The purpose of this course is to provide underclassmen and non-science majors with an opportunity to undertake real-world scientific research in a fun, supportive, and immersive environment. As part of the Small World Initiative, you will join with college students around the globe to crowdsource antibiotic drug discovery. Your guided independent research projects will involve taking soil samples, isolating bacteria within them, and testing them for antibiotic activity, and there is the opportunity for further pursuit of any promising findings. We have access to the database generated by students at other Small World sites, allowing us to explore issues of biodiversity, effective use of large data sets in the sciences, and the effectiveness of crowdsourcing for scientific research. At the end of the semester, your results will join that database.
As part of the Honors Core, UConn’s Small World course adds an interdisciplinary emphasis on the social aspects of disease: its definition, what it means to be “diseased,” how those definitions have changed over time, and the pivotal role of antibiotics in the evolution of those definitions. We will use both fiction and non-fiction in this exploration, and we will end up in the modern era to consider antibiotic-resistant microorganisms and the ethical, philosophical, and policy issues we may face if antibiotics cease to be effective in treating many common diseases.