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.
Hans Wildschutte (Bowling Green State University), Science Committee Co-Chair
Hans Wildschutte is an Assistant Professor at Bowling Green State University. He brings experience in adapting molecular approaches for use in environmental bacteria. As a research active member of a large undergraduate university, he teaches Introduction to Microbiology to sophomores and juniors using the Small World Initiative platform. Hans has implemented a molecular strategy for SWI to identify gene clusters encoding antagonistic factors in natural bacteria. This approach is designed to facilitate the discovery of antibiotics. Hans has a Ph.D. in Molecular Virology and Microbiology from the University of Pittsburgh. His postdoctoral training was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kristen Butela (Seton Hill), Science Committee Co-Chair
Mustafa Morsy, Symposium Committee 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 experience 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, Publication 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.
Preston Garcia, Social Media/PR Committee Chair
Preston is an Associate Professor of Biology and the Biology program coordinator at Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont. As a microbiologist, he has always been concerned about the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance, which is what led him to the Small World Initiative. He also has a strong interest in STEM retention, especially among first-generation college students, who are the majority of students at Castleton. SWI provides the perfect combination to address both of these concerns. After attending training at UConn this summer, he is teaching a full SWI curriculum for the first time this spring for freshman science majors. He is looking forward to leading the Social Media/PR Committee by using all forms of social media to continue to spread the word about SWI.
Preston received his bachelor’s degree in Biology at James Madison University and his Masters and Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Connecticut. He completed his Postdoctoral work as an Infectious Disease fellow at the University of Virginia Medical School.