Jo Handelsman

Jo created the Small World Initiative (SWI) in 2012 with the goal of strengthening STEM education, addressing the antibiotic crisis, and sharing her passion for soil microbes. Her 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, she is known internationally for her efforts to improve science education and participation of women and minorities in science. In 2012, she introduced the concept of SWI through an undergraduate course titled "From Microbes to Molecules." Her vision transformed the six-student introductory biology course into the international collaboration the program has become today.

Jo is currently the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in June of 2014. 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 the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984, and she served on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1985 until moving to Yale in 2010. Jo'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.


Tiffany Tsang

Tiffany, a former Postdoctoral Associate in the Handelsman lab, took on the task of turning SWI into a reality. In 2012, she helped integrate the antibiotic discovery project into an introductory-biology course at Yale and ushered its expansion nationally and internationally as the SWI, making Jo Handelsman's vision accessible to a wider audience. Tiffany managed the SWI from its launch to the summer of 2014, training the first two cohorts of partner instructors and laying a foundation for the next generation of SWI leaders, educators, and students. Prior to Yale, she received her PhD from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan, where she studied Yersinia pestis virulence factors. Tiffany's enthusiasm for active and inclusive teaching, student-driven research, and community-building have become infused in the mission and culture of SWI.


Simon Hernandez

Simon Hernandez is a Postgraduate Associate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University. Simon joined the Handelsman Lab as an undergraduate researcher studying the production of secondary metabolites and antibiotic discovery from soil bacteria. After receiving his BS in Biology from Dickinson College, Simon returned to Yale to help launch the Small World Initiative and deepen his research experience. His current role in SWI involves curating materials, managing websites and communications, and working as Teaching Fellow for the intro-biology course “Microbes to Molecules.” His independent research focuses on the biosynthesis of Lysobacter antimicrobial compounds. Simon was born and raised in Dominican Republic and enjoys traveling, running, and cooking. He starts medical school in August 2015.