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Q&A: OU Professor Addresses the Buzz Around ‘Chemistry of Beer’

Brewers and chemists anywhere can get credit from OU’s “Chemistry of Beer” course, which shows the science behind the six-pack.

Brew masters, beer enthusiasts, chemists and the like are getting in on The University of Oklahoma’s “Chemistry of Beer” Janux course, which teaches students the science that goes into making the six-pack.

And here’s a reason to celebrate: The University now offers the class to non-OU students, for transcriptable credit, for $199. Students can enroll now through Oct. 13, the first day of class.

To help students learn a little more about the popular online course that connects learners from around the world, we checked in with the course’s instructor Mark Morvant, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at OU. 

Q: Do you have a sense of why students are signing up for the course?

A: For the most part, students either want to know how their knowledge of chemistry relates to a real world application like brewing or they want to understand more about the science behind brewing so that they can improve their home-brews.

Q: Which part of the course prompts the most interest or discussion?

A: There is, of course, a great amount of discussion around the prompt “What is your favorite style of beer?”, but there is also a good amount of interest in the topics that have the most insight into how to modify the flavor of beer, for example, the enzyme activity in the mashing process or the chemical changes that occur during the hopping process.

Q: What do you think challenges students in this course? 

A: For the students with a solid chemistry background, it’s integrating what they’ve learned in previous chemistry courses to an unfamiliar topic of brewing science. For the students with a limited chemistry background, they often struggle with the basic chemical concepts, but once they’ve mastered the fundamentals they do remarkably well in the later chemical concepts as the course gets more involved in the brewing aspects.

Q: As an instructor for the course, do you ever find that you’ve learned something from the students’ online discussion?

A: Every time I read the discussion and comments in the course. There is a wide variety of individuals in the course with a broad background. The knowledge that they bring the course has been a great learning experience.

Q: Ever learned anything surprising, and if so, what?

A: There have been several. I found it very interesting that there were home brewers that are dedicated to researching and recreating historical beers from centuries ago. The amount of anthropology, science and experimentation that takes is amazing.

Q: Anything else you feel students should know about the course, or any other reasons to take it?

A: Everyone is learning in the course. From the videos and content and from each other. This is a fun course and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to lead the #ChemBeerOU learners in the course. 

Learn more about OU’s “Chemistry of Beer” Janux course with our course overview and “9 Reasons to Take OU’s Chemistry of Beer” in which previous students share their reasons for enrolling.