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Peggy Brickman
Department of Plant Biology
University of Georgia
Bloodline: A Human Genetics Case 

In this "clicker" case, based on a TV drama about a family secret that only knowledge of genetics can solve, students apply what they have read and heard about genetic diseases to determine familial relationships and predict the chance that a family member has inherited a genetic condition. The case is designed for use in a one-semester introductory biology course taken primarily by freshmen and sophomores to fulfill a general education requirement, but it could be used in any introductory biology course to help students understand and practice applying concepts related to human genetics. In addition, the case could be expanded or modified for use in a genetics or anatomy and physiology class in which human genetics and pedigrees are taught. The case is presented in class using a PowerPoint presentation (~1MB) punctuated by questions that students respond using "clickers" before moving on to the next slide. It could be adapted for use without these technologies.

FOXP2 and Speech: A Gene Expression Case

FOXP2 was first identified as a human language gene when a mutated version of the gene was found to cause speech problems in the KE family in London. In 2009, a research team transferred the cloned FOXP2 gene into mice and demonstrated that the FOXP2 transgenic mice made different sounds. This "clicker case" uses personal response systems (aka clickers) and a PowerPoint presentation with multiple-choice questions to explore the cutting-edge science behind this discovery. Figures adapted from peer-reviewed research articles are also used to teach about gene expression and the steps for creating a transgenic mouse. The case was developed for an introductory biology course for non-science majors and science majors but could be expanded for an upper-level molecular biology or a biotechnology course.

Make a Life to Save a Life 

In this “clicker case,” students learn about meiosis through the real-life story of a couple who used pre-implantation genetic screening to select an embryo that was a genetic match for an older sibling with leukemia, and thus able to provide a source of bone marrow cells. The case caused a stir in the medical ethics community.  Before this, parents had only used pre-implantation genetic screening to select for a baby that would be free from a genetic disorder. Instead, this child was conceived as a treatment for his older sister.  The case was developed for use in an introductory biology course.  It consists of a PowerPoint presentation (~1.5MB) shown in class that is punctuated by multiple-choice questions the students respond to using clickers. It could be adpated for use without these technologies.

Rough Games and the Brain: The Structure and Function of Proteins

In this "clicker case study," students learn about the chemical nature of protein molecules-in particular, how the constituent parts of proteins (amino acids) contribute to protein three-dimensional structure and folding. Several important human diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, BSE (Mad Cow disease), an inherited form of emphysema, Alzheimer's, and even many cancers are believed to result from protein miss-folding. Students often view these as "old-people" diseases, but may be unaware that many athletes suffer from dementia and have problems much like Alzheimer's at a very early age due to concussions suffered in their sport, a condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This case focuses on the efforts made by fans and ex-players to highlight the serious problem of head trauma and the resulting CTE symptoms caused by protein-filled plaques seen in many pro-football players, boxers, and even wrestlers. As students learn about what causes CTE, they begin to see the need to understand protein composition and folding, and how amino-acid composition and folding affect protein function.

Sweet Indigestion: A Directed Case Study on Carbohydrates

These days it seems like everyone is counting carbs. About 24 million Americans report they have cut carbohydrates from their diet, and 44 million more say they may try a low-carb diet in the next two years. But what do people really know about carbohydrates? This directed case study, designed for use in a large enrollment introductory course, teaches students how to recognize carbohydrates in the foods they eat and to differentiate between different classes of carbohydrates. Students learn how the body utilizes carbohydrates and discuss whether or not eliminating them from their diet can be healthful.

Take Two and Call Me in the Morning: A Case Study in Cell Structure and Function

In this “clicker case,” students read about a college student who becomes sick. As they set out to identify the cause of the illness, students learn about the differences between viruses, prokaryotes, and eukaryotes in order to decide which organism is causing the infection. The case consists of a handout that students partially complete before class as well as an in-class PowerPoint presentation (~3.4MB) with questions that the students answer using clickers. The case could be used in any introductory biology course or as a review of cell structure in an anatomy and physiology course.

The Case of the Druid Dracula 

This case is based on a lurid crime featured on the BBC program Crimewatch in December 2001 that was solved thanks to forensic DNA analysis. Students learn how the structure of DNA and the mechanism used by cells to duplicate DNA were critical to the forensic analysis. They then determine the statistical validity of the forensic data in the same way a prosecutor would prepare the case for a courtroom. Written for an introductory biology course of 300+ students, the teaching notes for the case describe how students work in permanent small groups in a lecture hall setting to collaboratively solve the case in class.

The Case of the Druid Dracula: Clicker Case Version 

This “clicker case” is a modified version of another case in our collection by the same name. It uses a PowerPoint presentation (~3MB) to present the case, which is punctuated by multiple-choice questions that students answer in class using hand-held personal response systems ("clickers"). The story revolves around a murder committed in Wales that was solved through DNA analysis. Students learn about DNA structure and replication, and how scientists have adapted this process for use in experimentation and forensic analysis, including PCR analysis and DNA fingerprinting. The students then use this knowledge to identify possible suspects in the crime. The case is designed for use in an introductory biology course either for science majors or non-majors. It could be modified for use in upper level classes as well.