Tiny Earth’s 2020 Success

The year 2020 was one of change, pivoting our expectations in order to succeed in new realities. It was a challenge that tested our dedication to education and fostered a new wave of change and inclusivity. While the world seemed to pause, the gears at Tiny Earth headquarters, recreated within makeshift home offices, kept turning. Tiny Earth leadership, scientists, instructors, and all those in between worked through unprecedented change to cultivate learning and research. More time indoors saw us dive into the world of Zoom, discover new modes of learning, and grow connections with those far and wide. While many of us are ready to leave 2020 behind (if we haven’t already), the Tiny Earth team would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the amazing work achieved by our ambitious and dedicated community.


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tiny Earth made a swift pivot to online. The course underwent redesign to adapt to in-person learning, which gave rise to adjusted content for all lab sections with video tutorials and interactive modules. Materials for the course and TEPI training were moved into Canvas to give instructors access to Tiny Earth in new ways and adapt to their respective online, in-person, or hybrid communities. While late January 2020 gave us the opportunity to convene in-person for TEPI training at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery, the Training Committee later made a pivot to offer free, virtual TEPI training over Zoom and Canvas. Over 40 new TEPIs were trained in the virtual session this last fall! Additionally, we hosted several pivot workshops and held new office hours and webinars to help TEPIs adjust to new online learning environments and become familiar with the newly available online content. Lastly, Tiny Earth could not forgo the semiannual symposium, created to showcase the working research of Tiny Earth’s students and instructors around the world. Shifting to virtual gatherings allowed the Summer and Winter Symposia to be international, with 200+ registrants at each event.


Tiny Earth is built on the foundation of AJEDI principles: antiracism, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Guided by these values, the Tiny Earth learning environment is designed to be accessible to all students regardless of ability, age, size, race, or access to technology. In 2020, Tiny Earth was able to integrate AJEDI content into symposia sessions, while taking measures to create inclusive and uplifting events for students and instructors of all backgrounds. We heard from scientists and activists like Dr. Beronda Montgomery, a microbiology professor at Michigan State University, and experts with experiences directly in the field of science and medicine that are impacted by varying degrees of diversity and inclusion. AJEDI curriculum and activities were infused into all TIny Earth course sections to reflect the dedication to context and perspective that often gets overlooked in STEM. Scientific Teaching and Inclusivity sessions were also updated to incorporate AJEDI content at the Fall TEPI Training.


2020 gave rise to new opportunities for Tiny Earth’s set of committees, working groups, and the leadership team. We implemented the “Train-the-Trainers” approach, allowing us to maximize learning and share knowledge between team members while promoting growth and development within the Tiny Earth Network. These groups are dedicated to planning and organizing different sectors in the network. This year, Tiny Earth committees and leadership were restructured to reflect our current priorities: curriculum, training, community engagement and events, and science and discovery. This reorganization has allowed Tiny Earth to refocus on our mission to foster student discovery and research. In response to COVID-19, new working groups and subcommittees were activated to help support leadership and instructors in the massive changes to curriculum and technology. Uncertainty was a word used to describe most of 2020 and continues to linger as we move forward in 2021. This uncertainty has promoted the submission of several grant proposals on behalf of Tiny Earth. Thank you to all that dedicated their time and their words!


Tiny Earth is constantly aiming to expand its reach and encourage growth in all the respective fields related to studentsourcing antibiotic discovery. Thanks to the efforts of Katherine Maloney at Point Loma Nazarene University and the working group that launched at the January 2020 new TEPI Training, we were able to launch a new Tiny Earth Chemistry course last fall. Additionally, Tiny Earth is excited to announce the outline of the Data Analytics course and formation of the genomics group, which will be discussed at the February 2021 TEPI Workshop.

Thank you to our sponsors, TEPIs, and students for working together through precarious unknowns to create success, achievement and discovery alongside Tiny Earth in 2020.

by Trang Tran, Tiny Earth Undergraduate Assistant