Section 1: Program Information & Overview

Note: Please note that you may return to this application to complete or change responses until you click submit as long as you use the same computer.

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 July at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. If you are located in Ireland, Spain, or the United Kingdom, please do not fill out this application and contact us here as there is a separate application process.

Initiated at Yale University in 2012, the Small World Initiative (SWI) is an innovative program that encourages students to pursue careers in science, increases scientific literacy, and addresses 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 five years, SWI has grown rapidly to include more than 275 participating schools across 38 US states, Puerto Rico, and 14 countries. During the 2015-2016 academic year, the full college curriculum was officially piloted at its first high school – The Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas. Thanks to this successful pilot, we have trained instructors from ten additional high schools to teach the program. 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 (PCAST).

Second, there is growing worldwide consensus that antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing medical challenges of the 21st century (UN, WHO). Without serious action by 2050, superbugs will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined and result in 300 million premature deaths (Review on AMR). 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 student researchers 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 10,000 students have taken SWI’s introductory biology course. This year, the total number of participating schools has grown to more than 275 across 14 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, 109 Schools in 9 Countries, including official US High School Pilot Program
 2016-2017, 174 Schools in 12 Countries
 2017-2018, 276 Schools in 14 Countries

Projected Next Steps
 Growing the program nationally and internationally
 Developing a pipeline of opportunities for students and Partner Instructors, including a summer program and follow-on modules
 Enhancing program components for crowdsourcing antibiotics
 Reporting on our educational and scientific impact
 Completing the development of our second-generation 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, 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 individual research data and analyze group 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
 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.)

 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, Symposium, Training, Social Media/PR)
What are the Roles and Responsibilities of Being a SWI Partner Instructor?
Partner Instructors must agree to teach SWI’s introductory biology course safely and with quality. Partner Instructors are also thoroughly encouraged to participate in the SWI community. This includes supporting SWI’s overall goals and efforts and contributing requested materials, including class reporting (required), science outputs (optional), samples (optional), and student evaluations (optional). Participation on SWI's Committees is also welcomed.

While the Small World Initiative has worked hard to keep costs down, please note that we charge each participating high school an annual fee to help us offset our costs. This fee covers everything from training, material development, and tester strains to evaluation and program staff. The fee for the 2018-2019 academic year is $15,000. This fee is not for profit and simply offsets our implementation costs. If you school does not have applicable funding and is not able to secure external funding, you may ask to be considered for a scholarship. At this time, we have partial scholarships available and can also assist schools in applying for funding. In addition, please note that you should assess whether you have the necessary lab equipment to teach the course. The most expensive piece of lab equipment is the autoclave. Disposable lab supplies run between $15-70 per student depending on the supplier. For more information on lab equipment and disposable supplies, please reference "What Does Your Lab Need" located here.