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Kristen H. Short
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
Manchester University
Hidden in Plain Sight: Analysis of Biodiversity

This case study tells the story of John and Mary, two first-year college students learning about biodiversity while on a trip to Costa Rica where they become interested in studying butterflies (Astraptes fulgerator). Designed for use in a flipped classroom setting, the case includes a number of short videos that students watch on their own in order to prepare for a PowerPoint presentation shown in class. The presentation includes clicker questions that sometimes test application of knowledge directly, and at other times ask for predictions. Students will learn how genes are chosen for barcoding studies and how gene trees can be interpreted. By the end of the case, John and Marie ultimately discover that A. fulgerator is actually a complex of several cryptic species discovered through DNA barcoding, and additional applications of barcoding are discussed. The case was originally designed for an introductory biology course for biology or environmental studies majors, but could also be adapted for specialized courses such as conservation biology or molecular biology.

mRNA Processing: No Longer a Headache

This clicker case study follows a dialogue between two college students, Lucy and Dan, as they discover how alternative splicing of mRNA molecules can allow a single gene to code for multiple proteins. Dan is participating in a clinical trial for a drug that may treat his migraines by inhibiting calcitonin gene-related peptide, and Lucy is working in a summer research lab that studies the protein calcitonin. They soon realize that the two proteins are both encoded by the same gene, and through their questioning and dialogue they come to understand the phenomenon of alternative splicing. They also learn about other steps of mRNA processing and about monoclonal antibodies. This case was designed to be taught in a flipped classroom, but could easily be adapted for a more traditional classroom setting if content covered in the pre-class videos is covered during the case study instead. It was designed for an introductory-level molecular biology course, but could be adapted for higher levels by including more information about the physiology and regulatory mechanisms involved.