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En Garde! Animal Structures and What They Mean
In most animals, the drive to breed and produce offspring is strong. However, most males live their whole lives without having the chance to breed. The events leading up to mating can be very dangerous and also very costly to an individual. Some males ...

A Botched Botox Party in the Hamptons
This flipped case study explores how the topics of membrane structure, transport, and signaling via membrane-bound receptors are intimately associated with the paralysis of muscle targeted by botulinum neurotoxin. The case scenario revolves around a fi...

A Case in Point: From Active Learning to the Job Market
This case was developed for use in the first weeks of a course in order to show students how participating in active learning exercises in their classes can benefit them. It uses the fictionalized story of a manager of a scientific consulting firm who ...

A Case Study of Memory Loss in Mice
This discussion case explores the scientific process involved in implementing an animal model in the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Students read a short paragraph describing a study in which the brains of “trained” mice were injected ...

A Cool Glass of Water
Does an ice cube melt more quickly in salt water or in freshwater? The answer surprises the group of student science teachers portrayed in this case study. To explain the phenomenon they must figure out the interactions between two clusters of concepts...

A Green Light for CFLs?
In this problem-based learning case, three housemates in an environmentally-themed college house debate the pros and cons of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) over incandescent lamps. The students raise issues of the cost difference between the lamps (b...

A Light on Physics
This case study presents students with the challenge of working together in teams to win a photography contest. Some team members believe in aperture priority: pictures should be taken with as large an f-number as possible. The other members advocate e...

A Need for Needles - Acupuncture
In this case study, students evaluate information about the use of acupuncture and consider the possibilities of alternative therapies while at the same time questioning their effectiveness. To complete the case, students collect information from Inter...

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 Rush to Judgment?
This case describes a study conducted by students in which a number of ethical issues arise, including the treatment of research participants and the supervision of student research assistants by faculty. By examining the way in which the study was con...

A Simple Plan
This case study introduces students to Dr. E.L. Trudeau, who performed a seminal early experiment validating the germ theory of infection. Part I introduces Trudeau's Rabbit Island experiment, which is simple and easy for beginning or non-major student...

A Word to the Wise
Freshmen frequently struggle with major decisions both inside and outside of school. Even if they have required advisement sessions, they do not always know what questions to ask and what information to share with an advisor. This is true even for...

AIDS and the Duesberg Phenomenon
Renowned virologist and member of the prestigious National Academy of Science, Peter Duesberg has argued that AIDS is not caused by HIV, but is the result of recreational and anti-HIV drugs.  In this PBL case, students read Duesberg’s 1999 a...

An End to Ulcers?
This “clicker case” teaches students about the scientific method by following the story of the discovery of the cause of human gastric ulcers by two Australian biomedical scientists. Students see how the researchers followed up an unusual o...

And Now What, Ms. Ranger?
Intelligent Design continues to be a hot political and educational topic in some parts of the country. This discussion case study uses the dramatic setting of a public school board as it considers whether district science teachers should be made to rea...

Animals on Treadmills
This group-based, interrupted case study challenges students' perceptions of "useful" scientific research. We present student groups with the methods used in two scientific studies that have been heavily scrutinized in the popular media. Both research ...

Anthrax Attack!
This case study presents a fictitious bio-terrorist plan to release anthrax in the United States. Students are assigned character roles and, through research, role-playing, and teamwork, develop a plan to minimize or avert the attack. The case is appro...

Antibiotic Resistance
Resistance to antibiotics arose very shortly after these "wonder drugs" were first introduced.  This case study examines resistance to the most commonly used antibiotics, penicillin and its derivatives.  In particular, it examines a recent st...

Antibiotic Resistance in a Russian Prison
In this case study, students will have the opportunity to model the spread of tuberculosis and development of antibiotic resistance in a hypothetical prison environment. After reading a brief handout and viewing a short video, students play a simulatio...

Apple and Linguine
This flipped case study is suited for general education undergraduate level biology. Students prepare ahead of time for class by viewing a video created by the authors that reviews the basics of nutrition and digestion; in class, students then engage i...

Avogadro Goes to Court
This case study was inspired by a successful lawsuit brought by students against a professor at Pace University who had assigned them the task of calculating the cost of a single aluminum atom in a roll of aluminum foil. The case deals with the concept...

Bad Blood
The ethics of human experimentation are explored in this case about the infamous syphilis studies performed at the Tuskegee Institute from the 1930s to the 1960s. Sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service, 399 African American men with syphilis were ...

Blood Suckers! A Case Study on Evolution and Speciation
This directed case study in PowerPoint format focuses on the London Underground Mosquito, Culex molestus, and its potential relationship to the common mosquito, Culex pipiens, in order to explore the topics of evolution, reproductive ...

Butterflies in the Stomach
Why is the North American population of monarch butterflies declining? In 1999, a study published in the journal Nature suggested that a variety of genetically modified corn was killing these iconic butterflies. While it was later shown that t...

Cauldron of Democracy
This case study explores the controversy surrounding Yellowstone bison (Bison bison) and the relationship between wildlife management and pluralist democracy. In the late 1960s Yellowstone National Park suspended the policy of strictly managin...

Cell Phone Use and Cancer
In this case study, students analyze a scientific study, first by analyzing news articles reporting on the research and then by reading the original research article. In working through the case, students identify the basic elements of a scientific stu...

Childbed Fever
This case describes the pioneering work of Ignaz Semmelweis and his efforts to remedy the problem of childbed fever in mid-19th century Europe.  Its purpose is to teach students about the scientific method by "dissecting" the various steps involve...

Cloning Man's Best Friend
The Cleaver family of television fame faces a dilemma—whether or not to clone their recently deceased dog Spot. Written for a high school introductory biology class, the case provides students with an opportunity to discuss animal cloning and its...

Cooling Off a Warming Planet
This role-playing case on climate change policy is designed to engage student groups in parallel discussions on policy instruments and packages for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, student groups discuss cap-and-trade and carbon tax ...

Crazy About Cryptids! An Ecological Hunt for Nessie and Other Legendary Creatures
Who wouldn't want to go in search of a creature like Bigfoot, Yeti, or the Loch Ness Monster?  Using the science of ecology, students do exactly that in this case study that encompasses a variety of case study teaching formats.  Working in gr...

Dengue in the Landscape
This interrupted case engages students in issues contributing to the increase of dengue fever in Jamaica. The overall goal of the case is to make clear the connections between land use management and public health, specifically dengue fever. Students l...

Disease Along the River: A Case Study and Cholera Outbreak Game
This case study centers on an active teaching game that simulates a cholera outbreak among five villages along a river, similar to the Haitian outbreak of 2010. By enacting the behaviors of fictional villagers, students learn how trade, travel, sanitat...

Equal Time for Intelligent Design?
Whether Intelligent Design should be taught in a science classroom is a serious problem. This case study tackles the issue head-on by using intimate debate, a pedagogical structure in which small student groups are subdivided into opposing student pair...

Evolution and Plasticity in Guppies
This case study focuses on the relationship between evolution and plasticity using a hands-on, inquiry-based approach. Students view examples from the literature that illustrate the difference between nature and nurture, or the relative contributions o...

Exotics
This case examines the biological, ecological, social, political, and economic factors surrounding exotic species as well as the role of resource managers in shaping public policy on environmental issues. In addition to conservation ecology courses, th...

Extrasensory Perception: Pseudoscience?
The overall purpose of this case study is to teach students to be skeptical of scientific claims, particularly those that are sensational and fall outside the boundaries of normal scientific explanation. Students read the case and then evaluate informa...

Farming in Space
If you were limited to choosing only three crops to sustainably farm in an arid, inhospitable environment, what would they be and how would you decide? This interrupted case study places students in the role of a proposed self-sufficient Martian colony...

Fecal Coliforms in Antarctica
In this interrupted case study, students explore the environmental consequences of Antarctic research as they design experiments to assess the impact of disposing untreated sewage from a research station into the ocean. Students review experimental met...

Feeling Detoxified
This case study uses the example of ionic foot baths to examine how placebo treatments can affect our health and wellness. Inspired by a student’s real visit to a spa, the story begins with a description of the experience of an ionic foot bath, a...

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 ...

Gastronomic Gastroenteritis at The Fat Duck
This interrupted case study was inspired by and uses data from one of the largest commercial restaurant associated outbreaks of norovirus reported in the literature. It applies basic principles of epidemiology and outbreak investigation to a shellfish-...

Global Climate Change: What Does it Look Like?
In this interrupted case study, Ph.D.-paleoclimatologist-turned-TV-meteorologist Sara Fahrenheit finds herself projected into a future climate that reminds her of the Early Eocene: it's hot, it's humid, and seems tropical. The story is a vehicle for te...

Helicobacter pylori and the Bacterial Theory of Ulcers
This case is an account of the events that led Drs. Robin Warren and Barry Marshall to the bacterial theory of ulcers. The two physicians refused to accept the standard explanations for what they had observed and instead developed an alternative hypoth...

History of the Atom
In this clicker case, students are guided through the history of atomic structure, and in the spirit of discovery learning, use data from historical experiments to discern the different models of the atom. In particular, students move from the time of ...

How a Cancer Trial Ended in Betrayal
In this case study, students learn about the complexities and issues associated with clinical trials. After reading a newspaper story about a fraudulently conducted clinical trial involving a treatment for skin cancer, students simulate their own small...

How Do Scallops Swim?
Scallops are bivalve mollusks that live on the seabed. This way of life makes them susceptible to predation and so they have evolved the ability to escape by swimming. This interrupted case study is based on a few observations and simple experiments wh...

Is a Mars Sample Return Mission Too Risky?
Following a public hearing format, this case study allows students to explore the scientific and public policy issues surrounding the advisability of a return mission to Mars for further sampling and, more generally, the question of whether or not ther...

Is the Data Dirty or Clean?
This case study challenges students to differentiate between anecdotal evidence and science-based evidence related to human health. The case uses a "flipped" approach in which students watch two preparatory videos prior to attending class. The fir...

It’s a Crocodile! No, a Fish! No, a Dolphin!
It is not uncommon to hear creationists argue that evolution is not science because no one saw it happen, or for students to wonder how we can know anything about the physiology or behavior of organisms that went extinct hundreds of millions of years a...

Killing Chloroplasts
This case study takes place at a fictional biotechnology company developing herbicides against invasive plant species. The case study focuses on five herbicides with different effects on photosynthesis. Students play the role of lab interns and explore...

Knot Your Typical Weed
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is an invasive plant that can be very hard to eliminate. This PowerPoint-driven case study briefly describes this plant and asks students to identify possible solutions for its control when a homeowner dis...

Life on Mars
This case explores the question of whether there was ever life on Mars and in doing so explores how we define life. The backdrop for the case is the 1996 revelation by NASA of evidence of life on Mars. Through a fictionalized account of the events, the...

Life, The Final Frontier
Designed for high school and college-level introductory biology courses, the goal of this "clicker case" is to get students to think about what it means for something to be alive by defining the characteristics of living organisms and applying these to...

Little Girl Lost: A Case Study on Defective Cellular Organelles
This case study introduces students to the structure and function of cellular organelles and seeks to show their importance by discussing diseases and disorders that can result when an organelle does not function as it should. The storyline follows a f...

Living on the Edge
This case study describes the daily osmotic struggle for survival faced by hummingbirds. The narrative is written from the viewpoint of a human observer who sees an Anna's hummingbird feeding on flowers outside of her window.  She notices that the...

Microbial Pie, or What Did You Feed the Neighbors?
The Emergency Room seems busier than usual, and the cases coming in are all too similar.  Everyone seems to be suffering from the same symptoms - abdominal pain, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea.  Once the hospital staff identify the bacteria ca...

Mom Always Liked You Best
This interrupted case study is based on a journal article on the parenting behavior of American coots. Working through the case, students develop hypotheses and design experiments to test their hypotheses as they are given pieces of the case in an inte...

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...

Mutualism
This case explores two-species interactions, especially mutualism, and presents students with a problem, namely, the inconsistent treatment of the concept of mutualism and symbiosis in many textbooks. It begins with a question that students will probab...

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...

Niños Desaparecidos: A Case Study about Genetics and Human Rights
This case study is based on the identification of 50 children who were displaced during Argentina’s Dirty War of the 1970s, subjected to DNA and protein analysis, and subsequently reunited with their biological families. The case demonstrates the...

Plant Transpiration
This flipped case study is formatted as a PowerPoint presentation that uses group experimentation to encourage active learning in a large science classroom. There are options for using either wet bench experimentation or an online simulation, depending...

Poison Ivy
A longstanding belief that has it roots in Native American folklore is that the crushed leaves of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) relieve the skin's allergic reaction to the toxin of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). This case was d...

Rated MPG for Confusion
This case study follows a family’s dilemma about how to save money on gasoline. Should they keep their SUV and trade in their Corolla for a hybrid sedan? Going from 28 (Corolla) to 48 (Hybrid) miles per gallon (MPG) should really save money on ...

Rising Temperatures, Differing Viewpoints
In this case, students work in small groups to analyze and critically evaluate the often political nature of news stories. The case was developed from two newspaper articles published in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal abou...

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...

Studying Racial Bias
Students evaluate a research proposal to determine if it is consistent with ethical principles and federal guidelines for conducting research with human subjects. The case can be taught either as a discussion case or using role-playing.  This case...

The Art of a Deal
This case is a classroom simulation of the types of negotiations that went into the Kyoto Protocol agreement on limiting global greenhouse gas emissions. It was developed for an environmental science course for first-year college students with minimal ...

The Case of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
Based on the disputed rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in April 2005, this interrupted case study tells the story of a fictional character, "Brad Murky," a student and research assistant who must decide whether the current evidence is suffici...

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 Concept of Slope
This directed case study is designed for an intermediate algebra course, appropriate for high school mathematics and lower division college mathematics. The ideal class size for running the activity is generally between 16 and 20 students. The main obj...

The Evolution of Creationism
This PBL case on Intelligent Design was written for freshman biology majors at a Christian liberal arts college. Students read about the claims and actions of proponents of Intelligent Design as they work for its inclusion in the high school science cu...

The Evolution of Human Skin Color
While the concept of evolution by natural selection is very simple, it is often misunderstood by students. This is partly due to preconceptions they have as well as a lack of understanding or emphasis on the idea that reproductive success (and not surv...

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 Great Parking Debate
Two friends debate whether people leave their parking spaces faster if others are waiting. They decide to see if they can design a study to test their ideas.  In this interrupted case study, students develop a research question and hypothesis and ...

The Perilous Plight of the Pika
This interrupted case study addresses several concepts related to climate change and its effect on the American pika. Often called an indicator species for climate change, the pika has a unique set of variables specific to its environment. Factors such...

The Poop on Composting
This interrupted case study tells the story of Miles, a freshman in college, who volunteers to help with the composting program on campus. Miles is excited about composting but his mother is hesitant to try it at home. Miles learns about the key ingred...

The Story of Dinosaur Evolution
In this case study, students write their own “evolution stories” based on information taken from a review article by Paul Sereno on the evolution of dinosaurs published in Science magazine. In the process, they learn to distinguish...

Thinking Inside the Box
In this particular take on the classic “Black Box Experiment,” students working in groups are given sealed boxes containing objects that they must make indirect observations about and then report their observations to the class in a simulat...

Those Pesky Side-Reactions
The characters in this dilemma case must balance personal financial considerations, their professional futures, and time constraints against ensuring that the new product they are proposing is safe. The case explores the issues surrounding ethical deci...

Thyroid Troubles
In this interrupted case study, students shadow an endocrinologist as she tries to determine what is wrong with Angela Barber. Angela is a middle-aged woman presenting with symptoms suggestive of a thyroid issue. Students are given background informati...

To Boldly Go, or Not
This fictional public forum case study is centered on the 2004 decision by President George W. Bush to set NASA’s primary goal as a return to the Moon, followed by a mission to Mars. The members on the expert panel and audience are fictitious but...

To Spray or Not to Spray
In this case study, students grapple with the complex issues surrounding the use of DDT to control malaria in the developing world. In their examination of the issue, students consider risk/benefit analysis and the precautionary principle, two techniqu...

To the Bitter End
This interrupted case dramatizes the discovery of a Mendelian trait in humans, namely the variation in the ability to taste the chemical phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). By examining data and questions related to this trait, students will draw connections be...

Tragic Choices: Autism, Measles, and the MMR Vaccine
This case explores the purported connection between vaccines in general, and the MMR vaccine specifically, and autism. Students examine results from the 1998 Lancet article that ignited and still fuels the anti-vaccine movement; students are t...

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...

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 ...

We Are Not Alone
This interrupted case study for the flipped classroom introduces the human microbiome from the perspective of one of its occupants, Heidi Helicobacter (Helicobacter pylori).  Heidi lives in the gut of Kristen, a college student, and discu...

When Drug Sales and Science Collide
When "Jeff," a fictionalized drug representative, is placed on the Vioxx® account in 2001, he finds himself pulled between sales and science as he struggles to reconcile three original documents: a Merck marketing pamphlet, a graph from a scientifi...

When Harry Met Gabby
This case study addresses several concepts related to water hypoxia including physical laws governing dissolved oxygen levels and impacts to living systems during hypoxia. A survey of different factors causing reduced oxygen saturation levels on small ...

Which of These is True? Validity and Ethics in Scientific Experimentation
Many biology courses are designed to develop student understanding and application of the scientific method, but few seriously examine the various ethical questions associated with scientific research. This interdisciplinary case study presents three e...

Why Is He Different from Both Parents?
This case study was developed to teach the topic of human ABO blood type and genetic inheritance in biology courses at the lower undergraduate level or upper high school level. It is suitable for entry level biology, genetics, and physiology courses. T...

Winning by a Neck
This interrupted case study is designed to introduce beginning biology students to the process of science by exploring a question that is accessible to students with limited scientific background. The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardialis) is the t...

Would You Supersize My Cancer, Please?
The recent discovery of acrylamide in both fried and baked foods like French fries and potato chips has caused alarm. Acrylamide is both a known carcinogen in animals when administered in high doses and a neurotoxin when humans are exposed to large amo...

Zombie Attack!
Students assume the roles of CDC researchers who must determine how to most effectively stop an impending Zombie apocalypse. The story line leads students through the process of developing a mathematical model of a Zombie outbreak, which they then use ...