This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop entitled Faculty Workshop: Implementing Investigative Cases and Technology in Biology and Chemistry at Center for Science Education in August 2004. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

Upcoming events                Investigative Cases

Investigative Cases
The Case: A Better Yield

Joe owns a small pharmaceutical company in Georgia. While reading the patent journal he noticed that the patent on the popular drug X was about to expire and he wanted to position his small company to meet the growing demand and profit. The problem that had not been solved with X is that the yield was very low.

Joe spoke to his lead chemist, “What is the best way to improve the yield of X so that we can profit?

Anne responded, “I have reviewed the synthesis of X and notice a very interesting phenomena that I need to test.”

“What is that?” Joe responded.

“I believe that if we removed water during the final synthesis step the yield should dramatically increase!” said Anne.

The synthesis and scale up group tried Anne’s suggestion and the yield tripled.

Joe made a fortune when the patent expired as his company could produce significantly more X at the same production cost as other companies!

Case Author:
Cass Parker Clark Atlanta University:NSF Chautauqua Short Course

Case Analysis

What is the reaction in the synthesis of drug X? What is the equilibrium expression for the synthesis reaction? Why does the removal of water cause an increase in the yield of drug X? Is this related to Le Chatelier's principle?

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


An understanding and importance of equilibrium in yield limited reactions.



Investigations and Activities

Run pilot simulation and determine optimum conditions for producing product X. Conduct laboratory experiment to determine acutal yield and what experimental setup produced the highest yield. Conduct a web search for sites on equilibrium and write a review of the best site found.



Your chemistry book Your supplemental laboratory experiment on this case located at

Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items


Student Products

Short presentation on the results and reasoning of the simulation conditions for improving the yield. Produce a laboratory report on yield and relate yield to the conditions. Evaluation of the best equilibrium web site!

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Grading of the laboratory report. Peer to peer review of the presentation. Quiz on equilibrium principles covered and discovered in this case. Powerpoint presentation on the optimum conditions to Joe Pharmaceuticals



Equilibrium represetnts one of the most difficult subjects in general chemistry. .

Course name:
General Chemistry Part 2
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Chapter on Equilibrium
Time during term:
One week
Laboratory and recitation period
Students in course:
48 STEM students, freshman to juniors
Collaborative elements:
Kinetics and rate constants.
Additional notes:



The weblinks are to a site by © 2001 by Stephen K. Lower Dept of Chemistry, Simon Fraser University

ICBL Home              Back to list of investigative cases

Copyright 2009, Investigative Cased Based Learning Project