Submitted by Katherine Franz / Duke University, Department of Chemistry on Mon, 09/16/2013 - 14:10
My Notes

This in-class activity requires that the students read an article in The Atlantic about an interesting (and modern) case of the plague.  The article provides a great platform to showcase the Inorganic side of broad societal themes like evolutionary biology, environmental and hereditary influences on disease, and the collaboration between biology, medicine, and history.  The article itself contains little chemistry, but can be used to guide students into learning about iron in bioinorganic chemistry.


Accompanying article found here:…

Attachment Size
IronKeepKill_VIPER.docx 104.6 KB
Learning Goals

A student should learn introductory bioinorganic nomenclature associated with iron enzymes and proteins in order to complete this assignment.

A student should be able to apply his/her knowledge of coordination chemistry to answer questions about siderophores (which might be a foreign topic).

Students' knowledge of coordination chemistry will be probed specifically in areas of thermodynamic stability constants for metal-ligand complexes, radical reactions associated with oxygen-derived radicals, redox chemistry, principles of hard-soft acids and bases.

Time Required
10 min for small group discussion, another 10 min for full class discussion and presentation of "best" answers


Evaluation Results

This activity was well received by my students (many pre-meds who really like the medical connections).  There were several in the class who had taken an evolutionary biology course, and that opened up some really interesting class dialogue and questions about other metals' roles in disease.  Much of the "chemistry" content I used to cover in lecture as part of a bioinorganic section, but this activity replaced much of that material and put the burdent on them to read that part of the chapter in order to answer the questions. 


Biology is listed as a pre- or co-requisite, but it is not absolutely required.  Students with a biology background will come away with a different depth of knowledge, while students without a biology background may appreciate the general audience tone of the Atlantic article.

Creative Commons License
Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike CC BY-NC-SA
Sheila Smith / University of Michigan- Dearborn

I was able to evaluate this LO in my bioinorganic class this term.  I have 10 students (a mix of Chemistry and Biochemistry juniors and seniors).  I used this activity to introduce the topic of the importance of sequestration of metals in bioinorganic chemistry.  I usually start this topic with a discussion more focused on the need to bioaccumulate metals in larger quantities than is readily available in the environment. This article offered a different door into the subject.


My students enjoyed the discussion, although they commented that they were surprised that the answers to the worksheet could not be found directly in the reading.  I thought that this was an excellent application of using the literature/internet to enhance the reading/understanding of an article written for laymen.

Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:43 Permalink