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Monika I. Konaklieva
Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry
American University
Accidental Drowning or Foul Play? 

This case was developed for use in the first semester of a sophomore organic chemistry laboratory to illustrate how a combination of techniques is usually required in the identification of chemical compounds. It involves a murder mystery with a forensic twist. Students are told that two bodies have recently been recovered from two different lakes. Due to a mix-up at the morgue, the coroner’s office is unable to determine which body came from which lake. The students’ task is to develop a methodology to solve this mystery as well as determine whether the deaths were the result of murder or mishap.  The case could also be used in instrumental analysis courses or adapted for a non-majors course in the general education curriculum.

As Light Meets Matter: Art Under Scrutiny

In this dilemma case, the central character, a museum curator, must decide whether or not to show a painting as a hitherto “undiscovered” Cezanne. The stylistic analysis suggests it is for real, but data obtained using different spectroscopic techniques are inconclusive. Students study the data and then make a decision as to whether they believe the painting is authentic or a fake. Written for a general chemistry course for non-majors, the case could be used in a variety of other courses including general chemistry for science majors, introduction to spectroscopy, instrumental analysis, and conservation science. It could also be adapted for use in other non-majors science courses with the focus of discussion on how scientific data can be used to authenticate or de-authenticate a work of art.