Agents of Bioterrorism: Curriculum and Pedagogy in an Online Masters Program
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KeywordToxicology; Graduate; Bioterrorism; Countermeasures; Chemical threats; Biological warfare; Chemical warfare
The Agents of Bioterrorism course (BSBD 640, University of Maryland University College) is a graduate level course created in response to an elevated need for scientists working in the field of medical countermeasures to biological and chemical weapons in the years following 9/11. Students read and evaluate assigned current primary literature articles investigating medical countermeasures at each stage of development. In addition, students learn concepts of risk assessment, comparing and ranking several agents of terror. Student learning is assessed through a variety of assignments. A term paper focuses on a lesser known weapon of terror, with students recommending the best countermeasure in development and delivering a risk assessment comparing their agent to other major weapons of terror discussed throughout the semester. Similarly, a group project on an assigned major weapon of terror (anthrax, plague, smallpox, vesicants, or nerve agent) focuses more heavily on evaluating primary literature and concluding which countermeasure(s) in development are the best. Students complete the course with a fundamental understanding of the mechanism of action of many biological agents, information literacy for the medical literature available at PubMed and the primary scientific literature, and a basic understanding of the role of the government in biodefense research. This paper describes the pedagogical approaches used to teach this course and how they might be adopted for other courses.
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