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Hooray For NMR Spectroscopy

by Greg Crowther and Do Peterson


Context

This song is a summary of NMR's many advantages as an experimental technique. The lyrics are based on Chapter 1 of my doctoral dissertation, "An analysis of metabolic fluxes in contracting skeletal muscle." The italicized lines are sung by someone who does not share the lead vocalist's enthusiasm for NMR.


Lyrics

I love my magnet; it measures molecules galore,
From fat and water to ATP and many more!
I scan live people! It's noninvasive; there's no mess!
Time resolution is several seconds, sometimes less!
But there are atoms you can't see.
The ones you can are enough for me!
Hooray for NMR spectroscopy!

I love my magnet; it gives me spectra full of peaks,
And, with a standard, I'll find the numbers that I seek.
Consider this case: peak A is twice the size of B.
If B's the standard, then you know A's molarity!
I don't like all this chemistry.
It's great for scientists like me!
Hooray for NMR spectroscopy!

BROADCASTER:
Van Scoyoc steps up to the console, and he's ready to go to work on the next patient. This one's a 62-year-old white male with LOTS of adipose tissue -- Could be tricky. Van Scoyoc gets the sign; he pushes the button; the patient is in and here's the shim ... and it's good! The crafty righthander extends his shimming streak to 37 consecutive patients! What a historic night this has been!

I love my magnet; it doesn't cause my subjects pain.
They'll gladly help me, sometimes without financial gain!
I scan their bodies -- or just one anatomic zone.
The coils and gradients let me choose muscle, brain, or bone!
Lying immobile ain't for me.
It's only for an hour or three!
Hooray for NMR spectroscopy!

BROADCASTER:
That's the final scan of the evening, wrapping up another breakthrough for Van Scoyoc and his team. From the University of Washington here in Seattle, this is Greg Crowther saying good night.



Other Files

MP3 (by Science Groove)

music video

sheet music


Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using an audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, and/or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity could begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.


Study Questions

(1) The narrator repeatedly sings, "I love my magnet." What kind of magnet is he referring to?

(2) Some people are not familiar with NMR spectroscopy (NMRS), but have heard of "getting an MRI." In both cases, MR stands for magnetic resonance. Is NMRS the same thing as MRI?

(3) As mentioned in the song, molecules that can be quantified with NMR spectroscopy include water and ATP. Which specific nuclei would be excited and measure in each case?

(4) What is meant by the line, "Time resolution is several seconds, sometimes less"?

(5) What is meant by the line, "But there are atoms you can't see"?

(6) Let's say that in the example suggested by the song, the concentration of compound B is known to be 5 millimolar. Can we then determine the concentration of compound A? If so, what is it?

(7) In the context of nuclear magnetic resonance, what is shimming?

(8) Why is keeping the subject in a stationary position (e.g., "lying immobile") important for the success of the experiment?

(9) Considering the specific content covered by this song, is there anything important that is missing, unclear, or misleading? If so, what?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)