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Carly N. Jordan
Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
The George Washington University
A Curious Mission: An Analysis of Martian Molecules 

In this case study, students play the role of a NASA scientist tasked with analyzing samples of atmosphere and soil collected on Mars as part of the Mars Curiosity Mission. The case study takes place in the future when samples of the Martian atmosphere and surface have been returned to Earth as part of the fictional Curiosity Mission 5. Students identify which elements and molecules are present in those samples and draw the structural formula of each. Next, they use that information to determine which macromolecules could be created, and compare that list to molecules believed to exist on early Earth. Finally, students make a prediction about whether life (as we know it or otherwise) could exist on Mars, and discuss possible experimental designs to test their ideas. This case was developed for an introductory level general biology course. It could also be appropriate as an early review activity in a biochemistry course.

More Than Just a Cough: Exploring the Role of the Cytoskeleton in Fertility 

This interrupted case study explores the role of cytoskeletal structures on human health, specifically on respiratory function, sperm motility, and female fertility. It follows the story of a couple struggling to conceive a child and the doctors working to help them. Students are presented with clinical histories, narrative elements, documentary-style videos, and microscopic evidence in order to determine the cause of the couple's infertility. Along the way, they learn about the three types of cytoskeletal elements and the roles these play in cellular biology and human physiology. The use of videos makes it suitable for the "flipped classroom," allowing students to prepare outside the classroom for the case study, which they then complete in class. An original video by the author on the structure and function of microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filaments is included. The case was developed for an introductory level general biology course and could be delivered during a unit on the cell structure and function. The case could also be used in a cell biology course.