Karen Holman


Karen Holman is a punk rocker, radio DJ, and a chemistry professor and researcher. She lives deeply in all three of those identities.

But at TEDxSalem, Holman’s scientist side will be on display.

Holman was always interested in science as a little girl, she said, and it was her non-ending question of “why?” that landed her in chemistry.

“I wanted to know what was happening to the molecules,” she said.

Holman, whose specialty is in metals, will share about the discovery of metal-based anti-cancer drugs. She hopes to make the science behind this discovery approachable for audiences of all backgrounds, to learn about the barriers medical science face in becoming accessible to patients, and become energized about scientific discovery and innovation.

kh_chemlecture1Holman’s science career began at Willamette University, as an undergrad, and she also ended up at Willamette to establish her teaching career.

It was through that journey that she became a college radio DJ and became interested in alternative, metal and punk rock music. While in California for graduate school in the ’90s, Holman saw an all-girl punk band, which inspired her to play in bands of her own. You may recognize her as the guitarist for the City of Pieces, for example. But after all these years, she is just now in her first all-woman punk band called Hot Sheets.

Holman’s experience as a radio DJ also inspired her to eventually found KMUZ, Salem’s community radio. She hosts two shows on it, and will soon start a third later this month.