New Petroplague Teacher Guide

Great news! I combined two of my favorite things, teaching science and writing, to prepare a first-class teacher’s guide / study guide for my science thriller novel Petroplague. The  guide includes reading comprehension questions, questions about science, technology, and society beyond the book, essay topics, “kitchen science” experiments, links to educational videos about biofuels, vocabulary lists, and more. Target audience: grades 9-16.

The Petroplague Teacher’s Guide is free from You can view or download the pdf here. If you’re an educator, I’d love to help you put Petroplague in your curriculum.


Dear Educators:

Petroplague is a thriller novel packed with real science in the style of Michael Crichton (Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park). Set in present-day Los Angeles, Petroplague is about oil-eating bacteria that contaminate the fuel supply, paralyze the city, and threaten civilization as we know it.

Sounds like a made-for-TV disaster movie—not typical source material for academic study. But this novel was written by a Harvard graduate with MD and PhD degrees. It’s packed with accurate chemistry, microbiology, ecology, geology, and important social themes, all served in an entertaining, page-turning story.

Science thriller fiction like Petroplague can be a powerful tool for educators to excite their students’ interest in the subject matter. When I taught microbiology at California State University, I asked my students to read one title from a selection of microbiology-themed popular books in addition to standard textbook fare. Many students reported they enjoyed this assignment and learned something, too.

This study guide is designed to make it easy for you to use Petroplague in your classroom, whether a high school AP biology or chemistry class, a college microbiology course, or a science course for non-science majors.

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