Ken Usher

I serve as the chair of the Natural Sciences department at Oregon Tech. I teach biochemistry and medical genetics, and advise students in the Health Sciences & Biology programs.  I also have a fondness for organic chemistry, and sometimes lead MCAT/DAT exam review sessions on that topic.  I am involved in projects to make better use of technology in the classroom at Oregon Tech.

In 2010-11, I took a sabbatical leave at the University of Calgary, where I wrote and tested a Java applet to help biochemistry students explore an important lab technique, ion-exchange chromatography.
See the "Chrom" applet at to check it out.
Oregon Tech students use this technique in the wet-lab in CHE 452 (Biochemistry III) in spring term, but this applet provides much more flexibility to try a bunch of different conditions instantly and see how the underlying principles affect the results, without waiting a week to get those results. Here at Oregon Tech, about 20-25 students per year use this in biochemistry lab, while my collaborator at University of Calgary uses it with about 500 students (and multiple graduate teaching assistants). A paper about the Chrom applet is now in press in the Journal of Chemical Education.

Also while at UofC, I attended a bunch of interesting research seminars on biochemistry, neuroscience and other biomedical fields, designed and taught an online course for Oregon Tech (BIO 341 medical genetics) and completed a series of workshops about effective teaching and course design through their Teaching and Learning Centre, culminating in a Faculty Teaching Certificate from them.  I spent some time playing in the mountains and in the snow, too!

Before coming to Oregon Tech, I did research on the three-dimensional structures of membrane proteins at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX.  Before that, I did my Ph.D. research at the Institute of Molecular Biology of the University of Oregon, using x-ray crystallography to study the 3D structures of several enzymes in the laboratory of S.J. Remington, a physics professor.

In my spare time I enjoy playing with my three small kids, running, bicycling, and camping.
I'm Canadian, eh!

Professional background

  • B.Sc. Honors Biochemistry, University of Alberta, 1985-1989
  • research assistant, Dept of Microbiology,  University of Alberta, 1989-1990
  • Ph.D. Chemistry, University of Oregon, 1990-1996
  • research associate, J. Deisenhofer lab, Dept of Biochemistry & Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas TX, 1997-2000
  • faculty member, Natural Sciences department, Oregon Tech, 2000-present

Courses taught: 

  • CHE 450/451/452 Biochemistry
  • BIO 341 Medical Genetics
  • BIO 409 Senior Seminar