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Thalidomide Makes a Comeback: A Case Discussion Exercise That Integrates Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry
Journal of Chemical Education (2001)
  • Kathleen Cornely, Providence College
  • Nicole Bennett
The case discussion method, which involves teaching scientific theory in a framework that students can relate to their own world, is an interdisciplinary pedagogical tool. Therefore, case study exercises can be used to integrate biochemistry with other advanced chemistry courses. The case presented here can be used at the end of a second-semester organic chemistry course or in an introductory biochemistry course. The case is a fact-based, fictional story in which an FDA official must decide whether to carry out the agency's threat to shut down several buyers clubs that import thalidomide from overseas and dispense it to their members for the treatment of AIDS. Students are required to read the body of the case, analyze data, and search for information using limited leads. Using well-considered arguments based on their research, they are asked to come to conclusions about how the element of risk involved in thalidomide distribution is assessed. They apply their knowledge of biochemistry to assess how thalidomide acts at the cellular level and they apply their knowledge of organic chemistry in writing mechanisms of thalidomide hydrolysis and in the design of thalidomide analogs. Students are assessed on their ability to work in groups, to critically analyze scientific data, and to develop public policies based on risk-benefit analysis.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Kathleen Cornely and Nicole Bennett. "Thalidomide Makes a Comeback: A Case Discussion Exercise That Integrates Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry" Journal of Chemical Education Vol. 78 Iss. 6 (2001) p. 759 - 761 ISSN: 0021-9584
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