• 2010 Oregon Professor of the Year.
  • Always there for my students.
  • A punk rocker.
  • A respected chemist.
  • Researching the metal ruthenium.

Professor Karen McFarlane Holman is a devoted teacher and chemistry researcher.


Research in the lab is one of the things Holman enjoys doing with her students.


Holman performs with her punk rock band at a coffee shop in Salem.

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Noted for Teaching

Dedication to students — and rock 'n' roll — led to a national award for Karen McFarlane Holman.

Whether she's demystifying molecules for an introductory chemistry class or creating fireballs with students in the Chemistry Club, Professor Karen McFarlane Holman always tries to impart the same lesson: science is an important part of everyday life — and a lot of fun.

Her students laud her ability to explain complex concepts in a way that makes them accessible to anyone. They also love her laid-back nature and her diverse activities outside the classroom — including her role as a guitarist in a punk rock band.

Holman's dedication and impact on her students garnered her a prestigious honor: 2010 Oregon Professor of the Year.

"I enjoy working with students who may be learning chemistry for the first time and helping them find clarity in a subject that might at first seem enigmatic," Holman says. "I love working collaboratively with both my students and colleagues in the classroom and the lab."

Passionate about Chemistry

Holman often takes students to Berkeley and Stanford to collect research data using high-tech equipment that's only available to a select group of researchers from around the world.

In the classroom, she works hard to make sure all her students understand the concepts, no matter what their level of familiarity with chemistry.

"She wants others to love chemistry the way she does, and she helps you understand how chemistry applies to every aspect of your life," says Janie Bube '13, an environmental science major.

Rock 'n' Roll Tendencies

And then there's Holman's punk rock side, which manifests itself both when she's playing with fire in the chemistry lab and when she's playing guitar in her band.

"Professor Holman's formula combines hard work and personal challenges with creativity, pure enthusiasm and a bit of punk rock," chemistry graduate Natalie Muren '06 says. "By teaching and living in a way that combines a passion for chemistry with so many other diverse interests, she is a strong role model."

Holman is Willamette's 10th Oregon Professor of the Year since 1990see the entire list here.

Watch a video of Holman and her students here.


  • BA from Willamette; PhD from University of California, Santa Barbara 
  • Specializes in inorganic chemistry 
  • Hobbies include playing guitar in a punk rock band, establishing a community radio station, yoga and travel 
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