The music video opens with the first beats of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Filling the screen is a scene of two lab-coated students, complete with moleculed hair, in a pool.
But instead of the pop star’s distinctive voice and lyrics, there are three UCLA students singing their own version ““ “Bond this Way.”
This past spring, students in Chemistry 14D were challenged with an extra-credit assignment: Make a chemistry-related music video.
Started last year by Neil Garg, an assistant professor of chemistry, the project allows students a month to work on videos that incorporate information learned throughout the quarter.
For students who are not chemistry majors and come into the class lacking a strong pull to organic chemistry, the videos are designed to increase their interest in the class, Garg said.
“The goal is for (the students) to explain the chemistry and think about it while writing the lyrics,” Garg said. “By the time they write (the lyrics), they remember it, and it forces them to get engaged.”
Garg and his teaching assistants grade the videos based on four characteristics: incorporation of organic chemistry, entertainment factor, overall quality and creativity.
Extra credit is awarded by five-point increments. The amount of points given ranges from zero to 10, which are then added to students’ lowest midterm score. Students who created the top-10 videos were awarded 15 points.
Last year, 140 students participated. This year’s assignment produced 87 videos from 251 students.
Beyond “Bond this Way,” the videos ranged from covers of The Beatles’ “Let it Be” to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.”
The videos had to meet the assignment’s requirements, including mentioning “UCLA” and “14D” in the lyrics. But students differed widely in the presentation of the material.
David Kim, a third-year anthropology student, made “Study Rock Anthem” based off LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”
The video, which shows Kim and his friends dancing, surrounds jokes about the class’s difficult second midterm.
“My rap verses had the required reactions and the material from class, but also I concentrated on the inside jokes and the things people in my class would get,” Kim said. “While we are studying, I am impersonating our professor, and we are all shuffling to make it seem like studying is fun.”
Watching the videos in lecture, Kim said he was able to see another side of his classmates, who were usually focused or serious during class.
“It shows how much creativity there is, even on the South Campus side,” said Storm Hagen, a third-year physiological science student and member of the “Bond this Way” video project group.
Although students were motivated by extra credit, the videos also served as a study tool for the class’s final, Kim said.
During his exam, Hagen said he sang lyrics from the videos in his head to remember chemistry facts.
“It was a good excuse to study but also to fool around and have a good experience,” Kim said.
Within the UCLA campus, the videos have become an Internet sensation, receiving as many as 25,000 hits on certain videos.
Kim said he met a lot of people during finals week who should have been studying for exams but instead were watching the chemistry projects.
“The videos are not necessarily going viral, but in a local setting to see that many people are watching surprised me,” he said.
The student videos have also garnered attention outside of UCLA, with a recent feature in Wired magazine about the assignment, Hagen said.