An Appreciation…

For November 21, 2018        
Hi WN@TL Fans and UW Science Alliance,
WN@TL goes dark tonight.  This afternoon is an apt time for some affirmative appreciation of the good people, places and programs in science outreach that help make WN@TL possible and that enrich the constellation of science outreach opportunities all across UW-Madison.
WN@TL is possible because of the ~50 people each year who share their research and insights with us, who field and respond to our questions, and who Linger at the Lectern to chat with us one-on-one.  Among the most valuable things we as university scholars can share with the public are the ways we view and do science as routes of probing the unknown and inventing the future.  WN@TL is a way for scholars to share their stories in person and to exchange ideas with learners of all ages.
While not everybody can come to WN@TL in person, thanks to Richard Kunert and Dave Hageseth of the Biotech Center IT office, people everywhere can watch theWN@TL live stream at and then in archive at the WN@TLYoutube site.  Richard and Dave were also instrumental in selecting and installing the new audio board in the Auditorium.  Such upgrades help keep the Biotech Center Auditorium an unexcelled venue for welcoming the public to campus.
In addition, people all over Wisconsin can watch WN@TL presentations on TV because Tina Hauser, Donna Crane, Kerman Eckes, Marcus Germain and their colleagues at Wisconsin Public Television record most WN@TLs for later broadcast on the University Place series of WPT’s Wisconsin Channel.  Happily, people can also watch the presentations at the University Place website
In the past few years, the WPT recordings have been getting even more yardage.  I’m grateful to the folks at Wiscontext who incorporate WN@TL presentations in many of the stories at that also draw on the resources of Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, and Cooperative Extension. 
Liz Jesse, Nikita Menon and Kendall Kupfer at the Biotech Center help promoteWN@TL by maintaining the WN@TL schedule and blog at and by posting notices to online calendars.  The Wisconsin Alumni Association speeds this work by providing funds to help pay for the promotional work and by includingWN@TL in WAA’s communications.
I’m also lucky to get to host two other public science series at the Auditorium.  One is the “Groundbreaking Research in CALS” organized in the spring by David Nelson, and the other is The Wisconsin Idea Seminar in the fall organized by Patrick Brenzel, Gwen Drury and others.  Both of these seminars help continue the quest to engage the public in the life of the university, and the university in the lives of people all over Wisconsin.
Together with Paul Brandl of PLATO and Kay Kriewald of Astronomy, I get to co-organize 10 speakers in the spring and 10 more in the fall to share their work with the PLATO Frontiers in Life Sciences seminar held at Space Place at 2300 S. Park Street.  The PLATO folks year after year earn their reputation as an affirmative, appreciative audience who provide a welcoming venue especially for younger researchers to hone their skills in sharing science with the public.
In addition to WN@TL, a good chunk of my work involves welcoming the public to experience science as exploring the unknown here at their public land-grant research university. I am thankful to the organizers of the UW Engineering Expo who this year agreed to share the first weekend of April with those of us who organize the UW Science Expeditions campus wide science open house.  I’m delighted that the two sets of organizers will be collaborating again this coming spring to share the weekend of April 5, 6 and 7.
Science Expeditions since 2003 has grown to become a three-day open house that stretches from Memorial Library, Alumni Park, the Wisconsin Historical Society Library, & Science Hall on Friday evening to the Health Sciences Learning Center (SMPH), Signe Skott Cooper Hall (Nursing) and Rennebohm Hall (Pharmacy) and the School of Veterinary Medicine on Sunday, and all together encompassing more than 25 venues and engaging more than 300 volunteers.   
I especially appreciate the initiative of Ana Garic and Laura Hogan and their colleagues at the School of Medicine and Public Health to welcome to Science Expeditions the students and families of Mendota Elementary School on Madison’s north side.  That’s where for the past several years I have had the privilege of working with the third-grade scholars and their teachers: Deb Minahan, Molly Anderson and Janice Bartholow. Ana and Laura and their colleagues are expanding that work to other schools as well as to organizations including the Goodman Community Center and Centro Hispano. 
2017 and 2018 have been years of milestones on campus of national importance. Earlier this month we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the discovery by James Thomson and his team of how to grow human embryonic stem cells.   Wisconsin Public Radio—the oldest public radio station in the nation— wrapped up its centennial this time last year. Earlier this year the Ingersoll Physics Museum celebrated its 100th year and commemorated its status as the nation’s oldest hands-on science museum.  Add the UW Geology Museum (with origins even older than the university), the Washburn Observatory (regular public viewings since the early 1880’s), the Arboretum (home of the oldest prairie restoration project anywhere), and the Discovery Building (a public science venue like few others, if any, among all US universities) and you have a good start as to why the campus is, as Ken Smith first put it to me, a fabulous Destination for Exploration.
This year is also one of beginnings of even more venues.  The new Meat & Muscle Lab is topped off and will open in the spring, featuring a new butcher shop on a par with the Babcock Hall Dairy Store.  Babcock Hall itself is in the early phases of its multi-year renovation and expansion, as is the Chemistry building.  
Hospitality counts, and venue matters.  But with all these great venues to explore, how can groups of 50 or 100 easily plan visits to multiple sites?  I’m grateful to  Helena Manning and her colleagues at the Campus and Visitor Relations who help orchestrate K-12 field trips to the many science places across campus.  Their work helps extend hospitality to all and lets those of us in science outreach concentrate on the programs while the CAVR folks focus on the scheduling. 
In turn, the folks at CAVR who run the Speaker’s Bureau make it far easier for people from all over Wisconsin to invite UW-Madison scholars to travel to communities across the state to share their stories and to listen to ideas and insights from the folks who own the university.
I can confidently write that phrase—that the people of Wisconsin are the owners of the University—because I’m merely quoting the President of the UW:  Charles Van Hise.  His 1905 speech also contains in its peroration what is to me the finest aspiration of the Wisconsin Idea yet distilled to words.  Now in 2018, many of us in science outreach are looking forward to the return of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension to UW-Madison, and to the opportunities for our land-grant university to once again have Extension educators with their eyes open and ears listening and hands working together in all 72 counties.
Monday was the centennial of the death of Charles Van Hise, at age 61.  He served as President from 1903 to 1918—fifteen pivotal, formative years.  I anticipate the coming few years will also be pivotal, expansive, and engaging years.
Finally, thanks to all of you who keep Wednesday Nite @ The Lab a vibrant part of my work and of my life and, I hope, of yours—as well as of our university.