Supplemental Activities to Accompany Open Stax Biology: Focus on Experiments


These supplemental activities are intended to introduce students to classic and modern experiments in Cell Biology and Genetics. All of these activities are Open Educational Resources.


These activities were made possible by a grant from the Michigan Colleges Online and the Michigan Community College Association (MCO/MCCA).

Chapter 1

The Bug eater’s lab is an exercise in deductive logic. Students conduct a series of “experiments” to determine which bird and bat predators each which prey. A worksheet is included to allow students to document their experimental results and articulate their reasoning.

Bug Eaters Game

Worksheet to accompany activity

Bug Eater’s Lab Worksheet

Chapter 2

This powerpoint allows students to go through the basic steps of the Miller Urey experiment. The activity allows students to see how the amino acids produced in this experiment were identified and also indicates the type of controls needed in the experiments.  Questions are embedded in the powerpoint.

Miller-Urey Experiment Powerpoint

Chapter 3

This exercise includes a video with embedded questions about protein denaturation. Then there is an activity in which describes the Anfinsensen experiments showing that protein folding is an inherent property the amino acid sequence of a protein.

Protein Denaturation

Chapter 4

This exercise includes videos showing normal cell division and cell division disrupted by taxol. Thus this could also be used for the chapter on cell division and mitosis (chapter 9)

Using Inhibitors to study cell processes

Chapter 5

This exercise covers the classic Frye and Edidin Experiments which show that proteins can move in membranes

Can Proteins Move in Membranes

Chapter 6

The ability of some species of Staphylococcus to metabolize mannitol is the basis for some simple screening tests (growth on mannitol is detected by a pH indicator that responds to production of acids via mannitol fermentation).  Furthermore, one can use this assay to isolate mutants which fail to transport or break down mannitol.  In this exercise, students can follow how mutants can be used to show that genes correspond to enzymes and that enzymes are needed for very specific reactions

Mannitol Use and Enzymes

Chapter 7

While most introductory biology classes cover the Krebs cycle, the actual evidence that it is a cycle rather than a linear pathway is rarely presented. This exercise covers the logic that Krebs and other researchers used to elucidate this critical finding.

How they know the Krebs Cycle is a cycle

Chapter 8

The activities linked here are  based on the classic experiments of Joseph Priestly and Julian Van Sachs who showed that photosynthesis produces oxygen and sugars and that light is necessary for these processes

Photosynthesis Experiments

Chapter 9

The activity here shows how Earl Sutherland was able to discover some of the key features of signal transduction in the cellular response to epinephrine.

The Sutherland Experiment

Chapter 10

This activity is based on the experiments of Rao and Johnson who fused cells of different cell cycle stages together. Their results indicated that cells at a particular stage had substances that triggered the stages and led to identification of cyclins and CDKS.

Using Cell Fusion To Study the Cell Cycle

This activity is designed for a genetics class, though it may be relevant for some introductory biology classes. It is based on the experiments of Lee Hartwell and Paul Nurse who identified many mutations in cell cycle steps and were able to put them in a logical pathway.

Yeast Cell Cycle Mutants 

Chapter 11

Chromosome Knobs and Recombination

Chapter 12

Archibald Garrod’s experiments showed the connection between enzymes and proteins. In this exercise, students will see how the connection was made and also learn the basis for recessiveness of many traits.

Garrod’s Experiments

Chapter 13

Rett syndrome: this case studies illustrates how the phenotype of heterozygous X linked genes can vary depending on the degrees of X-inactivation. It also illustrated the use of animal models in studying a human disease.

Rhett Syndrome Case Study

Chapter 14

This video with interactive questions allows students to follow the critical experiments establishing the nature of DNA replication

The Meselson Stahl Experiment

Chapter 15

     Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a common genetic condition that often causes death during infancy.  This case study gives background on the genetics and molecular biology of this condition. It also has a video with interactive questions that shows how a drug that overcomes a splicing defect can be used to treat this deadly condition.

SMA Case Study

Chapter 16

Most aphids have restricted diets, but a few have wide range. This video shows how changes in gene regulation may be key having a varied diet.
Gene Regulation and Aphid Diet

Chapter 17

Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS cells) are artificial stem cells that have uses in both treatment and study of disease. In this video, IPS cells from an individual who is mosaic for down syndrome are used to create neurons. The properties of the trisomic neurons are compared to control neurons of the same individual to show the effects of the extra chromosome 21 on neuron function and viability. IPS cells and this experiment are illustrated here:
STEM CELLS: Isogenic Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines


Links: Here are some reference links for the activities. Feel free to add your own!

Resource Links