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A Decision to Branch Out
In this flipped case study, students use the scientific method to investigate how changes in a few genes have shaped the evolution of maize plant architecture during domestication. To prepare for the case, students first watch a video developed by HHMI...

A Different Kind of Stress
Protein folding and trafficking is essential for normal cell function, and when it goes awry it can lead to various chronic conditions, including fatty liver disease, diabetes, and Parkinson's. The narrative of this case study follows two undergraduate...

A Family in Need: In-Class Case Study on Cancer Genetics
This case is designed as an in-class, problem-based learning activity for students to learn about several innovative medical applications of molecular biology. Students assume the role of a second-year medical student assigned to work with a pediatric ...

A Family in Need: Internet-Enhanced Case Study on Cancer Genetics
This problem-based learning case was designed for students to learn about several innovative medical applications of molecular biology. Students assume the role of a second-year medical student assigned to work with a pediatric oncologist who has just ...

A Metabolic Storm
This "clicker" case presents the true story of a 20-year-old athlete who developed a life threatening reaction to anesthesia during a simple elective surgical procedure. His response was unexpected, but not unusual for individuals who possess an inheri...

A Recipe for Invention
In this case study, designed to help break down stereotypes about scientists and engineers, students research the personal and professional lives of researchers in their field. The case was designed for use in high school to graduate courses in a varie...

A Right to Her Genes
In this true story, students examine the case of a woman with a family predisposition to cancer who is considering genetic testing. Students learn about various aspects of DNA testing and determine how to counsel the woman. The case was designed for an...

Abracadabra
This case introduces students to HIV, its life cycle, treatment, and problems associated with treatment options. The case, which incorporates critical thinking skills, active learning, self-directed study, and peer-to-peer learning, was developed for u...

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...

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...

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...

An Unusual Case of Animal Reproduction
This case study in human reproduction follows Andrea, a college biology student who discovers she is pregnant with twins, but is not sure who the father is. Students are presented with a variety of signs, symptoms, and physiological information that th...

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: Cell and Molecular Biology Edition
In this version, developed for classes in cell and molecular 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 ...

Bringing Back Baby Jason
This dilemma case, designed for use in an undergraduate genetics course, explores the basic genetic concepts underlying the cloning process as well as the ethical, medical, political, economic, and religious issues surrounding human cloning. While the ...

BSL-4: Authorized Personnel Only
This case study is based on the 2014 Ebola epidemic that spread to multiple highly populated countries in West Africa, making it the largest and most devastating outbreak in the history of the virus. The storyline, inspired by a compilation of factual ...

Chimpanzee Droppings Lead Scientists to Evolutionary Discovery
This interrupted case study focuses on the research of Dr. Beatrice Hahn, who investigates DNA sequences in chimpanzee droppings in order to explore the origins of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Students first consider the types of data that c...

Classic Experiments in Molecular Biology
All introductory biology textbooks, and many sophomore-level genetics textbooks as well, describe several classic experiments in molecular biology. This interrupted case study takes students through two of these classic experiments, namely, those by Gr...

Colon Cancer
In this case, developed for an introductory genetics class, students meet a woman whose family has a history of colon cancer. Students create a pedigree based on information from the case and discuss what it means to be genetically predisposed to cance...

Cow of the Future
In this case developed for an introductory general microbiology course, students consider concepts of bacterial genetics as they act as consultants to a foundation interested in funding innovative products. Students take the role of advising "the baron...

Decoding the Flu
This "clicker case" was designed to develop students' ability to read and interpret information stored in DNA. Making use of personal response systems ("clickers") along with a PowerPoint presentation, students follow the story of "Jason," a student in...

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 ...

Do You Really Know What You're Eating?
Starting from a fictional “news” report about an apparent allergic reaction to a taco tainted by genetically modified corn, students consider some of the techniques and procedures used in modern molecular genetics and microbiology as well a...

Don’t Lose Your Head!
This whimsical case introduces students to the topic of dorsal/ventral (DV) axis formation in amphibians. After the recent birth of a good-sized clutch of eggs, Heather Pipiens is pleased to see that most of her little larvae are doing fine, but alarme...

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...

FOXP2 and Speech
FOXP2 was first identified as a human language gene when a mutated version of the gene was found to cause speech problems in the KE family in London. In 2009, a research team transferred the cloned FOXP2 gene into mice and demonstrated that the FOXP2 t...

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...

Glowing Plants on Kickstarter
This case study is centered on a real scenario from 2013 in which the Kickstarter fundraising platform included a fundraising proposal from a group wanting to use synthetic biology to make glowing plants. The proposal raised controversy because the Glo...

Golden Rice
In this intimate debate case, students consider whether to support the development and use of Golden Rice as a means to alleviate vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. Since many of the arguments typically raised against genetically modified or...

Hidden in Plain Sight
As nonliving entities, viruses face specific challenges when replicating in a host.  Avoiding the host immune system is something that every virus aims for in order to successfully reproduce itself and infect another host.  Many viruses repli...

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...

Identical Twins, Identical Fates?
This case tells the story of Elise, a college freshman whose identical twin sister has recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Elise is concerned about her own risk for developing this disease. Through her research and interactions with a physician...

It’s All Greek to Me: Genetics Edition
Stephania and Nikolaus Stamos are concerned about their baby daughter. They take her to her pediatrician, who immediately notices that the once bright and active child is small for her age, pale, lethargic, and has a swollen abdomen. Students examine t...

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...

King Tut's Family Secrets
This "clicker case" is based on several articles published in 2010 that determined the genealogy of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun based on microsatellite DNA analysis. The case begins with a description of the seven royal mummies found in Va...

Living With Her Genes
When a 30-year-old genetic counselor learns that her 38-year-old sister has developed early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease (EOFAD), a dominantly inherited disorder that led to their father's death at age 42, she struggles with whether to unde...

More Than Meets the Eye
The classic example of a human trait that behaves in a clear Mendelian fashion is human eye color. The gene that controls it exists in two forms: a dominant brown allele and a recessive blue allele. But the genetics of eye color is more complex than ty...

mRNA Processing
This clicker case study follows a dialogue between two college students, Lucy and Dan, as they discover how alternative splicing of mRNA molecules can allow a single gene to code for multiple proteins. Dan is participating in a clinical trial for a dru...

Murder by HIV? Grades 5-8 Edition
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....

Murder by HIV? Grades 9-12 Edition
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....

Murder by HIV? Undergraduate Edition
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....

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...

Not Exactly...
This case study follows a young couple that is consulting with a genetic counselor about their plans to have a child. Because of their family history with cystic fibrosis, they are concerned about their chances of having a child with this genetic disea...

One Tablet a Day May Keep Cancer Away
This dilemma/decision case study is intended to demonstrate how knowledge of signal transduction pathways can be applied to the pharmaceutical industry and within a medical setting. The case scenario revolves around a physician scientist's analysis of ...

Patient Zero
Emerging diseases and potential pandemics make the news nearly every year. Students (and everyone else) may wonder where new infectious diseases come from, how scientists assess the risk of a pandemic, and how we might go about preventing one. This cas...

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...

Pharmacogenetics: Using Genetics to Treat Disease
This case study investigates the applications of genetics to medicine by exploring one of the first examples of a pharmacogenetic test to enter mainstream clinical practice. Pharmacogenetics examines how genetic variations in an individual correlate wi...

PKU Carriers
In this interrupted case study, students read about a college student with phenylketonuria (PKU).  Students learn how diet affects a person with PKU and how PKU is inherited. The case is designed to introduce introductory biology students to the H...

Poor Devils
Cancer is usually thought to be a disease that affects individuals. But could cancer evolve to become infectious? This case follows the research on a form of transmissible cancer that is decimating the Tasmanian devil, the world’s largest carnivo...

Resistance is Futile - Or Is It?
While the majority of people are prone to HIV infection, some individuals remain uninfected despite repeated exposure. This case study is based on the landmark paper by Paxton et al. (1996) that uncovered some of the mechanisms of protection against HI...

Resistance Is Futile, Or is It? The Clicker Version
This clicker case is an adaptation of a case by Annie Prud'homme-Généreux that was originally published by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science titled "Resistance Is Futile ... or Is It? The Immunity System and HIV Infec...

Resurrection
This case study examines the molecular methods that were used to reverse engineer the 1918 influenza virus strain in order to try and solve the mystery of why it was so deadly. The story starts in the 1950s with the unsuccessful attempts to culture the...

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...

Saving Superman
Using a combination of directed case method and role-playing in which students learn about their roles using the jigsaw technique, this case study teaches about the main concepts of stem cell research and therapy and the political and ethical issues su...

Seeds of Dissension
A possible act of industrial espionage is the backdrop for this case study, which introduces students to analytical techniques routinely used in most areas of biotechnology, including forensic science and paternity suits. In this fictional case, "Roger...

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...

SNPs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails, and That's What People Are Made Of
In this case on genome privacy, students work together to research one of six assigned lobbying groups’ views in this area and then present their groups’ positions before a mock meeting of a U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee as the...

Tazswana’s Story
In this directed case study, students read about a little girl with beta-thalassemia, a life-threatening disease. Through a series of increasingly complex activities, they learn how alternative pre-mRNA processing (splicing) has caused her disease and ...

The Buzz about Colony Collapse Disorder
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the widespread loss of honeybees, has devastating repercussions for the environment, industry, and the economy. This case study explores the possible causes, effects, and treatments for CCD by focusing on a family of hon...

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 Druid Dracula
This case is based on a lurid crime featured on the BBC program Crimewatch in December 2001 that was solved thanks to forensic DNA analysis. Students learn how the structure of DNA and the mechanism used by cells to duplicate DNA were critical...

The Case of the Druid Dracula: Clicker Case Version
This “clicker case” is a modified version of another case in our collection by the same name. It uses a PowerPoint presentation (~3MB) to present the case, which is punctuated by multiple-choice questions that students answer in class using...

The Challenge of Epilepsy
This case study was originally developed for undergraduate science students as part of an extracurricular competition, but it could also be delivered as a directed case. Accordingly two versions of the activity are included. Each version requires stude...

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 Ebola Wars: Advanced Edition
This case study was written for upper level undergraduate and graduate students to review foundational aspects of virology and to examine Ebola virus infection in detail. Terry is a college student who travels to a West African clinic for the summer as...

The Evolution of Color Vision in Monkeys
This case study examines the evolution color vision in Old World and New World monkeys from multiple biological perspectives. This integrative approach employs both problem-based learning techniques and directed questions as students move through a ser...

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 Mystery of the Seven Deaths
In this interrupted case study, students learn about the function of cellular respiration and the electron transport chain and what happens when that function is impaired. The case is loosely based on the real-life 1982 Chicago Tylenol murders where se...

The Physiology of a Neurodegenerative Disease
In this case, a young woman learns that her uncle has been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. She talks with her fellow graduate students to try to better understand the physiology of the disorder, along with the medical and personal implicatio...

The Sad But True Case of Earl Washington
In 1983, Earl Washington "confessed" to a violent crime that he did not commit and was sentenced to death row. After spending seventeen years in prison for something he didn't do, Earl was released in 2001 after his innocence was proven through the use...

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...

Too Many B Cells
Taylor's doctor notices she has swollen lymph nodes and an elevated white blood cell count on her routine annual exam and asks her to return for a follow-up flow cytometry test to rule out chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Students follow along as Ta...

Two Peas in a Pod
Based on an actual event, this case study focuses on some of the problems associated with reproductive technologies. It tells the story of the "Joneses," who after in vitro fertilization treatment, discover that their fraternal twins are less ...

Water Can Kill?
This case study presents three true stories of people who suffered fatal hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in their body fluids) after consuming excessive amounts of water. Students examine the tonicity of the extracellular environment created by ...

When a Gene Turned Off Is a Matter of Life or Death
When Jordan is diagnosed with brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme), his college plans are unexpectedly put on hold. This scenario is presented in order to teach students about gene regulation, as the efficacy of the drug Jordan receives for post-surg...

Which Little Piggy Went to Market?
In this case study, a scientist is contacted by a friend from a meat processing plant who is looking for a test to determine the sex of the animals that contributed to a particular batch of meat. He needs to know because meat from uncastrated males (bo...

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...

Why Was the 1918 Influenza So Deadly?
In this intimate debate, students examine the causes of the devastation wrought by the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Students consider whether the 1918 flu was exceptionally deadly because of its biology, or whether prevalent geopolitical-socioecono...

Wrestling with Weight Loss
In this interrupted case study, a young wrestler considers purchasing 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) online as a means to drop weight quickly. However, a finding that it may have killed someone concerns him. Through progressive disclosure of information, stud...

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....