Ken Usher

Ken Usher Image Collage
Meet Ken Usher

I serve as Program Director of Biology-Health Sciences 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.

I am always eager to meet with prospective students, or to answer their questions by phone or email.

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 http://www.oit.edu/faculty/ken.usher/ 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). Two papers about the Chrom applet are published 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
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