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Kevin M. Bonney
Clinical Assistant Professor
Liberal Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
New York University
African Illness: A Case of Parasites? 

This case is based on a British patient presenting to a hospital with an array of symptoms after returning from an African safari. Students learn about potential causes of the symptoms based on the patient's potential exposure to parasites endemic to Africa, specifically those that cause African trypanosomiasis (also known as "African sleeping sickness") and malaria. Students research the various aspects of parasite biology, synthesize a diagnostic plan for the patient, and develop a public health campaign aimed at eradicating the parasite from humans and livestock in an African community. The case is appropriate for courses in introductory biology, immunology, microbiology, parasitology, public health, tropical diseases, and African studies.

Bonding with the Tutor: How to Stick Together in Chemistry 

This case study presents the story of "Nick," a student who has been assigned the task of writing a research paper describing the fundamentals of chemical bonds and how they relate to human life. When Nick experiences difficulty remembering information about the different types of chemical bonds, he turns to his tutor, Josh, for help. Josh explains orbitals and valence electrons to Nick, and then they together review nonpolar and polar covalent bonds, ionic bonds, and hydrogen bonds. A final practical application exercise requires that students write about how different types of chemical bonds may relate to the development of Alzheimer's disease and to the mechanism of action of potential drug treatments.  The case is presented with PowerPoint slides and is designed to be used with a personal response system ("clickers"), but students can instead record their answers on paper or share them verbally.  The content is appropriate for use in high school and undergraduate introductory chemistry and biology courses.

From Gummy Bears to Celery Stalks: Diffusion and Osmosis 

This is an interrupted case study that intersperses information about diffusion and osmosis with content review and knowledge application questions, as well as a simple experiment that can be conducted without the use of a laboratory. This case study is appropriate for use in undergraduate or high school general biology courses. The case begins with a narrative followed by a set of review questions used to introduce background information about diffusion and osmosis and define the terms active transport and passive transport. The second part of the case includes instructions for a simple experiment using gummy bears soaked in different solution to demonstrate osmosis that can be conducted by students at home or in a classroom. This is followed by an explanation of how the principles of diffusion and osmosis affect animal and plant cells. The case concludes with review questions and discussion of two other simple experiments that further demonstrate osmosis, one of which can be conducted by students at home.

Putting the Pieces Together: The Discovery of DNA Structure and Replication 

This case study provides an overview of the seminal experimental work that led to the discovery of DNA structure and the confirmation of the semi-conservative model of DNA replication. By guiding students through a chronological series of historic experiments and discussing some of the collaborations and controversies involved in the original research, students learn about the history and nature of science in addition to several important biological concepts. A number of recommended videos, including one created by the author, enable instructors to use the "flipped-classroom" mode of instruction according to which students read primary literature and watch videos on their own before group discussions and activities. The case study was developed for use in an introductory undergraduate biology course, and would also be appropriate for use in a high school biology course. Some prior knowledge or instruction may be required, depending on the level and learning objectives of the course.

Sick on a South American Sugarcane Plantation 

This case study familiarizes readers with a disease that affects millions of people in Central and South America while illustrating a relatively uncommon route of transmission.  The narrative is based on reports of oral transmission of Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease, through consumption of freshly prepared juices contaminated with T. cruzi.  Students read about two plantation workers in Brazil who develop a disease with ambiguous symptoms of unknown origin, and then research potential causes, diagnostic tests, and treatments. Students will need to apply critical thinking skills to determine the most likely pathogen, understand the basic biology of that pathogen, and synthesize plans for a public health campaign aimed at decreasing the incidence of the disease. The case also touches on socioeconomic issues associated with neglected tropical diseases. Designed for use in an undergraduate microbiology course, the case is also appropriate for high school or undergraduate courses in introductory biology, microbiology, parasitology, and public health. It may even be useful for an interdisciplinary Latin American studies program.