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Joan-Beth Gow
Professor of Biology
School of Professional Studies
Anna Maria College
Josie: An Interdisciplinary Case Study of Madness

In this interdisciplinary case, students meet Josie, the main character, who suffers from a variety of symptoms. Students must grapple with the conflicting data presented, which ultimately leads them to a diagnosis of either porphyria or schizophrenia. This case can be used in many ways depending on the focus of the course and the instructor. In its simplest form, it can be used to develop content-specific knowledge on the genetic illness porphyria and/or the psychological illness schizophrenia. In an interdisciplinary context, it can be used as a way to discuss complex modes of inheritance and types of confounding issues a genetic counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist might face when trying to sort through a complex family history to develop a pedigree or genogram. The case has been used successfully with majors and non-majors in psychology, biology, and genetics. Optional extensions to the case provide for reflection on the theme of "science in society" and how the perception of disease has changed over time.

Rhabdomyolysis: A Workout Breakdown

This directed case study focuses on exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis (exRML).  Students are guided though skeletal muscle cell membrane transport and calcium homeostasis.  They are then asked to predict how depletion of ATP at the skeletal muscle cell level could affect cellular membrane transport, skeletal muscle tissue integrity, blood composition, and kidney organ function. This cause-and-effect scenario, which incorporates human physiology at all levels from ion to organ, is presented in the context of the protagonist, "Rachel," who pushes her exercise regime too far and ends up in the hospital with exRML. Students are provided with a variety of clinical data (vital signs, blood values, and plotted data) and are then invited to apply what they have learned to determine how to tailor Rachel's treatment plan. This case was written for a general biology or human physiology course and is designed to be used within one 50-minute block.

Salem's Secrets: A Case Study on Hypothesis Testing and Data Analysis

This case study examines the Salem witch trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s. It is designed to provide students with an opportunity to analyze and critique data and help them understand the scientific method. Originally developed for a non-majors general biology course, the case could be used in a variety of other courses such as psychology, microbiology, sociology, biostatistics, and American history by focusing on particular aspects of the case. Likewise, this case provides an excellent opportunity for teaching across the curriculum.

Skinny Genes?: An Interdisciplinary Look at a Complex Behavioral Disorder

This case study introduces Megi, an active teenager who has recovered from anorexia nervosa.  The method of progressive disclosure is used to take students back in time as Megi recalls the physical and psychological aspects of her illness and the long path to recovery. The case was designed to be interdisciplinary as students grapple with the underlying causes of anorexia and particularly with the relative contributions of genetics vs. environment. The case conveys the complexity of anorexia and how societal perception of the disease and its cause has changed over time. The case has been used successfully in psychology and genetics courses with both majors and non-majors. The case could be readily used in biology courses and could be adapted for use in a nutrition or nursing course. Optional extensions to the case provide for more in depth reflection on the history of eating disorders and how society's perception of these complex illnesses has changed over time.

We Are Not Alone: The Unseen World of the Human Microbiome

This interrupted case study for the flipped classroom introduces the human microbiome from the perspective of one of its occupants, Heidi Helicobacter (Helicobacter pylori).  Heidi lives in the gut of Kristen, a college student, and discusses her fellow microbial inhabitants, functions of these various microbes, and alludes to factors that can disrupt the healthy human microbiome. Students prepare for class by viewing several brief videos and then discuss in class whether Kristen should undergo a fecal microbiota transplant to treat her Clostridium difficile infection.  A lab component has students model, using colored beads, how antibiotics can act as a selective agent for drug-resistant microbes such as C. difficile. The case concludes with Kristen about to give birth to a new baby several years later.  Students listen in as Kristen's microbes discuss the formation of the new baby's microbiome. The case has been used successfully in a general biology class and could easily be adapted for a microbiology, human physiology, ecology, or evolution course.