Students in professor Neil Garg’s undergraduate organic chemistry course were given an optional, extra credit assignment to make their own music videos about organic chemistry. The lyrics should contain mostly technical information about chemical structure, reactions, and synthesis.
The students first reaction was, are you serious? Their second reaction was, we’d love to, let’s get to work.
None of these students are chemistry majors and the assignment was unlikely to raise their final grade, but many of the students gladly made rap chemistry videos, filmed throughout the UCLA campus. One hundred and forty students teamed up to produce 61 videos.
Some were shown in class, and a few are becoming worldwide sensations on YouTube.
"I’m proud of what the students have done," Garg said. "Many of them made very impressive videos, while learning chemistry and learning to work as a team. I was stunned by how creative the best of the videos are and how clever they are in incorporating the chemistry. I have heard very positive comments about them, including from a senior scientist at Abbott Laboratories, who said the videos are a wonderful way to enliven organic chemistry."
A video called Chemistry Jock, by Justin Banaga, Kimberly Bui and Yannick Goeb, with new lyrics and music from a song called “Bedrock” by Young Money, has more than 1,600 views on YouTube.
"Making the video was really fun," said Bui. "In all honesty, I know in 10 years I'm going to forget most of the classes I took, but I don't think I'll ever forget this class because we were given the opportunity to do something creative and educational."
Bui’s rap includes this inspired refrain:
I start to see the bonds; they're forming in my head
Alkene won't reduce? Try a catalyst instead
That's when it disappears; pi bond's delocalized
Make an enol, let it sit and watch that thing tautomerize
“The best thing we had going for us was simply the fun and excitement we had making the video,” said Justin Banaga. “It was constantly on our minds, and we spent a lot of time throwing ideas back and forth. Neil Garg’s assignment to make a video is something that I can only think of as a gift, for an assignment like this literally comes once in a lifetime.”
A second video, called 99 Problems, by Isaiah Cho and Lena Chon, with music from Jay-Z’s "99 Problems," has more than 1,100 YouTube views.
"Writing the lyrics for the video actually helped me remember the steps to some of the chemistry mechanisms," said Lena Chon. "I'm really glad I did the project. I sometimes would find myself rapping my verse for fun, but ultimately remembering the lyrics has helped me to understand the main concepts. Isaiah and I had a blast writing the lyrics and making the video.
"While writing, we would laugh at our rhymes and be so excited to come up with new lines to our verses," she added. "We are really glad and appreciative that Professor Garg has given us this great opportunity to not only enhance our learning experience, but also to just have fun."
Yannick Goeb from "Chemistry Jock" said the assignment helped students to think creatively about chemistry.
"The number of quality music videos that came out of this project speaks volumes about the enthusiasm all students had when working on the assignment, and I think most students (myself included) will remember projects like this long after their chemistry careers are over," he said.
A third video, called We in the Lab (Ooo ooo), by students Jordan Cisneros, Sarah Sandhaus, Adam Uchimoto and Rizwan Jattala, with music from T-Pain's "Buy U A Drank," has 1,000 YouTube views.