Ana Maria Barral, Social Media/PR Committee Chair

Ana Maria Barral is an Assistant Professor at National University, California. Originally a biochemist, she has transitioned from cancer research to biology education, particularly microbiology. She was part of the first SWI cohort in 2013 and has successfully adapted the SWI curriculum to National’s accelerated 8-week format. 


Brittany Gasper (Florida Southern College), Materials Committee Chair


Debra Davis, Training Committee Chair

“Having taught SWI labs in Microbiology for Biology and Allied Health majors and in a specially developed non-science majors course, I have seen first hand the changes created by such an invaluable experience. The attitudes of students towards laboratory classes, science as a whole, and microbiology were transformed. In addition, the perception of my colleagues on the ability and drive that non-majors possess towards science were revitalized.  Non-science majors students have changed their majors or taken more science related courses due to their experience with SWI. Biology majors and Allied Health science majors come to lab classes excited and have sought out other research experiences to enhance their academic experiences. My colleagues have also incorporated new laboratory experiences in their own courses as a result.” 

Debra Davis is an Assistant Professor at Wingate University, North Carolina. She is a microbial ecologist, specializing in wetland sediment microbial populations. She has been a SWI Partner Instructor since 2014 and has adapted SWI in several courses for Allied Health, Biology/Environmental Biology, and non-science majors. 


Elia Crisucci, STEM Impact/Evaluation Committee Chair

“Students are really excited about the SWI course! They are so engaged because they know that their work has real importance. I have really enjoyed watching our introductory biology students make discoveries, develop confidence, and grow as scientific researchers.”

Elia is a curriculum developer, course coordinator, and instructor for Foundations of Biology Lab courses at the University of Pittsburgh. She obtained a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. While attending graduate school, she completed the Teaching Minor Program. Elia is also an alumnus of the American Society for Microbiology Program for Biology Scholars, having participated in the Assessment Residency in 2014-2015. Elia joined SWI as an associate of the Pilot Partners in 2013 and has been teaching a SWI course for introductory biology students at the University of Pittsburgh. Elia also oversees the administration of course assessment. 


Jean Schmidt, Symposium/Student Expo Committee Co-Chair

“Watching introductory biology students engage with SWI research is exciting and incredibly rewarding. Being able to collaborate with so many great SWI faculty colleagues on research-based course development to enhance the student experience is an added bonus.”

Jean is an Instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, serving as Foundations of Biology Laboratory Coordinator and Curriculum Developer. She received her M.Sc. in Biology in 2004 from Duquesne University. She taught microbiology and introductory biology at a community college and a private liberal arts university prior to joining the University of Pittsburgh faculty in 2010. Jean became a SWI Pilot Partner in the summer of 2013, training at Yale University. She taught the University of Pittsburgh’s first Small World Initiative course in spring 2014. She served as Chair of the SWI Symposium Committee from 2014-2015. Jean is currently working with the Chemistry Department faculty at her institution to support the launch of a pilot chemistry course that extends first semester SWI student research into purification and chemical analysis of antibiotic compounds from student-isolated soil bacteria.


Kristen Butela (Seton Hill), Science Committee Co-Chair


Mustafa Morsy, Symposium/Student Expo Committee Co-Chair

Mustafa Morsy is an Associate Professor at the University of West Alabama (UWA). He earned his PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Arkansas. He joined the University of Nevada, Reno and then the Samuel Robert Noble Foundation as a postdoctoral fellow from 2005 to 2011. In fall 2011, he joined UWA as a full-time faculty in the Department of Biology. The Morsy lab research at UWA focused on the discovery of novel endophytes that can be used to improve crop productivity, under normal and stress conditions. In addition, Morsy is committed to encouraging undergraduate involvement in research via development of research-based curriculum and laboratory-intensive environment for talented and dedicated students. As a result, he became a SWI Pilot Partner in 2013.

The SWI course has been a rewarding experince for him and his freshmen students. For example, one of the students, Fhallon Ware-Gilmore, described her experience with the SWI course by saying, “I was able to learn something new, to hone my problem-solving skills, and to challenge myself in new ways…I believe as a freshman this was an experience of a lifetime.” Another student, Mara Deluca, described her experience in presenting at the SWI symposium as, “The American Society of Microbiology in Boston was an experience I will cherish throughout my college career…In attending the meeting, I learned many things. One in particular was the multitude of pathways a biology major can go.”


Paula Soneral, Recognition & Opportunity Committee Chair

Paula is an Associate Professor of Biology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a faculty member at a private liberal arts college, she brings expertise in mentoring undergraduate students toward increased self-efficacy in STEM. She believes the Small World Initiative curriculum is an excellent tool for helping freshman and sophomore students engage in the practice of science, build confidence, and make a positive impact on global health. Paula received a bachelors degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology with high honors from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University School of Medicine.


Samantha Gruenheid (McGill), Science Committee Co-Chair

Dr. Samantha Gruenheid, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair at McGill University, discovered her passion for research during an undergraduate honour’s project at the University of British Columbia where she characterized the mechanisms of resistance of certain cell lines to herpes virus infection. Following graduation, she continued this project as a research assistant before pursuing her Ph.D. at McGill University in the lab of Dr. Philippe Gros, an expert in the genetics of host resistance to infection. Following her Ph.D., she undertook postdoctoral studies with Dr. Brett Finlay, a world-renowned expert in bacterial pathogenesis, where she identified and characterized a family of bacterial virulence factors that are injected into host cells. In 2005, she joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University where she runs an active research program on host-pathogen interactions, with a major focus on enteric bacteria. Through the Small World Initiative, she aims to introduce undergraduate students to the excitement of authentic scientific research.


Todd Kelson (Brigham Young), Buddy Program/Mentor Committee Chair