Biologist and science rapper Tom McFadden at the University
of Otago Albany St recording studio. Photo by Peter
It's not unusual to hear beatboxing or rap music spilling
down the corridors from Tom McFadden's work space in the
division of sciences at the University of Otago.
For science buffs in the building, the music is
uncharacteristic but strangely familiar.
That's because the music isn't about gangster violence, girls
It's Mr McFadden (also known as the Rhymebosome) rapping
about scientific theory on things like DNA, electrons or how
glucose is converted into energy or ATP through glycolysis
and the Krebs cycle.
The award-winning Stanford University biologist is studying
towards a master in science communication degree at the
University of Otago, and will make a welcome return to this
year's eighth New Zealand International Science Festival
(June 30 - July 8).
He parodies the music of rap artists like 50 Cent, Jay-Z and
Cam'ron to communicate complex scientific concepts to
children and senior students.
"I don't take myself too seriously as a rapper.
"I love science and music, and somewhere along the way the
two merged," he said.
Courtesy of the United States Embassy, Mr McFadden will visit
primary and intermediate schools in Auckland, Wellington,
Christchurch and Dunedin in a bid to get pupils to turn
science into rap, in keeping with the festival theme "What
makes us tick?"
The festival will culminate in a "Science Idol" rap
competition, with the winner coming to Dunedin to
professionally record their piece at the world-class
University of Otago's Albany St recording studio.
The winner will also shoot a music video and perform live
with Mr McFadden.
"In 2010, I was lucky to be able to share my enthusiasm for
biology and hip-hop with Dunedinites.
"By spreading the word far and wide this year, I think we're
going to be able to take the integration of science and music
to the next level.
"I can't wait to see what they come up with."
United States ambassador David Huebner said it was great to
know people like Mr McFadden were out there, making science
accessible and interesting for young people.
"Tom's crossover performances are not only a big hit in the
classroom, but also with his academic colleagues.
"He was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to study
and teach in New Zealand."
Festival director Chris Green said there was a great response
to Mr McFadden's performances in Otago in 2010 and, as a
result, the festival organisers decided to extend the Science
Idol competition nationwide to give all pupils the
opportunity to get creative with science.
Highlights of the nine-day festival include appearances by
leading international scientists, workshops, stunts, street
science events, expos and entertainment.