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Kim R. Finer
Professor
kfiner@kent.edu
Department of Biological Sciences
Kent State University at Stark
Sunny Skies and a Lurking Microbe 

Based on a true story, this case study chronicles the development of a wound infection that began as a minor cut that occurred while carrying out a typical household task (moving furniture).  Identifying the causative agent ultimately took three separate visits to a clinical setting over the course of three months.  The cause of infection (which is a bit surprising and unusual) was only identified after a specimen from the wound was obtained.  By reading the case study, students follow the treatment plan in a step-wise fashion and answer questions related to diagnosis and treatment.  They are also asked to critique or question the approach based upon previous knowledge or knowledge gained during investigation of case details. This case is appropriate for an undergraduate allied health microbiology course; an infectious disease module in an undergraduate major's microbiology course; or an introductory post-graduate professional allied health course. In all situations, research questions can be modified or expanded to address the appropriate student level and course/module learning objectives.


The Lady of Charleston?: A Case of Wrongful Gender Assignment?

This case uses the real story of Dawn Langley Simmons, who may have been misidentified as male at birth, to illustrate the developmental basis of human sexual dimorphism and how gender misidentification may occur. Students also consider the emotional, legal, and societal implications of gender misassignment and reassignment. Designed for a junior-level human genetics course for allied health students, the case could be used in a number of other courses including physiology, endocrinology, developmental biology, general biology, and psychology.


Vaccines, Social Media, and the Public Health 

While the "vaccine controversy" has made headlines since the late 1990s, the emergence and popularity of social media has created a public opinion space bursting with pseudoscience, debatable claims and anecdotes regarding the value and importance of childhood vaccines. Because college students get a good deal of news and information from these resources, it is imperative that they distinguish science from pseudoscience and do not perpetuate rumor and falsehoods.  In this case study, written for lower division non-science majors, students will view videos on the scientific method and a mock talk show, analyze data, and scrutinize social media posts.  One of the takeaway points is that if a post/blog/interview identifies a victim, villain, and hero then the student should suspect a story grounded in belief involving pseudoscience.  Following completion of the case, students will hopefully come to conclusions about vaccines based more in the realm of science rather than pseudoscience and continue to apply the scientific method when evaluating social media posts on other scientific topics.