Imaging Colorful Single Molecules; The Pitfalls of Not Being Scientific About Science Communication; AI & Machine Learning to Speed MIA Identification; Snake Vision

“Wednesday Nite @ The Lab” Public Science Talks

Wednesdays at 7pm CT

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


Zoom at


Stream at


For 1 March 2023

Hi WN@TL Fans,

Through the good offices of Sierra Love, a grad student in Genetics with a talent for outreach, I recently had the opportunity to accompany a group of high school students as they toured the fluorescence microscope lab in the basement of the 1998 Biochemistry building.

I was boggled.  Here was a scope with no visible means of imaging—no eyepieces, no stage, no objective lenses, no subjective lenses, but rather a maze of lasers and mirrors and detectors arrayed across a 4’ x 8’ plate of what looked to be stainless steel with screw holes tapped in well-ordered rows & columns.

I tried to convey to the students what a revolution in microscopy this was.  In 1978 (lo, 45 years ago?) I took Plant Anatomy at UW-Platteville.  My microscopy involved embedding small pieces of stems or flowers or leaves in paraffin wax, then shaving the samples into tape-worm-like strings of thin sections using a microtome with a knife I personally honed to razor sharpness, mounting the waxy sections on glass slides, then running the slides through a series of stains and dyes that dated to the coal-oil era. Next followed destaining and final mounting under a glass coverslip before getting that first 200x glimpse of the rainbow of false-color, static, lifeless cells of collenchyma and sclerenchyma and parenchyma.

Two major differences punched me in the nose.  The first was the smell—or rather, the lack of smells.  An olde school plant microscopy lab was a fuming parfumerie of Canada balsam, acetone, toluene and xylene.  It’s a miracle any of my olfactory cells survived to sniff another day.  In contrast, the fluorescence lab was scentless.

The second punch was vitality.  Many of today’s microscopes let us leer inside living cells, cells that move and shape shift and keep cranking out the biochemical elixirs of life.  But my priors all hinged on the dead:  observing my stained cells was like looking at photos of an empty gymnasium and having to imagine the fluid movement and the interactive play of the athletes, extrapolating from the still images of the basketball floor, the baskets & backboards, the walls, the stands, the ceiling bedecked with banners.  Today’s microscopy gives us not only color images, but color videos, in real time:  it’s like streaming your kid’s basketball game live & in full color onto YouTube, all with a $400 phone over wifi.

One more difference:  while I was looking at dead, fixed cells and (if I was lucky) organelles, today folks get to track and trace the actions of individual molecules.

Dang, I was born too soon.  But not so those lucky high school kids who Karli Lipinski was showing around that lab in the basement of Biochem.


We welcome meteorological spring on March 1 with Karli Lipinski of Chemistry and Biochemistry and her talk on “Illuminating Protein Function by Imaging Colorful Single Molecules.”   

Fluorescence microscopy has become a tool not only of biologists looking at cells but also of biochemists peering into reactions, and even more remarkably, into individual molecules.   Karli uses single molecule methods to examine steps of spliceosome activation and traditional biochemical techniques to determine post-transcriptional processing of a novel U6 snRNA gene construct transcribed by RNAP II instead of RNAP III.

Explore More:


On March 8 Dietram Scheuefele of Life Sciences Communication sifts through our communications experiences during covid with his talk entitled “The Pitfalls of Not Being Scientific About Science Communication…Especially After Covid.”  

Bio:  Dietram A. Scheufele is the Taylor-Bascom Chair in Science Communication and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the Morgridge Institute for Research, and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.  He is one of the most widely-cited experts in the fields of political communication, science communication, and science & technology policy. His current research examines how algorithmically-curated information environments fundamentally reshape how we all make sense of the world around us. His most recent publications have included work on mis- and disinformation, open science, and the societal impacts of emerging technologies like AI and CRISPR.

Scheufele is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German National Academy of Science and Engineering, and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Scheufele is also an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Communication Association, and a lifetime associate of the U.S. National Research Council. He is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award at UW, the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Young Faculty Teaching Award, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Spitzer Excellence in Teaching Award.

Over the course of his career, Scheufele has held fellowships or visiting appointments at a number of other universities, including Harvard, Penn, the Technische Universität Dresden, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, and – most recently – the Universität Wien. His consulting portfolio includes work for DeepMind, Porter Novelli, PBS, WHO, and the World Bank.


On March 15 Alan Lee of Anthropology will reprise and expand on his recent talk to the Recovery Innovation Technology Summit at the Biotech Center Feb 22-24.  He’ll roll out how he uses computer analysis and machine learning applied to dental records to speed the identification of remains of MIAs.

Bio:  I am a graduate student and PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at UW-Madison. My scholastic interests are metal-working, blacksmithing, and iron smelting in South Asia! I come from a chemistry background with a Chemistry Master’s from UW-Madison in materials chemistry, and I am now a dissertator in the UW-Madison Department of Anthropology.

My PhD advisor is none other than Dr. J. Mark Kenoyer, a world-renowned archaeologist of South Asia. Check out the website for the famous site Harappa that he excavated for decades.

I am also a member of the UW-MIARIP team out of the Biotechnology Center. Their mission is to find and repatriate the remains of MIA soldiers back to the United States.


Hope to see you soon—in person, by YouTube livestream or  by Zoom —at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

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

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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. 

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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 


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