New search
download case
  • Overview
  • Teaching Notes
  • Supplemental Materials
  • Comments/Replies

Murder by HIV? Grades 5-8 Edition

Co Authors:

Michèle I. Shuster
Department of Biology
New Mexico State University

Naowarat (Ann) Cheeptham
Department of Biological Sciences
Thompson Rivers University

Laura B. Regassa
Department of Biology
Georgia Southern University


This case study gives students an opportunity to draw a conclusion about an actual crime that was prosecuted in Louisiana. A physician was accused of intentionally infecting his ex-girlfriend with HIV-tainted blood drawn from a patient in his practice.  The scientific investigation uses bioinformatics tools and relies on the ability to interpret phylogenetic trees.  Students develop hypotheses about the crime, then use sequences and online tools to generate a phylogenetic tree to test the hypotheses and render a verdict.  The authors have designed and implemented three parallel cases - one for Grades 5-8, one for Grades 9-12, and one for upper-division undergraduates, specifically for a course in molecular evolution.  This is the Grades 5-8 version.

  • Develop hypotheses based on preliminary observations and evidence.
  • Make predictions based on their hypotheses.
  • Use nucleotide sequences to build a phylogenetic tree.
  • Interpret the tree to draw a conclusion about an HIV infection.
  • Illustrate the use of science and technology in society.
Keywords: Phylogenetic tree; nucleotide sequences; human immunodeficiency virus; HIV; viral life cycles; mutation rates; reverse transcriptase sequences; murder; crime; criminal investigation; forensics; Louisiana
Topical Area: Ethics, Science and the media, Social issues
Educational Level: Middle school
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Directed, Discussion
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Molecular Biology   Bioinformatics   Forensic Science  
Date Posted: 1/29/2013
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.

Teaching Notes

Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering here.

Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

  Download Teaching Notes

Supplemental Materials

This .txt file contains the sequence for copying and pasting into the MUSCLE program.

  HIV ntide seqs v2 fas Text File

City State:
security code
Enter Security Code: