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A Can of Bull
This case study is designed to teach students at various levels about large biomolecules, nutrition, and product analysis. Students conduct a biochemical analysis of several popular energy drinks on the market, which many students purchase at fairly hi...

A Case of Medication Error
This case study begins with a real news article about a six-month-old baby who died from an overdose of medication administered by hospital staff. The infant was diagnosed with pneumonia and given an intravenous dose of the antibiotic azithromycin, the...

A Case of Respiratory Distress
This clinical case study was developed to engage students by making connections between core concepts in chemistry and physiological processes in the body. The case pertains to medication-induced methemoglobinemia, its etiology, diagnosis, and treatmen...

A Curious Mission: An Analysis of Martian Molecules
In this case study, students play the role of a NASA scientist tasked with analyzing samples of atmosphere and soil collected on Mars as part of the Mars Curiosity Mission. The case study takes place in the future when samples of the Martian atmosphere...

A Diet to Die For
This clicker case is designed to lead students to a conceptual understanding of oxidative phosphorylation (and, by analogy, photosynthesis). Students begin with a pre-class handout that presents background information on DNP, a weight-loss drug that wa...

A Light Lunch?
This case study was developed to engage students by making connections between core concepts in chemistry and obesity related factors. The case is in the form of a story between two friends and their underestimation of the calories they consumed in a m...

A Perfect Storm in the Operating Room
In this interrupted case study, a high school biology student shadows her uncle, an anesthesiologist, at a hospital for a school assignment. She witnesses a patient who has an unusual reaction to his anesthesia and nearly dies.  As they try to dia...

A Rigorous Investigation
In this directed case study, students investigate the cause of death in an incident that occurs late at night in a research lab. The overall goal of the case is to make the abstract concepts involved in cellular respiration more accessible to students....

A Sickeningly Sweet Baby Boy
When a newborn develops symptoms eerily similar to those of an older sibling who died shortly after birth, his Mennonite parents are understandably alarmed. They soon discover that their son has Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), a recessively inherited...

A Yellow-Bellied Lawyer?
This interrupted case study tells the story of Michael, a Harvard law graduate with a stressful job and a seemingly heavy drinking problem. Students are provided with background information, medical history, and lab results in order to guide them towar...

Acids, pH, and Buffers
In this “clicker case,” a three-year-old girl gets into the medicine cabinet and ingests an unknown number of aspirin tablets. Her brother calls 911 and the girl is taken to a nearby hospital, where she is treated. The case is used to discu...

African Illness: A Case of Parasites?
This case is based on a British patient presenting to a hospital with an array of symptoms after returning from an African safari. Students learn about potential causes of the symptoms based on the patient's potential exposure to parasites endemic to A...

Agony and Ecstasy
This interrupted case study explores the scientific, legal, and societal complexities of repurposing an illicit substance, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known as "Ecstasy" or "Molly," into a clinically accepted medicine for treating po...

Aliens on Earth?
The discovery of a bacterium capable of substituting arsenic for phosphorus in its DNA was announced with much fanfare in 2010. It was immediately and very publicly critiqued by researchers posting their analyses of the paper on their blogs. The author...

Am I a Girl, or a Boy?
A baby is born with ambiguous genitalia to parents from the Dominican Republic and is determined to be a female based on general appearance.  At the child's 12-year-old checkup, the parents and the child are distraught as they report to the pediat...

Amanda's Absence
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...

An Adventure in Stereochemistry
Playfully alluding to Lewis Carroll’s tale of Alice Through the Looking Glass, this case study considers the problems that would arise if a person were to cross over into a mirror-image environment. Students read about a drowsy undergrad...

An Infectious Cure
This four-part interrupted case on phage therapy was developed for a freshmen non-majors course in molecular biology. The case begins with a story inspired by real events where Europeans imposed a treatment for cholera on the unwilling population of an...

Another Can of Bull?
This case is a “clicker” adaptation of a similarly titled case by Merle Heidemann and Gerald Urquhart of Michigan State University, “A Can of Bull?” The story introduces students to basic principles of metabolism and energy thro...

Bad Fish, Bad Bird
This "clicker case" is based on the General Biology edition of James Hewlett’s “Bad Fish” case in our collection. The case follows the story of biologist Dr. Westwood, who is accidentally poisoned, first while traveling in Asia and th...

Bad Fish: General Biology Edition
In this version, developed for a course in general biology, the protagonist of the case, Dr. Westwood, survives an accidental poisoning-not once, but twice. Students read about each incident, applying what they learn in each part of the case to the lat...

Bilirubin
In this case study, two students meet a professor who surprises them by telling them that a biochemically important molecule’s structure has been incorrectly represented in the published literature - in an article in the Proceedings of the Na...

Biological Terrorism
In the weeks following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, anthrax-laced envelopes were mailed to individuals in government and the news media. Thousands were treated for exposure, and five people were...

Breast Cancer Risk
This case study takes a combined directed and discussion approach to explore risk factors for breast cancer. After a preparatory reading assignment, students assess various medical histories derived from actual women with breast cancer and rank their o...

Cats Have Nine Lives, But Only One Liver
In this case, a college student gives her cat Tylenol not knowing its potential harmful effects. The cat survives, but the incident motivates her to research the reaction mechanism underlying the liver toxicity of acetaminophen. The case outlines po...

Diabetes and Insulin Signaling
Cellular signaling, otherwise known as signal transduction, is the mechanism by which cellular context and environmental situation are used to regulate or adjust cellular behavior. Multicellular organisms use cellular signaling to coordinate responses ...

Evolution in Action
This case study is based on Dr. Richard Lenski’s ongoing studies of evolution in E. coli. Students are introduced to prokaryotic biology and to Lenski’s studies based on serial broth cultures of E. coli, which have been mo...

Face the Fats
This clicker case introduces students to the biochemistry of lipids through the story of Pete, a college student who begins to consider his nutritional fat intake after watching a commercial for the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin. In this case, stud...

Fat Facts
It's Mother's Day and Dolly, a high school senior, is making a Mediterranean salad for her mom, who is a college chemistry major and who likes to take every opportunity to teach Dolly what she has learned in school. Today is no exception, as she guides...

From Cow Juice to a Billion Dollar Drug, With Some Breakthroughs in Between
Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes was a death sentence. Despite the successful management of diabetes with purified animal insulin, potentially severe side effects were abundant, and alternative ways to produ...

From Prairies to Corn Fields for Fuel
With increasing U.S. government support for biofuel production in the late 2000s came increased pressure to convert more land to cornfields for ethanol. To make way for more corn, millions of acres of prairie grassland were plowed under, destroying an ...

From Twiggy to Tubby
This case study explores the topics of diffusion, osmosis, membrane transport, and the physiological significance of glucose and insulin in the human body. The story begins with a high school athlete, Timmy, who is incredibly efficient at metabolizing ...

Holes in the Matter
This case centers on a fictional group of young adults who studied abroad together in Scotland as college students. A number of them develop disease symptoms and die a few years after the trip. The cause of death is determined to be a prion disease. Ap...

I Scream for Ice Cream
Lactose intolerance, caused by a lack of persistent lactase enzyme expression, is a trait commonly observed in adult humans, with varying geographic prevalence depending on dietary habits in different cultures. This case study follows a diverse group o...

Joel E. Greengiant Learns About Peas
This case study follows purveyors of peas, Joel E. and Jolene Greengiant, as they learn about the origin, biochemistry, genetics and eventual artificial selection of sweet (wrinkled) peas, all in the context of evolutionary biology. This integrative ap...

Kermit to Kermette?
This case study explores the unintended side effects of chemicals introduced into the environment, specifically organic compounds that can act as environmental estrogens (chemical castration agents that can interfere with the sexual development of embr...

Monday on the Metabolic Ward
This case is a variation of a longer case in our collection titled "Murder or Medical Mishap? Death on the Metabolic Ward," which has a "murder-mystery" aspect to it.  In both versions of the case, students assume the role of pre-med students part...

Mother's Milk Cures Cancer?
This case study on the immune system, cell cycle regulation, and cancer biology explores the role that serendipity plays in new discoveries in science, how scientific research is funded, and the personal and professional implications of unexpectedly fi...

Murder or Medical Mishap?
In this "clicker case," students assume the role of pre-med students participating in a summer internship. As interns, they diagnose several different genetic deficiencies of glycolytic pathway enzymes based on the biochemical activity of blood samples...

New Ways to Breathe
This case study follows a young cystic fibrosis (CF) patient named Lucas. Through Lucas's story and interactions between his parents and pediatrician, students learn about the scientific background and basis of CF. By reviewing email correspondence bet...

Newsflash! Transport Proteins on Strike!
This role-play case study teaches students about plasma membrane transport and the functions of transport proteins in the phospholipid bilayer. Students act out the parts of molecules and structures in a fantastical cellular world where the unionized t...

Oh, What a Difference a Carbon Can Make!
Sarah, trapped in the middle of a two-hour lecture on enzyme inhibition, attempts to escape by asking a question. She relates an old story she heard about some teenagers who drank from bottles of antifreeze marked "alcohol." Half of them died, but thos...

One Headache After Another: Biochemistry Edition
Topamax®, developed to treat epilepsy, is also used as a preventative for migraine. In this case study, students read about a woman experiencing a side-effect of Topamax and from there move to a review of acid-base balance in the human body. The ca...

Pharmacogenetics: How Genetic Information Is Used to Treat Disease
In this clicker case, two teenagers are diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the bone marrow where there is an abnormal overproduction of lymphocyte precursors. The girls' reactions to treatment are very different, however, du...

Properties of Gases: A Case Study of the Bends
In 2012, Mike Prickett, a world-renowned underwater cinematographer, was working on a commercial photo shoot in Tahiti when he witnessed a fellow diver sinking and drowning. While saving the drowning victim, Mike fell victim to decompression sickness (...

Rice ’n Beans or Ricin Beans?
Taylor must write a report about a natural toxin while she is home from college on break. After a family dinner conversation about the latest attempt to poison a politician via a letter, Taylor decides to explore how ricin acts as a poison. Students wo...

Rough Games and the Brain
In this "clicker case study," students learn about the chemical nature of protein molecules-in particular, how the constituent parts of proteins (amino acids) contribute to protein three-dimensional structure and folding. Several important human diseas...

Should Bill Buy Sammy?
In this case, students are shown the relevance of chemistry in daily decision-making by taking a look at the popular dietary supplement, s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), widely used in Europe for depression, arthritis, and liver disease and now available i...

Sickle Cell Anemia
In this case study on sickle cell anemia, students are introduced to some of the key researchers responsible for determining the molecular basis of the disease and learn about the functioning of erythrocytes as well as the notion that changes in the en...

Sweet Indigestion
These days it seems like everyone is counting carbs. About 24 million Americans report they have cut carbohydrates from their diet, and 44 million more say they may try a low-carb diet in the next two years. But what do people really know about carbohy...

Sweet Truth
This case reviews concepts of monosaccharide, disaccharide, and polysaccharide and contrasts the structures of different pairs of carbohydrates as well as the structure of sorbitol, a sugar substitute. It also depicts stereo chemistry concepts such as ...

The Campus Coffee Shop
Since caffeine is a widely used substance, especially by college age students, this case on the effects of caffeine on the human body serves as a real-world connection to many students’ lives. The case is divided into sections covering background...

The Case of the Missing Bees
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has claimed approximately one-third of the commercial honeybee population in recent years. A number of causes have been suggested for this phenomenon, including the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) by the be...

The Case of the Tainted Taco Shells: Advanced Edition
This case discusses some of the issues associated with the use of genetically modified plants, including ecological risks, resistance, and allergenicity. The case has two versions, or editions.  The "General Edition," also published on this site, ...

The Case of the Tainted Taco Shells: General Edition
This case discusses some of the issues associated with the use of genetically modified plants, including ecological risks, resistance, and allergenicity. The case has two versions, or editions.  This edition (the "General Edition") emphasizes the ...

The Chemistry of Cocaine
This case study on the chemistry of cocaine is in the form of a classroom discussion between a professor and her students about cocaine, its addictive properties, a search for an addiction treatment, and the chemistry involved in the synthesis of cocai...

The Chemistry of Cooley's Anemia
Young parents, Max and Andrea Forest, learn that their child is suffering from the genetic disorder, thalassemia. Treatment requires a lifetime commitment to whole blood transfusion and chelation therapy, both of which must be administered on a daily t...

The Chemistry of Curcumin
This case study was developed to engage students by making connections between core concepts in organic chemistry and the health-promoting chemical, curcumin, found in turmeric. The case is in the form of a dialogue between a couple about the surprisin...

The Fun in Fermentation
When covering the process of cellular respiration, advanced high school and undergraduate biology classes present fermentation as a means of anaerobic energy production in certain organisms and in muscle metabolism. Although most biology textbooks cove...

The Interview: Hemoglobin vs. Myoglobin
This case study examines the structure of hemoglobin and myoglobin and how the structure of these molecules dictates their function. The case is written as a play in which several candidates have responded to a help wanted ad seeking an employee with a...

The Modern Caveman’s Dilemma
During the Paleolithic era, human life expectancy was only 33 years—roughly half of what it is today. We owe our more extended lives in part to better hygiene, medicines, and more plentiful foods. Yet some people aspire to return to that earlier ...

The Molecular Origin of Life: Replication or Metabolism-First? Advanced Version
This case explores both the evidence and inconsistencies in the two major hypotheses for the origins of life on Earth: Replication-First or Metabolism-First. The case has two versions published on this website - one is written at the introductory level...

The Mona Lisa Molecule: Mysteries of DNA Unraveled
This case study details the historical discovery of the structure of DNA. Images of this key molecule are as iconic as those of the Mona Lisa, and identifying its structure has proven to be as intriguing a mystery for scientists as the reason behind Mo...

The Secret of Popcorn Popping
Focusing on the important role of water in living cellular chemistry, this case emphasizes the general solubility rule, "like dissolves like," which explains how water can serve as a medium for transporting the cell's soluble nutrients and wastes. The ...

The Spark of Life
In biology classes, students are typically taught that spontaneous generation does not take place. And yet, at the origin of life, life had to arise without parents from abiotic processes. What were those processes that gave rise to the first life?&nbs...

Thiamin Deficiency
In this directed case study developed for a biochemistry class, students read about the differences in the dietary preferences and practices for preparing and consuming rice among the three major communities of Malaysia, the local Malays and the immigr...

Those Old Kentucky Blues
This interrupted case study begins with the construction of a pedigree following an initial encounter with a clan of “blue people.” After constructing a pedigree, students decide whether the condition (methemoglobinemia) is a heritable trai...

To Be or Not to Be ... an Inhibitory Neurotransmitter
Jessica and George are students struggling to understand the forces which control ions moving across membranes.  For the nervous system in particular, ions create the electrical signals neurons use to communicate with one another.  Jessica is...

Vikings on Mars
Three experiments carried out by the Mars Viking landers in 1976 remain, to this day, our only attempt to detect life on another planet. All other efforts have looked for the presence of elements or conditions thought to be necessary for life rather th...

Why is Patrick Paralyzed?
This “clicker case” introduces students to a rare genetic disease in which an enzyme is deficient in a critical metabolic pathway—the first step in aerobic respiration. Based on a real-life situation, the case challenges students to m...

Wiggles Isn’t Wiggling: Apoptosis Edition
This case study tells the story of a family pet that is diagnosed with cancer.  Claire learns that her dog Wiggles has lymphoma, and that histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) offer a potential treatment. Students integrate material related to th...

Wiggles Isn’t Wiggling: Gene Expression Edition
This case study tells the story of a family pet that is diagnosed with cancer.  Claire learns that her dog Wiggles has lymphoma, and that histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) offer a potential treatment. Students integrate material related to th...

Yvette's Brave Battle
This case is based on the true story of a woman with choriocarcinoma, a rare type of rapidly dividing and metastatic cancer derived from cells of the placenta. The case begins with Yvette being admitted to a hospital due to neurological irregularities....