Dr. Engeseth grew up in Duluth, Minnesota. She completed her B.S. degree in 1982 from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She received her M.S. degree from the University of Illinois, Department of Foods and Nutrition, working with Dr. Barbara P. Klein. Her Ph.D. research was conducted with Dr. Ian Gray in the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition at Michigan State University, emphasizing food lipid chemistry. After completing her Ph.D., Dr. Engeseth conducted postdoctoral research with Dr. John Ohlrogge at Michigan State University in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, studying plant lipid biochemistry and molecular biology. She and her husband, Dr. William Helferich, Professor of Nutrition, moved to the University of Illinois in 1996 and are both in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Dr. Engeseth teaches courses in food chemistry.
Dr. Engeseth works to ensure optimal food quality and nutritional value of the food supply by investigating the impact of environmental growing conditions, processing, and storage on produce and oilseed quality, with emphasis on enzymatic action, lipids, and natural antioxidants.