SWI 2017 Symposium

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2017SympCoverThe Small World Initiative™ 4th Annual Symposium (at ASM Microbe) took place June 1st-June 5th in New Orleans, Louisiana. This was a great opportunity for students to present their research and get exposed to the many career and research paths in microbiology and for faculty to connect, collaborate, and share classroom innovations. Please click here to download the program.

Symposium Highlights

Keynote: A Conversation with Dr. Jo Handelsman

Jo HandelsmanOn Thursday, June 1st, SWI President & Executive Director Erika Kurt will sit down with Dr. Jo Handelsman for an engaging conversation covering her initiatives in public service, innovative thinking on science education, vision for antibiotic discovery, and advice for students. Dr. Handelsman stands out as a changemaker, visionary, and maverick in science and education. Her scientific research focuses on studying the diversity of microbes in soil as well as microbial communities and interactions in soil and insect gut. She was one of the pioneers of metagenomics, a functional approach to studying the genetic diversity of unculturable bacteria in environmental samples. In addition, Dr. Handelsman is known internationally for her efforts to improve science education and participation of women and minorities in science and co-founded the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, the Yale Center for Scientific Teaching, and the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education. In 2012, she launched an undergraduate course titled “From Microbes to Molecules” with Dr. Carol Bascom-Slack with the goal of strengthening STEM education, addressing the antibiotic crisis, and sharing her passion for soil microbes.

Dr. Handelsman is the outgoing Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in June of 2014, and helped advise the President on the implications of science for the Nation, ways in which science can inform US policy, and Federal efforts in support of scientific research. In February 2017, she was tapped to lead the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Prior to joining OSTP, she was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Frederick Phineas Rose Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from UW in 1984, and she served on UW’s faculty from 1985 until moving to Yale in 2010. Dr. Handelsman’s leadership has led to her appointment as the first President of the Rosalind Franklin Society; her appointment as President of the American Society for Microbiology in 2013; her service on the National Academies’ panel that wrote the 2006 report, “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering;” her role as co-chair of the PCAST working group that developed the 2012 report, “Engage to Excel,” which contained recommendations to the President to strengthen STEM education to meet the workforce needs of the next decade in the United States; and her selection by President Obama to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.

Poster Session

On Thursday, June 1st, Small World Initiative students and faculty presented posters on their scientific research. The session will was open to ASM Microbe general session attendees. Beverages will be served. To submit a poster abstract, please click here. Please note that you must submit your poster abstract by Monday, May 15th at midnight Eastern Time.  For poster sizing, each person has a maximum space of 4ft x 4ft for his/her poster, and the poster must fit in this space. Please note that the actual poster boards are 8ft x 4ft and are shared. The Symposium Committee will accept at least one poster per school (unless it is determined to be in violation of SWI’s values).

Tapas: Just a Taste

Following the poster session, Small World Initiative faculty will present a series of short (4-minute) talks on an exciting array of topics, from new lab methodologies implemented in SWI courses to special projects that are extending SWI’s reach beyond the university classroom. Beverages will be served. To submit a tapas talk proposal, please click here. Please note that you must submit your proposal by Monday, May 15th at midnight Eastern Time. Please click here to download the slides from last year’s session. The PowerPoint presentation format is 16×9, and each presenter may use one slide. For information on how to convert a presentation to this format, please click here. If you need a 16×9 PowerPoint presentation template, click here.

Graduate and Professional School Expo

On Thursday, June 1st, the Small World Initiative will host the first-ever Graduate and Professional School Expo. If you represent a school and are interested in having a booth, please click here for more information. If you would like to speak with someone, please contact us here or email Dr. Mustafa Morsy at mmorsy [at] uwa [dot] edu. For more information on participating schools, please click here. Students have the option of electing to share their contact information and resumes with participating schools by uploading them here.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, June 1, 2017

  • SWI Symposium – ASM Society Day – The SWI Symposium will be held in room 271 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70130.
    • Student Scavenger Hunt Virtual Launch: 11:00AM (closes noon on Saturday)
    • Graduate and Professional School Expo: 11:00AM-2:30PM
    • Faculty Tapas Session: 11:00AM-12:00PM
    • Student & Faculty Posters: 12:15PM-2:15PM
    • Keynote – Dr. Jo Handelsman: 2:30PM-3:30PM
    • Student & Faculty Group Photograph: 3:30PM-3:45PM
    • Symposium Awards: 4:00PM-4:30PM
  • ASM Microbe
    • Arrival and Registration for ASM Microbe: 7:00AM-8:00PM
    • ASM Microbe Opening Session: 5:00PM-6:45PM
    • ASM Microbe Opening Reception: 6:45PM-8:00P M

Friday, June 2, 2017

  • SWI Student & Faculty Meet & Greet: TBD
  • Informal Dinner Gathering: place/price TBD

Saturday, June 3, 2017

  • Meet the Experts: Todd Kelson (SWI) & TBD (SEA-PHAGES) “How to Engage Undergraduates in Discovery-Based Learning”: 7:30AM-8:30AM
  • ASM Microbe Keynote Address: 6:15PM-7:15PM


ASM Microbe 2017 will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70130 and the surrounding hotels. SWI’s events on June 1st will be at the convention center. For more information on ASM Microbe, please click here. To register for ASM Microbe, please click here. It is more economical to register as a member, and the most economical registration options for faculty and students is provided below. Prices increase starting April 20, 2017.

Symposium Committee Members

  • Dr. Elizabeth L. Roberts (Southern Connecticut State University)
  • Dr. Huda Makhluf (National University)
  • Dr. Misty Thomas (North Carolina A&T State University)
  • Dr. Mustafa Morsy (University of West Alabama)
  • Dr. Roger Greenwell (Worcester State University)
  • Dr. Souzan Eassa (University of Arkansas, Little Rock)
  • Dr. Todd Kelson (Brigham Young University)



We wish to extend our gratitude to the Symposium Committee for all of their hard work in organizing the engaging content and complicated logistics of this year’s SWI Symposium. In particular, we would like to thank Dr. Mustafa Morsy from the University of West Alabama for leading this Committee.

Past Symposia

2016 – The Small World Initiative™ 3rd Annual Symposium (at ASM Microbe)