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Ebola in Contested Spaces

The Coe Team’s SAIL project is multi-pronged endeavor, consisting of both individual modules and a team-taught course offered during our institution’s May term. In this proposal, I will only speak to the individual module I am developing for my junior/senior-level course: CHM 575: Protein Biochemistry. I will be developing curricular resources for a module on “Ebola in Contested Spaces”.

This three-week module will take the place of normal lecture material that would cover the life cycle and explanation of different kinds of viruses. This module will combine lecture with seminar-style discussions based on papers in the current literature covering causes, cures, spread, treatments, politics, and social pressures. It will also approach the spread of Ebola, and hopefully its containment and prevention, from several viewpoints. The module will have a capstone paper and presentation component.

I will be expanding and improving the existing materials I use to teach this course. I have already collected many papers on the Ebola virus but will continue to expand the collection through this fall term. I will also revise the Moodle site for the course to create coherence in terms of the topics explored. The bulk of this revision work has already begun and will continue throughout this semester and winter break. The module will be test driven during the second half of the spring term semester, 2015. I will revise and complete curricular resources by the end of the spring term in early May, 2015.

I will develop an instructor’s guide that includes:

  • A series of topics to be explored during class with learning outcomes for each topic
  • Recommended readings for students
  • Recommended supplemental materials
  • Questions for stimulating student discussion
  • A list of sources for instructors for further reading and course preparation


Primary Learning Goals

  1. Understand the infectious cycle of a lysogenic versus a lytic virus
  2. Investigate the environmental, social, and political circumstances that impact the prevention, spread, treatment and potential cure of a pathogenic virus like Ebola
  3. Work as a part of a team to share and critique a presentation of a relevant viral case study

I see the benefits of multidisciplinary work as enabling the students to see the same situation from multiple vantage points. To solve a complex problem, multiple approaches can yield discernable results that can positively impact a group. This is applied to a very real viral threat, Ebola. It is not just science that will solve a pathogenic outbreak. Cultural, social, and political forces impact a population and must be considered in solving these issues.

Dissemination Strategies

The Virus Module consists of six, fifty minute meetings (lecture and discussion) and two, three hour labs that meet over a two-week period.

Reading materials: Two short books, several papers and websites, available on Moodle. See Resources & Materials. Students will be responsible for written summaries for each reading assignment. Progress on the final project will be monitored on Google docs, and presented by the class on the last module day.


Monday | Meeting 1 of 6

Introduction:The explanation of the goals of the virus module, expectations, assignments, and assessment (first 25 minutes of class).

Diversity of Viruses: PowerPoint lecture (remaining 25 minutes of class). This material serves as an introductory biochemical background for the classification of viruses based on genome type and infectivity.


Tuesday | Lab 1 of 2

Virus Structure Lab

Examine the Virus Structures Sheet and answer the questions for each of the structures on the sheet. You are encouraged to do this work in a group and compare your answers. List the sources for your answers. Record all sources in your lab notebook. Type up a copy of your answers and post on Google docs. Bring a copy of your information to class for discussion.

Online sources: Protein Data Bank (PDB)


Wednesday | Meeting 2 of 6

Virus Structures Sheet: Follow up, questions and discussion (first 15 minutes of class).

Influenza Case Study: Prepare for discussion by reviewing the website, reading the three topic papers, writing summaries, and answering the review questions on influenza (All materials found on Moodle). Post summaries on Google docs.


Friday | Meeting 3 of 6

Ebola Basics: The Biochemistry and Politics of Ebola (meet with Lynda Barrow’s Political Science class in Stuart Hall) Drs. Dean & Barrow will give short background lectures on Ebola. Use the posted papers and the Power Point information to prepare questions for class. Post paper summaries on Google docs.


Monday | Meeting 4 of 6

Ebola discussion: Vaccines, treatments, ethical considerations, social and cultural norms. Use information from Friday’s class (copies of your paper summaries will be useful!) to prepare for class discussion.

Invited Speaker Laurie Garrett: Remember your tickets! Read the Washington Post article, “Five Myths about Ebola” October 10, 2014. (Due to winter storms, this talk was postponed until April, 2015.)

Tuesday | Lab 2 of 2

Dengue Fever Lab (group presentation preparation): Using information from the Influenza and Ebola outbreaks, prepare a group presentation on Dengue Fever. As in our previous coverage, your presentation must be multidisciplinary, covering the biochemistry as well as social/cultural, political, and economic. All contributions for the presentation must be posted on Google docs. Comments and suggestions will be posted by Thursday morning.


Wednesday | Meeting 5 of 6

Because of the cancellation of the speaker, the class wanted to have a replacement session on Measles vaccination. The class investigated the many reasons families have opted to not vaccinate their children against measles and the resulting measles outbreaks in several communities across the country.

Laurie Garrett: Invited speaker, Laurie Garrett spoke about Ebola in April, 2015. We attended as a class and met with Lynda Barrow’s Political Science class for discussion.


Friday | Meeting 6 of 6

Dengue Fever class presentation and personal reflections


Resources & Materials

Virus Module Syllabus


Quammen, David. Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.

Zimmer, Carl. A Planet of Viruses. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2012.

Online Resources

Protein Data Bank

Examine the molecular structure of viruses

Outcomes and Significance

This module will work best within a science course where context of viral research, treatment and prevention can be understood. This upper division course is taught in a combination of lecture and seminar sessions centered around key papers, appropriate for junior/senior level students. I have a limit of 12 for this class because of its laboratory component, however, the module would work for 16-18 students. The module requires three weeks of class time, or three lab sessions (3 hours for each lab).


Student Assessment

  1. Active participation in class discussion. This module will require students to participate in active discussion about the papers on Ebola being considered in each session.
  2. Students will have a test over the material that covers the life cylce of lysogenic/lytic viruses
  3. An oral and written presentation of a case study of another virus of their choosing, considering multiple perspectives (as done with the Ebola study) will be required at the end of the module. Students will be working in small groups of three. In addition to my assessment each group will do a self-assessment of which features of their case study will make it “successful” in their opinion.
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