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Ann C. Smith
Assistant Dean
Office of Undergraduate Studies
University of Maryland
Cow of the Future: Genetically Engineering a Microbe to Reduce Bovine Methane Emissions

In this case developed for an introductory general microbiology course, students consider concepts of bacterial genetics as they act as consultants to a foundation interested in funding innovative products. Students take the role of advising "the baroness" who provides the funds for the foundation. The Baroness has no expertise in bacterial genetics and is trying to understand a proposal for the development of a microbial product that would impact the amount of methane emitted to the atmosphere by cattle.  Students must consider the role of rumen bacteria and how genetic modification may alter the potential of these bacteria. The case engages students in learning basic principles of bacterial genetics and biotechnology as they consider how microbes and microbial processes impact the environment. The case could also be used in an introductory genetics or biotechnology course.

ELVIS Meltdown!: Microbiology Concepts of Culture, Growth, and Metabolism

In this interrupted case study, students assume the role of a microbiologist working at a chemical company that makes polyurethane. When a collection unit designed to pick up extraterrestrial (ET) samples (nicknamed ELVIS) returns to earth, much of the polyurethane material had been degraded. Using information given to them in the case, the students' task is to analyze the samples and to “isolate and characterize” the ET microbes that may be responsible for the polyurethane degradation. The case was developed for an introductory general microbiology course for biology and non-biology majors.