Erika Kurt, President & Executive Director
As President and Executive Director of the Small World Initiative, Erika continues her longstanding commitment to tackling pressing global challenges. Drawing on her experience from the public and private sectors, she brings her expertise harnessing collaborative action to achieve measurable results and background in science, education, law, and impact investing. Most recently, as a Strategist for LGT Venture Philanthropy, Erika developed a framework to increase the impact of investment strategies on educational and health outcomes. Erika graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College with Highest Honors and earned two law degrees with Distinction from McGill University.
Nichole Broderick, Program Director
Nichole is an Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. Previously, Nichole was an Associate Research Scientist in the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Department at Yale University and had been supervising the Handelsman Lab research group. Nichole piloted SWI’s introductory biology course Microbes to Molecules at Yale University. Nichole received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Jo Handelsman (Microbiology) and Kenneth Raffa (Entomology) and did her postdoctoral research in the lab of Bruno Lemaitre at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her research has focused on gut microbiota and their impact on host physiology and susceptibility to disease.
Jo Handelsman, Founder
Jo stands out as a changemaker, visionary, and maverick in science and education. 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 while at Yale University, she created the Small World Initiative (SWI) with the goal of strengthening STEM education, addressing the antibiotic crisis, and sharing her passion for soil microbes. Jo initially 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 assumed the role of Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in February 2017, where she was honored recently as a Vilas Research Professor. In her previous role, she served at the White House as 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.
Board of Directors
Carol Pepper, Treasurer
Carol Pepper is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pepper International LLC, an award winning family office located in New York City. Most recently, she was named one of the 50 most influential women in private wealth (PAM). She is often quoted in top financial publications and appears on major business television news segments, including CNBC, Fox Business, and Bloomberg TV. Carol is the co-author of The Seven Pearls of Financial Wisdom: A Woman’s Guide to Enjoying Wealth and Power – named a best business book of 2012 by The Library Journal. Prior to forming Pepper International in 2001, Carol had extensive experience at JP Morgan Private Bank, Citibank Private Bank, Credit Suisse Private Bank, Rockefeller & Co., and Morgan Stanley. Carol graduated cum laude from Bryn Mawr College in 1984 and obtained an MBA in entrepreneurial studies from Columbia University Business School in 1989.
Elizabeth Andreev, Secretary
As Secretary of the Small World Initiative, Elizabeth brings her extensive financial and business acumen, STEM background, and commitment to philanthropy. Currently, Elizabeth is a Director in the Municipal Securities Group at US Bancorp, covering a wide range of institutional clients. Previously, she was a municipal bond trader at Susquehanna Investment Group in Philadelphia. Elizabeth has been active in her philanthropical commitments. Last year, for the food rescue and hunger charity City Harvest, she led a top performing team in their annual "Skip Lunch, Fight Hunger" fundraiser. Elizabeth graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Carnegie Mellon University with a BS in Mathematical Sciences and a minor in Music Performance.
Terry Babcock-Lumish, Advisor
Dr. Terry Babcock-Lumish founded Islay in 2005 to meet the needs of clients committed to effecting positive change, from local to global. Her research interests involve decision-making in financial innovation at the intersection of science, technology, and society. Recent years’ academic affiliations include the University of Oxford, Harvard University, the University of Arizona, and the United States Military Academy, where she developed West Point’s first behavioral economics program and a partnership with the Culinary Institute of America. While at the City University of New York, Dr. Babcock-Lumish served as the founding Director of Public Policy at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, dedicated to education, research, and civic engagement, in the historic New York City home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt. She has worked in local, state, and federal government, most recently as a Presidential Management Fellow in the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Upon leaving the White House in 2001, Terry served as a researcher for two books by the Honorable Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore. She completed her BS at Carnegie Mellon University, earned her MPA in environmental and technology policy at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs as an Eli Lilly Community Assistance Fellow, and read her DPhil at the University of Oxford as a Truman and Clarendon Scholar.
Simon Hernandez, Advisor
Simon is a medical student at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. Formerly, Simon worked as a Postgraduate Associate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University. He joined the Handelsman Lab in 2011 as a researcher studying the production and isolation of natural products from soil bacteria. After receiving his BS in Biology from Dickinson College, Simon helped launch the Small World Initiative and develop protocols and course materials for the budding program. He was a Teaching Fellow for SWI’s Microbes to Molecules course and worked on an independent research project on Lysobacter antimicrobial compounds. His next step is becoming a physician and making a difference in the practice and delivery of medicine.
Carol Bascom-Slack, Advisor
Carol is a Research Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Center for Translational Science Education. She has been involved with the creation and dissemination of many course-based research programs, including the Prevalence of Antibiotic Resistance in the Environment (PARE) project, the Small World Initiative, and Yale’s Rainforest Course. She piloted the inaugural version of SWI’s introductory biology course “From Microbes to Molecules” at Yale University. Throughout her career, a consistent theme has been student learning coupled with classroom-based research on antibiotic discovery and resistance. Carol received her PhD from Tufts University School of Medicine with Dean Dawson and did her post-doctoral research with David Van Vactor at Harvard Medical School.
Fellows & Interns
Past Fellows & Interns
Bailey Jordan, Former Social Impact Intern
Bailey is a current student at Fordham University Rose Hill double majoring in Anthropology and French. In addition, she is a dancer, avid-traveler, and community service volunteer based in Manhattan. She is hoping to pursue a career in global health and human services. Bailey has a special interest in promoting education and medical accessibility for underrepresented minorities. She is looking forward to using her knowledge and experience towards a career that makes a positive social impact.
Margo Labkovich, Former JFEW Eleanor Roosevelt Scholar Intern
Marharyta “Margo” Labkovich is a junior undergraduate student at Hunter College, majoring in Biology and completing an interdisciplinary study program at Thomas Hunter Honors with a focus in psychology. She immigrated with her family from Belarus six years ago and attended high school in the United States, where she graduated from Susan E. Wagner High School with Honors. Even in High School, Margo exhibited her inner passion for ensuring community health through extensive volunteering at Sea View Rehabilitation Center and completion of a Model City Council internship, which required her to be a New York City district representative during the mock debate on enacting a public policy.
At present, Margo commits her time to contributing to her community by participating and taking leadership roles in various nonprofit and volunteer organizations such as Peer Health Exchange, Heart to Heart, PAVERS (Patient Advocacy Volunteer in Emergency Research Services), and Project Healthcare, and also by continuing to volunteer at Sea View Rehabilitation Center. In these programs, she assists in delivering health care and learns from shadowing, clinical research, and public health workshops. Being an educator for Peer Health Exchange, she reaches out to teens by teaching health information and skills that are going to support their physical and mental health. As a part of her major, Margo is involved in neurobiological lab research that seeks to decipher anxiety pathways. As for her academic success at Hunter College, she is on the Dean’s List as well as a member of Golden Key Honor Society. Margo’s policy interest concerns public health, particularly in regards to disease prevention. She is a proud member of 2015-2017 JFEW Eleanor Roosevelt Scholar Program for which she is interning at the Small World Initiative. Margo aspires to pursue a career in medicine and impact public health policies after graduation.
Christina Moawad, Former Friends for Change Fellow
Christina Moawad is currently a senior majoring in Biomedical Engineering at The City College of New York. She is also a student at Macaulay Honors College. Christina is pursuing an MD/PhD in biomechanics. She hopes to one day work with national and international organizations to provide solutions to improve translational science in underdeveloped communities. Her recent accomplishments include four journal publications and being awarded the 2015 National Goldwater Honorable Mention. Christina plans to integrate her biomedical knowledge to contribute to innovative ideas that address health-related problems, in order to improve people’s quality of life. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, playing basketball, and solving Sudoku puzzles.