Section 1: Program Information & Overview

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Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. However, if you would like to be considered for the summer training, please submit your application as soon as possible. The next training will be held in June/July at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. If you are located in the UK, Spain, or Ireland, please do not fill out this application and contact us here as there is a separate application process.

Formulated at Yale University and piloted in 2012, the Small World Initiative (SWI) is an innovative program that encourages students to pursue careers in science while addressing a worldwide health threat – the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics. It centers around an introductory biology course in which students conduct original research on soil samples in the hunt for antibiotic candidates. Over the past four years, SWI has grown rapidly to include more than 170 participating schools across 35 US states, Puerto Rico, and 12 countries. During the 2015-2016 academic year, SWI was officially piloted at its first high school. We are currently working to expand SWI’s impact and reach on a global scale and complete the missing links to allow SWI’s discoveries to move forward into R&D programs.

Two Problems – STEM Deficit & Antimicrobial Resistance
First, there is a growing economic need for more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates. In the US alone, it is estimated that an additional one million STEM graduates are needed to join the workforce over the next decade to meet economic demands. Yet, the number of students pursuing STEM degrees has been decreasing, especially among women and minorities.

Second, there is growing worldwide consensus that antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing medical challenges of the 21st century. Without serious action, by 2050 the cost of antimicrobial resistance is estimated to be $100 trillion and 300 million premature deaths. The loss of efficacy in existing antibiotics due to widespread antibiotic resistance is compounded by the increasing lack of investment in new antibiotic development by pharmaceutical companies.

Our Solution
SWI is an innovative program that inspires students in science and increases retention through immersion in hands-on laboratory and field research with real-world applications in introductory courses. As part of SWI, students isolate soil bacteria from their local environment in the search for 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. 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.
Current School Outreach
To date, over 8,000 students have taken SWI’s introductory biology course. This year, the total number of participating schools has grown to more than 170 across 12 countries with SWI partners hosting training workshops in the US and abroad.

Our Impact
 2012 – Yale University Pilot
 2013-2014 – 30 Colleges in the US
 2014-2015, 60 Colleges in 5 Countries
 2015-2016, 108 Schools in 9 Countries, including official US High School Pilot Program
 2016-2017, 174 Schools in 12 Countries

Projected Next Steps

 Growing the college program nationally and internationally
 Developing a pipeline of opportunities for students and Partner Instructors, including a summer program and follow-on courses
 Enhancing program components for crowdsourcing antibiotics
 Establishing a high throughput screening and educational laboratory
 Reporting on our educational and scientific impact
 Completing the development of our cloud-based relational database

For more information on the Small World Initiative, please visit:, follow us on Twitter @Team_SWI, or like us on Facebook.
Acceptance into the Small World Initiative provides numerous benefits to Partner Instructors and their students.

Instructional Materials
 Regularly updated instructional materials that maintain a standard of excellence for teaching SWI’s introductory biology course. This includes our Instructor Guidebook and Instructional Materials, Student Guide, and Research Protocols.

 In-person weeklong training workshop for approved Partner Instructors with qualified trainers and engaging content

Advice and Assistance
 Access to experts to answer questions surrounding implementation
 Answers to FAQs

Student Opportunities
 Continuously expanding pipeline of opportunities for students to present research, attend conferences and events, publish, receive recognition, be mentored, and apply for internships, fellowships, and jobs

Partner Instructor Opportunities
 Continuously expanding pipeline of opportunities for Partner Instructor to publish, speak, lead, and collaborate with other Partner Instructors
 Participation in a large and dynamic community of professionals all teaching a cutting-edge course and working jointly on antibiotic development
 Awards and recognition of star Partner Instructors
 Mentoring for incoming Partner Instructors (Mentor Program)

Introductory Course to Increase STEM Majors & Impact Underrepresented Talent Pools
 SWI’s introductory biology course is based on peer-reviewed research demonstrating that this model is more successful at encouraging students to pursue STEM majors (NSF, AAAS, PCAST). Further, it is particularly impactful on women and minorities, talent pools that are underrepresented in STEM fields. Evaluation results from 2013-2014, analyzed by an external evaluator at the LEAD Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Education Research, have been extremely positive. In March 2016, the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education published an article that supported our educational impact and found that our program improved students’ lecture grades and critical thinking skills test scores.

Online Tools
 Use of an online database that allows students to input research data
 Curated website (, blog, Facebook groups and pages, YouTube Channel, Twitter, LinkedIN

Evaluation Tools
 Gold star instruments are provided to measure SWI’s impact on students and to capture science outputs
 Publishing opportunities for Partner Instructors on innovative teaching
 Assistance with Institutional Review Board

Negotiated Pricing, DIRTT Lab, & Throughput
 Internal and negotiated pricing for access to Yale’s DNA Sequencing Lab
 Negotiated arrangements for reduced pricing for certain laboratory equipment, materials, and testing (This may only be available in some countries.)
 Development of a throughput and educational laboratory are in the works, which will allow Partner Instructors to send flagged samples for additional testing.

 Membership in an innovative global effort to combat one of the world’s most pressing health challenges and participation in pipeline to discover new antibiotics
 Participating schools are featured on website.

 Governing structure
 Opportunities for Partner Instructors to participate on and lead SWI Committees (e.g., Science, Publishing
What are the Roles and Responsibility of Being a SWI Partner Instructor?
Partner Instructors must agree to teach SWI’s introductory biology course safely and with quality in one of the following models:
 Introductory cell and molecular biology
 Introductory lab for biology majors
 Introductory microbiology lab
 Introductory lab for non-science majors

Partner Instructors must also actively participate in the SWI community. This includes supporting SWI’s overall goals and efforts and contributing requested materials, including class reporting, science outputs (optional), samples (optional), and student evaluations (optional). Participation on SWI Committees is thoroughly encouraged.