Karen Green Purple Co Synthesis

Karen McFarlane Holman Ph.D.

“Professor by day, punk rocker by night” is how I’ve been described, with good reason. Since the 1990s I’ve maintained my two life passions – science and music – by establishing myself as a tenured chemistry professor and a professional rock musician. I research metals for applications in sustainable fuels and medicine and I’ve played in over ten different bands in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Salem, OR (still to this day).

I adore sharing my ideas and music, which has led to thousands of lectures, speeches, interviews, radio programs, podcasts, videos, rock concerts, albums, and presentations on four continents. I’ve given three TEDx talks, two that are based on my scientific research, and in the other I reflect on “The Remarkable Impact of Hobbies on Career.”

I want to leave this world better for me having been here. I’m the Founder of KMUZ-FM, the first community radio station in the capital city of Oregon, and I’ve served on several Boards of Directors of nonprofit organizations. My love of science and empowering young humans led me to mentor girls in Saudi Arabia and I established Science Rockstar Kids during the onset of the pandemic.

How about you? What is your mission, and does it resonate with any of my projects? If so, please reach out and connect. I’d love to hear from you!

Karen Guitar



Lived abroad in Colombia, Germany, Saudi Arabia

PADI Scuba certified

Motorcycle License Endorsed, Eclipse Chaser

Avid Kayaker, Wild-Water Swimmer, Hiker, and Weightlifter


Led the research group that was first in the world to establish that ruthenium drugs bind to RNA
24 peer-reviewed research publications on anti-cancer drugs, sustainable fuels, and photosynthesis

Postdoctoral Fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Santa Barbara



Professor of the Year award from the Carnegie Foundation

Founder & Director of Rockstar Kids

Decades of science outreach to millions of children and adults in-person and online.

Professor of Chemistry at Willamette University

Curriculum Vitae



Guitarist, singer, songwriter in 9 punk bands since 1995

Hundreds of rock concert performances

Multiple vinyl LP, EP, and digital releases including an award-winning music video

More Music


2x TEDx Speaker

Presentations on four continents worldwide

Invited talks at companies and nonprofits

Podcaster and radio show host for over 15 years

Request For Speaking Form


The Oregonian

“Willamette University professor Karen Holman named tops in Oregon for 2010”
(Oregonian article on the Carnegie Professor of the Year award)

Press Play Salem

“Elements of a Punk Professor”
Press Play Salem interview