Kevin in the classroom

On Tuesday afternoons in a small upstairs classroom, Kevin Ahern blows the stiff-collared stereotype of science academia to bits. Ahern, a biochemistry instructor and director of undergraduate research at Oregon State University, doesn’t consider it disruptive to break out in song during class. On the contrary, the songs become the subject matter on Tuesdays, when he teaches the class “Sing a Song of Science” to a dozen honors students. “Music brings back memories,” he tells the group of future veterinarians, philosophers and doctors before pressing play on a recording of the Alphabet Song. All the students smile in recognition.

When he began his career teaching a biochemistry class with hundreds of students, Ahern noticed the subject matter intimidated many of them. He began rewriting the lyrics of popular songs to deal with his class materials, hoping the songs would help students retain lessons. If nothing else, he thought the songs would lighten the mood for his nervous students. Nearly two decades later, he has written hundreds. (read more)