OSU biochemist Kevin Ahern teaches with music and poetry

Dr. Kevin Ahern  Credit: Oregon State University
Dr. Kevin Ahern
Credit: Oregon State University

He turns Christmas carols into studies of protein synthesis, and Bob Dylan into a vegetarian preacher. For over a decade, award-winning Oregon State University biochemist Kevin Ahern has taught his subject through music and poetry, and claims it is key to his students’ success.

Metro: Your website claims you are “wildly popular.” Is this true?

Ahern: I can’t sing worth a crap, but I perform all over the world and a lot of people want to listen.

Are you the only biochemistry singer, and by default, the best?

There are a few people doing something similar. What inspired me was a British professor [Dr. Harold Baum] who wrote “The Biochemists’ Songbook.” I got a copy and was impressed by the clever rhymes and thought “I can do that.”

Why do music and biochemistry go together?

Students find biochemistry very intimidating and I wanted to cut through that, to make it more fun and less scary. It helps academically, like the ‘”Metabolism Pathway” song takes students step by step through how metabolism works, how glucose is made, etc. If they learn the song, they learn the process.

Kids can be cruel. Do you never get heckled?

I look at student evaluations every term and one a year says, “I’m tired of songs,” but most really like them.

Do you worry other academics will think you sold out?

I worried at first; some of them call me “The Song Guy,” but generally reactions have been better than I expected. You can have academic entertainment but you have to be careful not to be a clown and detract from the message. There is a tightrope to walk.

Do you have a favorite memory or moment?

One lecture and song on hemoglobin always leaves me with a very positive feeling.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

PHOTOS: Who is Alix Tichelman?

Who is Alix Tichelman, the high end call girl who allegedly murdered a Google executive?

National

Washington state approves first producer of pot edibles

  A Seattle-based company that makes marijuana-infused drinks and candies has become the first business in Washington approved to make edible pot products for the…

National

Florida cat owners call 911 after Russian blue…

By Barbara ListonORLANDO Florida (Reuters) - Kush the cat was quarantined in central Florida after her owner called 911 over the weekend for help, saying…

Local

Times Square costumed characters under scrutiny

Costumed characters in Times Square are under scrutiny after a string of incidents involving Elmo, Woody, Mario and Spider-Man.

Going Out

What to do this week in NYC: July…

Le Fooding Beach Club Presents: San Pellegrino Fruitstock at the Rockaways Friday-Sunday, Noon; $40 Beach 97 97-01 Shorefront Pkwy., Rockaway Beach Picnic on the beach…

Going Out

Where to eat on Bastille Day in NYC

We had ours on the Fourth of July, now it’s time for France’s equivalent on July 14. Go out and show your solidarity with the…

Books

What to eat while you read

A smudge of chocolate on a page never hurt anyone.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, July 9: 'The Bridge,'…

See Diane Kruger solve some mysteries in the second season premiere of "The Bridge."

World Cup

Argentina prevails in penalties, advances to final

The drama never seems to subside as the World Cup finally has its final two.

MLB

A Joffrey Ballet dancer threw the most beautiful…

http://youtu.be/Hg61JOZJrYM?t=29s While asked to throw a first pitch at a baseball game can be a treacherous and/or embarrassing experience (see Cent, 50), sometimes everything can…

World Cup

World Cup semifinals preview: Holland vs. Argentina

The second semifinal pits another South American soccer power against a European one.

MLB

MLB power rankings: Athletics cement spot on top,…

The Athletics cement spot on top of our MLB power rankings with a huge trade, while L.A. teams follow.

Travel

Amsterdam is known for sex and drugs, but…

Amsterdam is arguably best known for its red light district and cannabis coffee shops, but the city on the banks of the Amstel River is…

Wellbeing

What eye symptoms need emergency attention?

Many people experience temporary eye-related problems such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) from a cold virus or a scratched cornea resulting from an object coming into…

Wellbeing

Sugar isn't making anyone's life more sweet

Not so sweet. Anne Alexander, author of “The Sugar Smart Diet,” tells us where sugar is hiding and how it’s making us sick. Bet that…

Wellbeing

This will take more years off your life…

  Obesity can cut life short by causing strokes and other illnesses, but a new study quantifies the toll: The most extreme cases cut a…