Arden Perkins2_resized

Oregon State University graduate students university-wide were invited to present and compete in a challenging “3-minute thesis” contest. Students near the completion of their program explained the impact and significance of their work to a non-expert audience. The presenters were only allowed three minutes, and a single static power-point slide without the use of animations, recordings, or props. Participants were judged on communication style, clarity and structure, inspiration and impact. Among the many excellent presentations, Arden Perkins, a second year Biochemistry and Biophysics PhD student in the Dr. Andy Karplus Lab, was chosen as one of the top talks and awarded a $250 cash prize for his presentation, “The Machines of Life.” In his talk, Arden focused on the importance of the study of protein structure, the technique of protein crystallography, and how he used this knowledge to propose a novel drug lead.

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Perkin’s Insight Presentation

2-28-13_Indira Rajagopal

Indira Rajagopal first discovered her passion for teaching and education as a postdoctoral student. Though she intended to dedicate much of her time to research, she found teaching to be rewarding and full of satisfaction.”There’s something about explaining a subject that you love to somebody, and then they get it and get excited about it,” Rajagopal said.  “And then, when you see that returning spark in someone’s eyes, you see that people realize: ‘This is an amazing subject.'”  For Rajagopal, the importance of education comes from students being able to see the bigger picture and applying what they learn to what is going on in the world. If students can use the knowledge and skills they learn in school, then they can navigate the world, find something meaningful and figure out how to place random information into context. The University Honors College Eminent Professor award is now part of Rajagopal’s collection of teaching awards.  Rajagopal has been awarded the Carter award, the University Honors College Professor of the Year award and the OSU Beaver Champion award. (read more)

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)

joe beckman and wife

Joe Beckman with wife Tanya at the Discovery Award ceremony in Portland


The MRF Discovery Award recognized Joseph S.Beckman,Ph.D.,a biochemist whose research has led to new understanding about the role of oxidative stress in Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Dr.Beckman investigates how peroxynitrite,a powerful oxidant formed from nitric oxide and superoxide, is involved in neurodegeneration.

His lab’s long-range goal is to understand how superoxide dismutase causes ALS and to identify drugs and dietary compounds with the potential to treat the disease. (read more)

We are pleased to provide access to two free online books and three free online courses by Dr. Kevin Ahern and Dr. Indira Rajagopal.

1. Biochemistry Free & Easy Kevin and Indira have published an electronic book aimed at helping students learn the basics of biochemistry in a fun and engaging format. The book incorporates original songs, recordings, verses and links to over 100 video lectures. The full-featured iPad version can be viewed only on an iPad with iBooks 2. The PDF version can be viewed on any computer.

Download iPad version HERE or PDF version HERE

The iPad version is only available in the U.S., Canada, England, and Australia.

2. Kevin and Indira’s Guide to Getting Into Medical School
In this book, Kevin and Indira share the advice they have given over the years that has resulted in an extraordinary acceptance rate for their students getting into medical schools. Aimed at university students, the book takes students all the way through the process, from the earliest beginnings to acceptance. Extensive space is devoted to important topics such as personal statements, MMIs and how to ace the interview.

Download iPad version HERE or PDF version HERE.

Three FREE online courses through Apple’s iTunes U based on these books are available below. Anyone can enroll in by clicking on the URLs below from an iPhone or an iPad.

1. Biochemistry for Pre-Meds – HERE
2. Elementary Biochemistry – HERE
3. Pre-Med Primer – Getting Into Medical School: Advice From Kevin and Indira – HERE

Help support the efforts behind these books and development of new ones by making a donation to support Oregon State University’s Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics; no donation is too small! Please designate the Dept of Biochemistry & Biophysics and note it is in appreciation of our book. Thank you! Kevin and Indira. Link to Kevin’s Workshops on 1) interviewing; 2) undergraduate research; and 3) strategies for professional schools HERE

Little Belnap hike

Last summer Dale Tronrud, a postdoc in the Karplus Lab, suggested Little Belnap Crater for the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department’s annual hike.

A group of about twenty faculty members, postdocs, grads, friends and family drove to the trailhead near the McKensie Pass and hiked about two miles across the lava beds to the top of Little Belnap. They had lunch on top and took in the spectacular views.

On the way home, they stopped at Gary Merrill’s favorite swimming spot High Rock where many of them cooled off by jumping off rocks into the chilly South Santiam River.


Congratulations to Dr. Andy Karplus who has won the 2012 F.A. Gilfillan Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Science. The criteria used by the College of Science selection committee is scholarship and scientific accomplishment over a substantial period of time and significant impact on his or her field. Andy joins the ranks of three other BB faculty (Ken Van Holde, Chris Mathews and Joe Beckman) who have won this most prestigious award bestowed by the College of Science.

Andy with model caption

Andy describes the work as a “new assessment strategy for X-ray diffraction data that shows that current standards force people to throw away useful data (because they think they are too noisy), and that keeping these additional data will allow every crystal structure to be about 10% more accurate”. The work was begun during Andy’s sabbatical with Kay Diederich at the University of Konstanz last year.

The Science article, entitled ” Linking crystallographic model and data quality”, is accompanied by a Perspective by Phil Evans, entitled “Resolving some old problems in protein crystallography”. Protein crystallographer Dale Tronrud comments that the new method has the “potential to alter the routine practice of crystallographers around the world and has applications to many fields beyond crystallography”. For more about the Science article, see Nick Houtman’s “X-ray Vision” piece in OSU’s Terra.

Congratulations Andy on “revealing how life works”.