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
Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…