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Fannie’s Fix

How a Culinary Tradition Launched Modern Bacteriology


Rebecca K. Wilson
Department of Science
Farmington High School


This case study is targeted to the middle school science student and written especially with female students in mind. Using an interdisciplinary approach, it combines content from physical science and areas of biology (bacteriology, pathology) to tell the story of Angelina "Fannie" Hesse and her credited, yet not well-known, contribution of agar to the laboratory. Told through an invented recreation (the true details of the story are unknown), students review the fundamental phases of matter with a focus on melting points. The importance of a melting point is linked to the ability to grow and study bacteria in the lab, leading to important discoveries such as those related to infectious disease. A laboratory activity is included, and two versions of Part III are included to give instructors flexibility. By working through the case students should develop a deeper appreciation for how concepts in physical science are related to endeavors such as understanding and curing infectious disease.


  • Develop appreciation for the contributions of women in science.
  • Improve understanding of the physical states of matter (solid, liquid, gas) and their changes (boiling point, melting point, freezing point).
  • Conduct a controlled experiment and test multiple variables; engage in "the practice of science."
  • Improve understanding of human interactions with microorganisms that cause disease.
  • Explore the connection between physical science and biology.
  • Understand the value of agar's melting point being above 37°C, as opposed to gelatin's being below.
  • Practice various anchor standards of reading for Common Core Scientific Literacy Reading Standards (grades 6-8) and multiple Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).


states of matter; phases of matter; melting point; agar; gelatin; medium; tuberculosis; in vitro; microorganism; algae

Topical Areas

History of science, Women in science

Educational Level

Middle school



Type / Methods

Directed, Discussion, Laboratory



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Microbiology  |   Interdisciplinary Sciences  |   Physical Chemistry  |  

Date Posted


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Kate Anderson
East Junior High School
Boise, Idaho 83716
Are there supposed to be Student Lab Sheets/Worksheets for "Fannie's Fix" by Rebecca K. Wilson? I can't seem to find them. Thanks!


Author’s Reply: There are not any student lab worksheets with the case. I wrote the lab portion in a very open-ended way for teacher flexibility and included pre-lab questions, but not any worksheets. There are suggestions in the notes such as students creating their own data sheets or getting practice using a lab notebook once you decide how you want to run the lab portion of the case.
Thank you,
Rebecca Wilson