manual Chemistry Petra A. M. van Koppen, McGraw-Hill Co., Inc., New York, 2002

Activation of Methane by Ti+: A Cluster Assisted Mechanism for ?-Bond Activation at Transition Metal Centers: Experiment and Theory, P.A.M. vanKoppen, J.E. Perry, P.R. Kemper, J.E. Bushnell and M.T. Bowers Int. J. Mass Spectrom., Michael T. Bowers Honor Issue, 185/186/187, 989, 1999.

Gas-Phase Ion Chromatography: Transition Metal State Selection and Carbon Cluster Formation, M.T. Bowers, P.R. Kemper, G. von Helden and P.A.M. van Koppen, Science, 260, 1446, 1993.