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Karobi Moitra
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
Trinity Washington University
Resurrection: Reviving a Deadly Flu Virus

This case study examines the molecular methods that were used to reverse engineer the 1918 influenza virus strain in order to try and solve the mystery of why it was so deadly. The story starts in the 1950s with the unsuccessful attempts to culture the influenza virus and follows scientists through to the turn of the century when cutting edge molecular tools enabled scientists to finally resurrect the 1918 virus through reverse genetics. The history and methods involved in resurrecting this deadly virus are reviewed in class with a PowerPoint presentation containing clicker questions (answered with a personal response system) and discussion questions (answered in small groups). This "clicker case" is suitable for high school biology and lower division undergraduate biology classes for non-majors. It could also be used in any lower division non-major class focused on human disease and the history of human disease.

The Interview: Hemoglobin vs. Myoglobin 

This case study examines the structure of hemoglobin and myoglobin and how the structure of these molecules dictates their function. The case is written as a play in which several candidates have responded to a help wanted ad seeking an employee with a strong work ethic, round-the-clock availability, and the capacity to carry oxygen in the human body and deliver it in a timely fashion when needed. The successful candidate also needs to carry a heavy load of carbon dioxide and dispose of it according to waste disposal regulations and be willing to work with human resources regarding salary and benefits. The play provides an engaging method of learning the basics of protein structure and the biochemistry of oxygen transport while also introducing the concepts of allostery and cooperative binding. The case can be used in a basic lower-level undergraduate physiology class, biochemistry class or even a cell and molecular biology class. It can also be used in an advanced-level high school biology class.

The Mona Lisa Molecule: Mysteries of DNA Unraveled 

This case study details the historical discovery of the structure of DNA. Images of this key molecule are as iconic as those of the Mona Lisa, and identifying its structure has proven to be as intriguing a mystery for scientists as the reason behind Mona Lisa's smile has been for art historians. The case is woven together by a series of fictional diary entries that detail the history of the discovery of DNA's structure, the major players involved, their ethical dilemmas, and the role of women in science. The case is designed for a high school course or introductory undergraduate genetics/ biochemistry courses. It can also be used as an interdisciplinary case study bridging genetics, bioethics, art, and the status of women in science. Designed as an interrupted case, it may be used in its entirety or in parts that pertain to a particular topic or discipline. No prior knowledge of genetics is required.