“Networks: the Science of Interconnected Systems.”; “Making a Garden for YOU.”;“Science, Politics, & Schoolchildren:  Reflections on a Special UW-Ukraine Collaboration.”

Come Explore the Unknown!


By Zoom:  at go.wisc.edu/240r59.  

In Person: Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison.

7pm Central. Every Wednesday Night, 50 Times a Year


20 April 2022    



Hi WN@TL Fans,


We get a whiff of how ancient the idea of networkmight be by tracing the etymological roots of net, knot, node, nodule, nexus.  Our Proto-Indo-European forebears apparently were tying strings into open webs while using words they have handed down to us.  Once again textiles enlighten our load:  it is one thing to spin fibers into a string or a yarn or a cord; it is another to weave the yarn into a tightly-wefted cloth;  and it is a third thing to knot the cords into open nets for sieving fish of a minimum size, for tying down bulky items on a horse or a wagon, for lifting by crane bundles or bales on board a cargo ship, or for clambering overboard or climbing up to the crow’s nest of a boat.


What makes up the cord, who ties the knots, and which knots get tied, and how far and how wide extends the net?  The physical thing becomes a conceptual theme and then a meme, and soon enough our maps show wagon trails and rail roads and high ways in a mesh connecting ports and towns and trailheads and railheads.


In recent years we began mapping networks among people, and trying to estimate the strength not of fiber strings or adamantine links but rather of social bonds.  It’s apt that a few decades ago computer geeks would first speak of the ethernet:  a network made out of the immaterial ethereal.  They were following in the steps of the pioneers of radio broadcasting, who put ‘network’ to work as early as 1914.


How to measure, calculate, estimate and predict the behavior of networks? How can we optimize their speed or maximize their capacity?  How do we keep the tangles and kinks from snarling our systems?  I dunno.  That’s why I’m looking forward to tonight’s talk by Keith Levin to see how the math & analytics can help show us the way.

On April 20 Keith Levin of Statistics and of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery speaks on “Networks: the Science of Interconnected Systems.”


Description: What do social media, food webs, brains and the highway system all have in common? They are described by networks– systems of interacting entities, pairs of whom form relations. For example, a social network like Facebook or Twitter can be described by a collection of users, and pairs of these users form friendship or following relationships. In ecology, pairs of species engage in predator-prey relationships. The structure of the brain can be described by which pairs of neurons form synapses with one another. The US highway system can be described by pairs of interchanges connected by roadway.


In the past fifty years, scientists in a wide range of disciplines have come to recognize the importance of networks in describing a wide range of systems in our world, and the field of network science has emerged to provide the tools necessary to investigate the properties of these systems. In this talk, I will give an overview of this exciting and still (comparatively) new field and discuss some of the exciting work in this area currently happening here at UW-Madison. We will begin with a whirlwind tour of some basic discoveries in network science to date, including the “six degrees of separation” phenomenon (made famous by the game “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”). Finally, we will discuss some of the work done by my group and by some of my colleagues here at UW-Madison developing statistical methods for rigorously describing and comparing the basic properties of networks.


Bio: Keith Levin grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts and attended Northeastern University, where he earned degrees in linguistics and psychology. He worked as a data analyst at BBN Technologies before returning to academia to obtain his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining the faculty at UW-Madison, he was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Statistics at University of Michigan. In his spare time, Keith enjoys cooking, hiking and playing jazz bass.


Explore More:  https://pages.stat.wisc.edu/~kdlevin/

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery Complex Systems Group: https://wid.wisc.edu/research/complex-systems/

Six Degrees: the Science of a Connected Age https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393325423

On April 27 Reba Luiken of the Department of Horticulture and of the Allen Centennial Garden will speak on “Making a Garden for YOU.”


Description: Creating a public garden that is welcoming for everyone is not as simple as doing things that everyone will like. In this talk, Dr. Luiken will discuss ways that Allen Centennial Garden has worked to be inclusive by making programs and gardens for specific audiences from first-year students at UW to Indigenous people living in Wisconsin.


Bio: Reba Luiken is the Executive Director of Allen Centennial Garden. She has a background in Plant Biology, Religious Studies, and Museum Studies and a Ph.D. in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Her research and professional practice have focused on the ways in which museums, universities, and public gardens have shared their missions and messages with diverse audiences.


Explore More: This work builds on the work of OF/BY/FOR ALL, and the book The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon (available online here for free: artofrelevance.org/read-online).


On May 4 Dan Lauffer of Wisconsin Fast Plants will speak on “Science, Politics, & Schoolchildren:  Reflections on a Special UW-Ukraine Collaboration.”


Description:  As Ukraine faces Russian invasion and the US grapples with supporting Ukrainian defenses, we bring to Wednesday Night at the Lab insights and memories about a close working relationship among UW-Madison and Ukrainian scientists and educators from a 1997 NASA-funded collaborative project. Both global and local in scope, this talk recalls the serendipitous events leading up to a Ukrainian and US collaboration in space research and education. Dan Lauffer recalls and presents the story of roles played by UW-Madison, NASA, and Ukrainian scientists in a shared, large-scale project, involving Wisconsin Fast Plants and experiments in space. Situated during the end of the Cold War, this collaboration entwined facets of politics, plant sciences, and high school science learning across Ukraine and the United States.


Bio:  Dan Lauffer is the director of the research arm of the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program, the Rapid-cycling Brassica Research Collection. Over the last 30 years, he has worked to strengthen science education with school districts across the country and around the world through the Fast Plants Program. Lauffer’s primary interest and expertise is in developing and refining seed stocks, growing protocols, tools and investigative strategies for using Fast Plants as a model organism in research and education.


During his tenure with the Fast Plants Program, Lauffer has facilitated large collaborations among researchers and educators from all levels to design and implement innovative student-centered inquiries. This work included a global NASA-funded project in which Fast Plants were grown in space, while classrooms throughout the US and Ukraine conducted simultaneous experiments and communicated regularly with the astronauts. Lauffer earned his BS and MBA degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to his work with the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program at UW-Madison, Lauffer was the Chief Operations Officer for the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center from 2008 to 2014 and is the President and CEO of the 35 year old seed production company, Tetrad Inc.


Explore More:





Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab


Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H



Please share this missive with your friends & neighbors. 


If you’ll be watching the Zoom for the first time, please register for the WN@TL Zoom at go.wisc.edu/240r59 

If you’ve already registered for a previous WN@TL zoom this year, you’re good—you don’t have to register again.

Continue to use the link found in the confirmation message Zoom sent you when you first registered.

WN@TL begins at 7:00pm Central

You can also watch the web stream at biotech.wisc.edu/webcams for one last time on October 20.  The web stream thereafter will redirect viewers to the WN@TL YouTube livestream.



UW-Madison:  5.9 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university.


Visit UW-Madison’s science outreach portal at science.wisc.edu for information on the people, places & programs on campus that welcome you to come experience science as exploring the unknown, all year round.

Here are the components of the WN@TL User’s Guide:

  1. The live WN@TL seminar, every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT in Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center and on Zoom at go.wisc.edu/240r59
  2. The WN@TL YouTubechannel
  3. WN@TL on the University Placebroadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin
  4. WN@TL on the University Place website


The WN@TL Lineup through May 11.

Park for a small fee in Lot 20, 1390 University Avenue, Madison, WI




Archive of Past Talks Upcoming Talks



In partnership with

Wisconsin Alumni Association | UW-Madison Biotechnology Center

Division of Extension | PBS Wisconsin | UW Science Alliance