The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Kevin Ahern Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

June 29, 2015


“Biochemistry, Free and Easy”  June 29, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Ahern describes his rural upbringing in Illinois, his move to Oklahoma, and his undergraduate experience at Oklahoma State University. He then discusses the laboratory experiences that ignited his passion for science and that led to his pursuit of graduate degrees in Biochemistry. In reflecting on the Oklahoma State years, Ahern outlines his graduate research as well as the genesis of his love of limericks, puns and wordplay. From there Ahern details his move to Oregon State University, his work in George Pearson's laboratory, and his post-doctoral fellowships in San Diego.

The primary focus of the session is Ahern's activities as a staff and faculty member at Oregon State. He describes his early work as a writer, both at OSU and for scientific magazines, and notes his involvement with helping to revise the second edition of a popular biochemistry textbook authored by two OSU professors. He also shares his memories of his early experiences as a teacher and his initial thinking on how he might better connect with students. Of particular note are Ahern's reflections on his use of songs, limericks and the internet in improving the educational experience for OSU undergraduates.

After discussing his research and patent for Boomerang DNA Amplification, Ahern recounts the story of his meeting and marrying his wife, Indira Rajogopal. In this, he describes their wedding in the Biochemistry department library and the far more formal ceremony that took place in India a year later.

The session then returns to the evolution of Ahern's methodology as a teacher, including his robust online presence. He likewise discusses his passion for advising students, his work as Director of Undergraduate Research, and his collaboration with his wife on multiple open access textbooks. The interview concludes with Ahern's thoughts on teaching courses through OSU Ecampus, a few notes on family life, and his words of advice for students of today.