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Dan Johnson
Teaching Professor
Biology Department
Wake Forest University
Amanda's Absence: Should Vioxx Be Kept Off the Market?

When chronic pain forces a top student to withdraw from college, biology instructor Dr. Sharpe learns that medications (in this case, Vioxx) may be removed from the market for many reasons, including safety concerns. As the case unfolds, students learn how the FDA balances drug safety against medical needs. As written, the case is appropriate for a non-majors biology course. It could also be adapted for use in a more advanced course in cell biology, pharmacology, or biochemistry, or modified to explore statistical analysis, specific analytical methods used for risk/benefit analysis, or bioethical issues.

What Happened to Beau?: How Amino Acids Affect Keratin Organization in Hair

This flipped case was designed to introduce students in a general introductory biology course to basic protein structure. The two videos and interrupted case use keratins in hair as model proteins. From the videos students learn how amino acids regulate protein structure, and how small changes in amino acid sequence have large impacts on overall protein organization and function. The case story focuses on a puppy whose hair changes from straight to curly when it sheds its coat. The protagonist tests the adult versus puppy hair, and discovers that the amino acid composition is different in the curly versus straight hair samples. Students apply basic principles of protein structure to hypothesize why the dog's coat switched from straight to curly. The case intentionally stops short of providing a complete answer to the mystery, so students think through the molecular processes logically rather than having a final "correct" answer. An optional activity is provided that makes the case more appropriate for an introductory cell biology class.