Copperas Cove freshman biology professor Margaret Paul recently took on the nickname Detective Meg Paul and turned her science class into a crime simulation lab, asking her students to help solve the bogus case of John Doe who died at Copperas Cove. She assessed the mock crime scene she set up in her classroom and waited for her junior detectives – her students – to analyze the evidence.
Students were to use scientific research to plan a deliberate investigation of natural processes using scientific and technical practices.
The students used a variety of investigative methods, including descriptive, comparative, or experimental, to examine the contents of the alleged victim’s stomach to determine where his last meal had been taken.
“Students are currently studying biomolecules,” said Paul. “By understanding carbohydrates, fats, proteins and nucleic acids, we have to understand that we get them from food. The students learned that John Doe enjoyed eating at three different restaurants in Copperas Cove, including Pizza Hut, Applebee’s, and Bella Sera. They worked with chemicals like Sudan III, Biuret, iodine, and Benedict’s reagent to find out what biomolecules were present in the contents of Doe’s stomach.
“Based on the reactions of the chemicals, the students determined that Doe’s last meal consisted of pasta, bread and olive oil – full of carbohydrates and fat, which means he was very probably had his last meal at Bella Sera. “
Students learn different types of surveys, including descriptive surveys, which involve collecting data and recording observations without making comparisons; comparative surveys, which involve the collection of data with variables that are manipulated to compare results; and experimental investigations, which involve processes similar to comparative investigations but in which a control is identified as with the cold case of John Doe.
“Biology students focus on the models, processes and relationships of living organisms through four main concepts: structures, functions and biological processes; mechanisms of genetics; biological evolution; and the interdependence within environmental systems, ”said Paul. “By the end of their final year, students should acquire sufficient knowledge of scientific and technical practices in scientific disciplines to make informed decisions using critical thinking and scientific problem solving.”
Freshman Kristene Mejia said real-world hands-on lessons make science one of her favorite classes.
“It was a really fun experience to learn that we could find biomolecules in John Doe’s stomach,” Mejia said. “Lt. Paul was very intense because she needed to solve the cold case, but we couldn’t wait for Ms. Paul to return as a teacher. I also know that I don’t want to work in the morgue. Even the false stomach contents were disgusting.