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Dongfang Wang
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
Spelman College
A Decision to Branch Out: Evolution and the Domestication of Maize

In this flipped case study, students use the scientific method to investigate how changes in a few genes have shaped the evolution of maize plant architecture during domestication. To prepare for the case, students first watch a video developed by HHMI BioInteractive to learn the story behind maize domestication and make connections between traits and fitness. In a second video, students learn the vocabulary of scientific methodology, such as independent and dependent variables, correlation, requirement, and sufficiency. In class, students engage in data analysis and discussion focusing on the effects of mutation on gene expression, plant architecture, and the evolutionary fitness of individuals within a population. In addition to training students to use the method of science, the case also reinforces core concepts in evolution, information flow, and structure function. The case is suitable for sophomore-level introductory biology courses and bio-elective courses.