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ELVIS Meltdown!

Microbiology Concepts of Culture, Growth, and Metabolism

Co Authors:

Richard C. Stewart
Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics
University of Maryland

Ann C. Smith
Office of Undergraduate Studies
University of Maryland

Patricia A. Shields
Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics
University of Maryland


In this interrupted case study, students assume the role of a microbiologist working at a chemical company that makes polyurethane. When a collection unit designed to pick up extraterrestrial (ET) samples (nicknamed ELVIS) returns to earth, much of the polyurethane material had been degraded. Using information given to them in the case, the students' task is to analyze the samples and to “isolate and characterize” the ET microbes that may be responsible for the polyurethane degradation. The case was developed for an introductory general microbiology course for biology and non-biology majors.

  • To understand and apply knowledge of bacterial structure and function.
  • To understand the isolation and growth properties of microorganisms.
  • To understand and apply principles of microbial metabolism.
  • To understand the mechanisms of microbial growth and how to control growth.
Keywords: Bacteria; microbe; microbial growth; microbial degradation; light microscopy; phenotypic; phylogenetic; Gram positive; Gram negative; disinfection; sterilization; polyurethane
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Microbiology  
Date Posted: 11/19/08
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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