Tiny Earth Enrichment Study

The Tiny Earth Enrichment Study is an online longitudinal study which aims to enhance and better understand the impact of participating in the Tiny Earth network and how that participation impacts the quality of peer-mentor relationships among both faculty and students.
For individuals who mentor undergraduate(s), we wish to understand the qualities of the mentoring relationship that benefit the mentor and mentee involved in science education.  The ultimate goal of the study is to identify ways to support academic professionals who are a part of an inclusive and innovating science community.
This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is a part of a national collaboration with the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) and National Research and Mentorship Network (NRMN), which aims to develop, implement, and determine the effectiveness of innovative approaches. Together they seek to strengthen institutional capacity to engage individuals from diverse backgrounds and help them prepare for and succeed in biomedical research careers.
Study participants: If you have questions or comments, please e-mail Dr. Mica Estrada or the project coordinator, Perla Sandoval, directly at  TinyEarthEnrichmentStudy@ucsf.edu.

Our research team includes:

Dr. Mica Estrada

Dr. Mica Estrada’s area of expertise is social influence, including the study of identity, intergroup relations, and integrative education. Currently she is research faculty at  UCSF. A common characteristic of Dr. Estrada’s academic work is designing and empirically testing interventions that can change individual behavior, social norms, and community consciousness. Having led several important studies on this topic, Dr. Estrada is a recognized and well respected leader in the field of disparities research. As the Tiny Earth Enrichment Study’s behavioral scientist and diversity expert, Dr. Estrada will play a critical role in this study by advising the team on all aspects of the survey development, assisting them in directing the analyses, and providing key feedback on the development of interventions.

Dr. Paul R. Hernandez

Dr. Paul R. Hernandez is an Associate Professor with joint appointments in Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture (TLAC) and Research, Measurement, and Statistics (RMS) in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University.  Dr. Hernandez received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Connecticut in 2011. He teaches graduate courses in measurement, research design, and statistics. His research focuses on the contextual factors, developmental relationships, and motivational processes that support and broaden participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers – particularly for students from groups historically underrepresented. As Tiny Earth Enrichment Study’s lead statistician, Dr. Hernandez will play a critical role in the development and evaluation of our study.

Perla Sandoval

Perla Sandoval is a California native who developed a passion for bridging the gap between academic research and real-world applications while earning her B.A. in Psychology from California State University San Marcos. Perla furthered this passion during her graduate studies in Colorado where she conducted research exploring applications of Social Psychology theories in promoting energy conservation behavior. After earning her M.S. in Applied Social & Health Psychology, at Colorado State University Fort Collins, she joined the UCSF team in 2019. As the project manager for Tiny Earth Enrichment study, Perla will coordinate with our various partners and oversee the execution of our study.


Lilibeth Watson

Lilibeth Watson graduated from California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) in 2014 with a BA in psychology. She has been working with the University of California San Francisco since 2015. Her main work at UCSF is in evaluating the AISES Lighting the Pathway Program and the UC Berkeley Biology Scholars Program, which both focus on increasing the representation of historically underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Lilibeth is now part of the Tiny Earth Enrichment Study in which she will lead programming of evaluation tools and managing survey implementation.


Gerald Young

Gerald Young is a second-year doctoral student in the Social/Personality Psychology program at UC Berkeley. His research broadly examines the link between emotional experience and well-being, with a particular interest in how culture influences this link. Through his experiences working with Dr. Mica Estrada, he has become passionate in understanding the lack of historically underrepresented groups in STEM and how we can enhance their representation. Gerald’s background and passion is not only instrumental to his role as a graduate student assistant but will also contribute to our team’s success.

Jeffrey Keese

Jeffrey is a third year doctoral student, working with Dr. Hernandez, at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. He is currently writing his dissertation which focuses on the effectiveness of preservice teacher preparation and in-service teacher support structures and how gaps between these structures can contribute to teacher burnout and ultimately cause teacher attrition. Prior to returning to academia, Jeffrey taught secondary Social Studies in Houston-area public schools for eleven years. Jeffrey and his wife, Lauren (who is also a former teacher), live in Bryan, Texas with their three children and enjoy chasing them around whatever establishment they are currently visiting. Jefferey’s instructor background and work with Dr. Hernandez will play an integral part of our study’s development and evaluation.

Our team also includes coordination and collaboration with the Tiny Earth leadership, including

Dr. Nichole Broderick

Nichole Broderick

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 taught the introductory biology course Microbes to Molecules, which is the core curriculum for Tiny Earth, at Yale University and continues to teach it at the University of Connecticut. Nichole received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Microbiology and Entomology and conducted her postdoctoral research in the lab of Bruno Lemaitre at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her research focuses on gut microbiota and their impact on host physiology and susceptibility to disease.

Sarah Miller

Sarah is the Executive Director of Tiny Earth at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She oversees the international network of 600+ instructors who teach 10,000 students per year, coordinating efforts to studentsource antibiotic discovery from soil. She previously led multiple Academic Technology services to improve teaching with technology, in addition to REACH, a Provost-level initiative to redesign UW-Madison’s highest-enrollment courses to be more active and inclusive. Prior to that, she built and led the first four cohorts of Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence (MTLE), an intensive year-long program for UW-Madison’s early-career faculty. While directing the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, she taught multiple graduate-level courses about scientific teaching, mentoring, and diversity, as well as undergraduate science courses. She has co-authored four publications in Science magazine, founded the Scientific Teaching Book Series, and is a co-author of the books “Scientific Teaching” and “Entering Mentoring.”

Sarah has been named a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences and received the UW-Madison Teaching Academy Distinguished Teaching Award. Her professional interests focus on STEM education, with an emphasis on active and inclusive learning, institutional transformation at scale, and faculty development in higher education. She was trained as a biologist at UW-Madison. During her graduate work in plant pathology, she investigated the environmental impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by analyzing the microbial communities affiliated with plant roots.

Dr. Jo Handelsman

In 2012 while at Yale University, Jo created an undergraduate course entitled “From Microbes to Molecules” with the goals of strengthening STEM education by engaging first-year college students in authentic research, addressing the antibiotic crisis, and sharing her passion for soil microbes. Her vision, crowdsourcing antibiotic discovery, transformed the six-student introductory biology course into an international network of instructors and students across the world collaborating to discover new antibiotics.

Jo is well-known for her research on soil microbial communities. She was one of the pioneers of functional metagenomics, an approach to studying the functional diversity of unculturable bacteria in environmental samples. She is also known internationally for her efforts to improve science education and participation of women and minorities in science.

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 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 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.