Health & Wellness

USU-Uintah Basin Students Work to Address Antibiotic Crisis

USU-Uintah Basin students are receiving authentic research experience through the Small World Initiative where they are working to make groundbreaking discoveries that could address the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics.

Utah State University-Uintah Basin students are receiving authentic research experience as part of a global community of undergraduate researchers. Through the Small World Initiative, local students are working to make groundbreaking discoveries that could address the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics.

Students will present their scientific findings at a poster symposium open to the community at USU-Uintah Basin in Vernal Monday, Dec. 7, from 6-8 p.m. The symposium provides students with an opportunity to gain practical experience presenting their research.

Through the initiative, Lianna Etchberger and 16 first-year biology students are conducting research to discover new antibiotics that may be effective against increasingly frequent multi-drug-resistant pathogens. The project provides hands-on learning through the scientific process, record keeping, and producing and analyzing data, to help prepare students for a career in biology.

“Students are learning about the big ideas in biology and connecting biology concepts to the soil bacteria they are characterizing,” explained Etchberger. “Many students across the country who are interested in science end up majoring in non-science disciplines. It is my hope that an authentic research experience such as this, early in their education, will help retain those students and encourage them to pursue biology-related careers as these fields continue to grow.” 

Etchberger launched the project in fall 2014, after a week at Yale University developing a SWI-integrated course. Students began collecting soil samples and antibiotic-producing microbes from the surrounding area to be uploaded into a database. Within the database, students can compare results from other locations and have ownership in the project to develop the next steps. If a new antibody is discovered, it could solve the worldwide health threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“It is truly an honor to be a part of an initiative that could have such a resounding impact on global health,” stated USU-Uintah Basin Dean Boyd Edwards. “One of our goals is to provide our students with real-world experiences to build their résumé, and this project is a seamless fit.” 

SWI was developed at the Center for Scientific Teaching at Yale University. It is an innovative undergraduate research collaborative that presents a unique combination of science education, scientific research and science diplomacy. The initiative includes 130 partnering instructors at 109 schools across 32 states, Puerto Rico, and nine countries. SWI’s objectives are to help encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and address the need for undergraduate students to gain relevant, discovery-based research experiences to encourage them to continue in STEM-related degrees. 

To learn more about the SWI, visit or contact Lianna Etchberger at

Contact: Lianna Etchberger,

Writer: Dana Rhoades,

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