A Murderous Meal: Biology Students Experiment with Sugars, Protein and Lipids

The unsuspecting victim traveled to one of his favorite restaurants and enjoyed a pleasant meal with someone he knew, someone he’s dined with numerous times. It was an evening much like any other evening. But that was the last anyone saw him…alive! The authorities knew they needed a top-notch team of Biologists to crack the case, so they turned to Penguin Hall’s Biology 1 class taught by Ms. Lilly! 

In their Biology class, APH students receive a strong grasp of the biological concepts and the major themes that can be applied to life sciences. Students gain an understanding as to how interdependent these things are to life on Earth. In this case, Ms. Lilly presented a faux murder case (with it being almost Halloween!) to showcase biological reactions. Students were tasked with trying to decipher where the victim was killed and who killed him by analyzing the contents within his stomach. Below is an excerpt from the students lab sheet from Ms. Lilly:

“An autopsy was performed on the victim and revealed that the victim ate just prior to the time of death. Upon questioning friends and family of the victim, detectives working the case learned that the victim enjoyed eating at these three locations: 

Location 1: Pizza Palace

The victim would never eat thick crust pizza from anywhere else! The victim would typically order a pizza with sausage, pepperoni, and bacon. 

Location 2: The Smokehouse

The victim would hang out here to watch sporting events while feasting on Wingfest wings and celery. 

Location 3: Italian Eatery

The victim loved to go here for a night of bread, olive oil, and buttery creamy pasta. 

The forensic pathologist removed the contents of the victim’s stomach for our students to analyze  in order to determine where the victim had had his last meal, and who he had it with. The following suspects submitted their testimonies below.

Suspect 1: The victim’s boss, who claims to have been out that night with coworkers at Pizza Palace. 

Suspect 2: The victim’s roommate and best friend, who claims to have been out with their other buddies at the Smokehouse, eating wings and watching the football game. 

Suspect 3: The victim’s girlfriend, who claims to have been out at the Italian Eatery that night with her parents who were in town. 

Before analyzing the stomach contents of the deceased, students needed to determine the procedure used to test for the presences of each macromolecule that will reveal what food contents were found in his stomach. 

The Lipid Test: In the presence of lipids, fat cells will turn red and form a fatty layer on top if a liquid’s surface

The Simple Sugar Test: In the presence of simple sugars, the clear blue solution turns green, yellow, or brick red. 

The Complex Sugar (Starch) Test: In the presence of starches, the solution will turn bluish/purple-ish black. 

The Protein Test: In the presence of proteins, this blue solution will change color to pink-purple.”

After obtaining their sample of the victim’s stomach contents from the crime scene, students set to work using the above methods of testing to determine the food contents and therefore, placing him at the scene of the crime. 

After conducting their theories and running their tests, they determined the victim’s last meal. Detectives were SHOCKED to learn the victim’s last meal was thick crust pizza with all the meaty toppings at the Pizza Palace. Thus, the killer was none other than the victim’s own boss! Detectives thanked the APH Bio students for their hard work and thorough examination on the stomach samples to bring justice to the victim! 

How can learning within the classroom be engaging, thought-provoking, as well as fun? At APH, teachers, like Ms. Lilly, demonstrate their materials using real, hands-on experience. They unlock our students’ curiosities by not just simply lecturing information, but showing and allowing them to work independently or with each other. They provide the space to ask questions, learn visually, work with their hands, and walk away with a deeper desire to ask questions and stay curious about the world around them.