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Susan Nava-Whitehead
Associate Professor
Sciences and Education Department
Becker 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.

Modern Frankenstein?: The Science and Social Science of Organ Replacement

This interdisciplinary case study uses the format of a progressive disclosure to explore certain advances in biotechnology and evaluate them within the framework of societal needs, concerns and pressures.  When faced with a heart valve transplant, a high school student and her mother must decide between multiple approaches, some current and others emergent. Highlighted in this case study are the topics of xenotransplantation, 3D bioprinting and the mature minor rule. The case includes a role-playing, public hearing activity that can be used to explore many aspects at the interface of technology and culture: religious rights, parental rights, public health care policy and safety, animal rights, economic issues of organ marketing, and psychological issues of body image.  This case study was originally designed for first year collegiate classes (introduction to biology, introduction to psychology) but is also applicable to AP high school. The flexible nature of the case also allows for expansion of several aspects for advanced classes across multiple disciplines.

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.