Small World Initiative

An innovative program that encourages students to pursue careers in science while addressing a worldwide health threat – the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics.
2012 - presentpresent

SWI is an innovative program that successfully encourages students to pursue careers in science through hands-on experience and real-world applicable laboratory and field research in introductory courses. As part of SWI, students from around the world isolate bacteria from soil in their local environments that could lead to novel antibiotics. This is particularly relevant since over two thirds of antibiotics originate from soil bacteria or fungi. Differentiating itself from traditional courses, SWI’s biology course provides original research opportunities rather than relying on cookbook experiments with predetermined results. Through a series of student-driven experiments, students collect soil samples, isolate diverse bacteria, test their bacteria against clinically-relevant microorganisms, and characterize those showing inhibitory activity. SWI’s approach also provides a platform to crowdsource antibiotic discovery by tapping into the intellectual power of many people concurrently addressing a global challenge and advances promising candidates into the drug development pipeline. This unique class approach harnesses the power of active learning to achieve both educational and scientific goals.