Vertical Farming; The Warfarin Story; A Mural Bridging Art, Science, & Technology; Chemistry Meets Glassblowing

“Wednesday Nite @ The Lab” Public Science Talks

Wednesdays at 7pm CT

Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI, 


Stream by zoom at


For 5 October 2022    

Hi WN@TL Fans,

I took General Agriculture as a freshman in high school, and during that year indoor horticulture took to me.  We didn’t have a greenhouse (that was the class project two years later) so starting in late winter we sprouted our seedlings and grew our cuttings in flats or pots filled with soil and placed on multi-shelf plant carts equipped with four-foot-long fluorescent lights over each shelf. 

Because the carts were made of steel, I became familiar with the tingle that came from touching parts of metal carts lit with electric lights, especially when the concrete floors in the ag shop got wet from watering the plants.  So when I built a plant stand in my bedroom at home I used 2x4s, and plastic trays to manage the water.  The fluorescent lights of that era cranked out a lot of heat, and my room was never so toasty as that spring of 1972.  

The evolution in the past 50 years in lighting, in soilless growth (hydroponics), and in temperature control are not unlike the revolution from the SR-10 calculator to the laptops of today.  This week we get to see how the field of vertical farming has grown and transformed.


On October 5 Johanna Oosterwyk of Horticulture and the Division of Extension gives us a look from top to bottom on “Vertical Agriculture.”  

Description:  Vertical farms are artificial, indoor environments where layers of electrically lighted crops that would otherwise spread out over acres of farmland can be stacked on top of each other. They have been built in old warehouses, factories, shipping containers, and abandoned mines.

The promise of vertical farming — grow crops anytime, anywhere — is fantastic. Promoters speak of a world where wheat cultivated in a repurposed warehouse is milled for flour and baked into cupcakes, all on the same city block. The benefits of vertical farming are real, but so are the costs. Like other innovative technologies, vertical farming is a tool, but is it always the best one for the job?

Bio:  Johanna Oosterwyk is the manager of the DC Smith Instructional Greenhouse at UW-Madison. She teaches classes in greenhouse management and plant care for the Department of Horticulture.

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On October 12 we have a Special Double-header for Wednesday Nite @ The Lab on the Wednesday of the weeklong Wisconsin Science Festival.

Register here for this free event.  Or watch the Zoom feed at or at the WN@TL YouTube site.

At 4:00 PM come to the courtyard just west of the Biochemistry Building, 420 Henry Mall, for the groundbreaking ceremony for a new National Chemical Historic Landmark as recognized by the American Chemical Society and commemorating the development of warfarin.  At 4:15 move inside to Room 1211 Biochemical Sciences (440 Henry Mall) for a presentation “The Warfarin Story” by biographer Doug Moe on warfarin pioneer Karl Paul Link. 

Then at 7:00 PM come to our regular home, Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, for a presentation by Sharon Tang, artist and researcher with the Cellular and Molecular Biology program, entitled “A Landscape of Wisconsin Discovery – The Making of a Mural Bridging Art, Science, and Technology.”  Then stay for a panel discussion with fellow artists Amy Zaremba and Alicia Rheal.  This presentation follows the opening reception of the new mural in the Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard, from 4 to 5 pm. 

Description:  Commissioned by WARF, the newly installed “Discovery Mural” at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery celebrates notable Wisconsin scientific innovations, highlights diverse scientific fields, and features underrepresented scientists from the past, present, and future. Join artists Sharon Tang, Amy Zaremba, and Alicia Rheal to learn how they intentionally integrated details into the design and how they hand painted a mural that lies at nexus of art, science, and creative fusion. They will also share the process for how they incorporated QR code technology, allowing the mural to serve as an interactive living portal for educational content delivery and dynamic viewer engagement.




Sharon Tang, lead artist and speaker

Sharon Tang is an artist and scientist in Madison, WI. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Queens, NY, Sharon took the scenic route while making her way to the Midwest. After completing her undergraduate degree in Studio Art and Russian Studies in upstate New York, she taught kindergarten and 1st grade in Washington, D.C. for several years and then earned her masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology in Baltimore. She finally landed in Madison in 2013 and has made it home ever since.

Sharon creates her own oil and acrylic paintings in her home studio and is broadly driven by the intersections found in discovery, creativity, communication, and connection with others. She is thrilled to combine these interests through mural making to help communities engage in the spaces around them. In addition to painting and designing murals, Sharon is currently a cell and molecular biology PhD candidate at UW-Madison studying wound healing in Staphylococcus aureus bacterial infections of the heart. She believes there is incredible potential to enhance the accessibility of science through art and finds a beautiful balance swapping between petri dishes and paint brushes every day.



Amy Zaremba is a Wisconsin native who spent her childhood enjoying the lakes and forests of the beautiful Northwoods and now makes her home in Madison. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and English Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison 2005 and a J.D. from DePaul College of Law. Amy is a muralist and painter through her business, Zaremba Art, and a lead community muralist with Dane Arts Mural Arts.

Amy was coping with non-creative career choices before finally picking up a brush for a living in 2015. The decision to follow a dream comes with a great awareness of the power art has to enrich our lives. Her personal work reflects on the beauty and small joys we can find in the everyday when we take the time to look. Amy’s deep held belief in the great importance art holds in a happy and healthy society led her to pursue work in public art and community murals. Amy has designed and painted murals for over six years and her bright and colorful designs are intended to captivate, celebrate and bring a burst of joy to any space. Her work can be seen on walls in and on businesses, schools, libraries and community centers.


Alicia Rheal, a native of New York, has been painting professionally since 1986 when she created her company Rheal Imagination. At the start, the business specialized in painting custom designs on clothing, until 1989, when Alicia started painting backdrops and sets for opera, ballet, television and theater. Since then, Alicia has continued to work as a Scenic Artist for theater, as well as move into the world of Custom Murals and Collaborative Art.

In Wisconsin, she has designed and painted murals for homeowners and businesses, including the Prairie Bookshop in Mt. Horeb, the Iowa County Chamber of Commerce, the Cross Plains Public Library, and EPIC Systems Corporation in Verona. Alicia has also initiated and led many community art projects, including ones for the Walls of Wittenberg, Grandview and the PEC Foundation, and Folklore Village.



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Credit: Andy Warwick                     Credit: Bryce Richter


On October 19 we’ll have another special edition of WN@TL to be held in the new Chemistry Addition (room TBD) as historian Catherine Jackson of Oxford University returns to UW-Madison and joins with the Department of Chemistry’s glassblower Tracy Drier.  The title of their talk is “Microheterotopias:  Chemistry Meets Glassblowing.”

Description:  The American Chemical Society’s logo includes a triangular graphic representing an item of scientific glassware.  This is the Kaliapparat (potash bulbs).  Desperate to solve one of the most pressing scientific problems of his day, the young Justus Liebig made the first Kaliapparat in the fall of 1830.  Using the Kaliapparat, he became one of the nineteenth century’s greatest chemists.  

But the Kaliapparat altered much more than the course of Liebig’s career.  His decision to make the Kaliapparat by bending and blowing glass tubing changed how chemists worked and were trained, with important consequences for the developing science of chemistry and its relationship to glassblowing.

Managing other worlds in glass – the Microheterotopias of my title – is vital in chemists’ ability to control and manipulate matter.  But making Microheterotopias relies on the skill of the scientific glassblower.  This talk explains what happened when chemistry met glassblowing – and why that connection remains vital today.

Bios:  Chemist, historian, and educator, Catherine Jackson has a passion for using history to understand chemistry’s present and future, as well as its past.

Jackson’s work reshapes our view of nineteenth-century chemistry. Built around practice-based breakthroughs including chemistry’s glassware revolution and turn to synthesis, her forthcoming book Molecular World: Making Modern Chemistry (MIT Press, July 2023) explains a critical period in chemistry’s quest to understand and manipulate organic nature. A sequel volume Molecular Puzzles: Re-thinking the Ring will show that practical utility – rather than theoretical correctness – lay behind the success of Kekulé’s benzene ring.

Catherine M. Jackson is Associate Professor of the History of Science in the University of Oxford, Peck Fellow in History at Harris Manchester College, and Director of the Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.

Tracy Drier has been exploring glassblowing since he was a child. A graduate of Western Michigan University and the scientific glassblowing program at Salem Community College in New Jersey, he is currently the Master Glassblower for the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he works closely with scientists designing, building, and refining chemical glassware to meet their research needs. 

Tracy educates people of all ages about glass and teaches glassblowing in institutions and conferences around the country including the American Scientific Glassblowers Society, the Studio of Corning Museum of Glass and Pilchuck Glass School.

Explore More:

Catherine Jackson’s forthcoming book: Molecular World: Making Modern Chemistry


Hope to see you soon, in person or by zoom, at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Tom ZinnenBiotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H

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WN@TL begins at 7:00pm Central.

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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 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 

2. The WN@TL YouTube channel

3. WN@TL on the University Place broadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin 

4. WN@TL on the University Place website 


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