Tiny Earth is an innovative program that introduces students to scientific methods while addressing a global health threat – the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics. Since its inception as Small World Initiative (SWI), Tiny Earth has grown rapidly to include more than 275 participating undergraduate institutions and high schools across fifteen countries. At FAU, 192 Life Science Lab (RI:BSC 1005L) students are engaged in Tiny Earth per semester and have discovered hundreds of antibiotic-producing soil bacteria. The bacteria with the best antibiotic-production profiles are shared with the General Microbiology Lab (MCB 3020) students (~100 students per semester) to further characterize these unknown bacteria. We have established a research team partnering with FAU chemists with the goal of isolating and characterizing novel antibiotic compounds.
Dr. Jo Handelsman founded SWI in 2012 while at Yale University. She created SWI with the goal of strengthening STEM education, addressing the antibiotic crisis and sharing her passion for soil microbes. She is currently the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin Madison where she launched Tiny Earth to continue antibiotic discovery efforts. Previously she served as the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology appointed by President Obama.