Kevin Ahern, professor of biochemistry and biophysics, will receive the Elizabeth P. Ritchie Distinguished Professor Award, OSU's highest teaching award. The award encourages and recognizes outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.
This past spring Ahern received the Best Mentor/Advisor award by the Oregon State University Phi Beta Kappa Society. The award recognizes an advisor “devoted to assisting students in finding an educational path most suited to their unique talents and interests."
Throughout the years, Ahern, who teaches many survey courses in the life sciences, has been on the forefront of making the study of life sciences more accessible to students at Oregon State, by expanding the use of technology in the classroom and offering many survey courses on OSU’s Ecampus. He was instrumental in transforming rote “cookbook” undergraduate labs into cutting-edge, real-world research labs accomplished through close collaboration with researchers in the department.
Ahern and his wife, senior biochemistry and biophysics instructor Indira Rajagopal, have published three free electronic textbooks for online learners worldwide. Ahern is an ardent advocate of using technology and digital media to enhance deep scientific learning and engagement in the undergraduate classroom, and his downloadable digital textbooks and medical school guide are significant steps towards expanding access and cutting costs for students.
Ahern won a $1.5 million five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to create and fund an OSU STEM Leaders Program targeting underrepresented minority students. The program recruits minority students and ensures their success during the critical freshman year with skill-support, a research internship with an OSU professor, a peer mentor, an annual retreat, and workshops that focus on scientific ethics, professional identity, and how to craft a great elevator pitch. In its third year, the program exceeded its goal of increasing the retention rate of these students by 10 percent.
Ahern also served as long-time director of undergraduate research at Oregon State.