Aquinas is Second Michigan College to Join Antibiotic Crowdsourcing Initiative

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students in a bio lab

The Aquinas College Biology Department has been selected to join the Small World Initiative (SWI), a Yale-University-based non-profit organization that aims to teach students scientific methods while simultaneously crowdsourcing the discovery of novel antibiotics.  

This selection will provide funding for training and materials to incorporate the SWI curriculum into the department’s introductory biology courses in the fall 2017 semester.  Within Michigan, Aquinas College is currently the second higher education institution (Eastern Michigan University is the other) and the only small liberal arts college to be welcomed as a part of the SWI consortium.  

The program was inspired in response to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report in 2012 which called for the “(replacement) of standard laboratory courses with discovery-based research courses.” SWI is designed to engage students in research that addresses a real-world crisis---the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics.

“Our biology faculty are excited to be a part of this innovative program which will give our students more opportunities to engage in authentic research,” said Jennifer Hess, Ph.D., associate professor of biology. “We’re looking forward to fully integrating the SWI curriculum into the new health sciences curriculum currently being developed within our biology department.”

SWI aims to “address the global concern for antibiotic resistance, to discover candidates for novel natural product antibiotic, and to explore the untapped microbial and biochemical diversity of soil.” Using this curriculum, all introductory Aquinas biology students, including many first year students, will have opportunities to engage in applied research and to directly expand current scientific knowledge in a medically important field.