Hip-hop music echoes down the halls at Stanford University. But, if you listen closely, the lyrics are not about money and violence— they are about DNA and electrons. Tom McFadden, an instructor in the human biology program, creatively blends hip-hop with science to explain concepts from evolution to cellular respiration.
Geeky videos about science have been around for a long time. Who can forget the 1971 video of Stanford students depicting ribosomal translation through interpretive dance?
Given the low numbers of students interested in pursuing scientific careers, it is obvious that we need ways to kindle scientific interest in young minds. Media and politics constantly bombard us with the message that science is uncool. Rather than emphasizing the power of science, schools focus on memorizing the details and mechanics. Although understanding the basics is important, we need to put the excitement front and center.
McFadden has been spinning his hip-hop parodies on biology since high school. These videos are catchy, funny and always educational. For instance, “Regulatin’ Genes” parodies Jay-Z’s “Money Ain’t a Thang” and depicts the complicated world of gene regulation. The science behind the rap lyrics explains that all cells contain the same genetic information, but cell specialization occurs when transcription factors turn genes on and off.