The Pitfalls of Not Being Scientific About Science Communication; Matching Physical Remains with Service Records to ID MIAs; Snake Vision with the McPherson Eye Research Institute

“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 8 March 2023

Hi WN@TL Fans,

On November 7, 2018, Steve Oreck spoke to WN@TL on “The UW, Madison and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.”  His story was among the most searing in the 17 years of this series.  Two dominant ideas struck me.

First, the pandemic came and went without any significant improvement in identifying, understanding, detecting or immunizing against the pathogen. It was a failure of microbial health science that ended “the Golden Age of Microbiology”:  I know of no historian who extends that Age beyond 1915.

Second, Oreck noted that the university, the city and the nation willingly, perhaps willfully, forgot about the pandemic and its victims, who were three times more numerous than the battlefield dead of the Great War.  There are many Great War memorials, but I personally know of no flu memorials, and few exist.

I not infrequently wish that Steve Oreck were still among us to share with us his polymathic insights as he surveyed as a physician, surgeon and historian our local and national responses to the scourge of covid-19 that arose 101 years after the 1918 influenza pandemic.  Alas, he died in August 2019.

One reason for remembering our grandparents’ history is so that we can say to our grandchildren that we did not ignore the past when we dealt with emerging threats in our own times.  Nobody likes to be stabbed with Santayana’s saber.

But if I am so lucky as to have grandchildren, I fear they will have some justification for slicing and dicing me and my Boomer generation for some of the ways we have handled the covid pandemic.

On the plus side, and in contrast to the influenza pandemic, the achievements in microbial health science have astonished, with new methods & systems of detecting, tracking, and sequencing viral strains;  with novel mRNA-based techniques for making and tailoring vaccines; and with the finding, testing and refining of medical means for treating the infected as well as of public health approaches for impeding the contagion.

On the minus side, the pandemic became a partisan wedge-issue that cleaved the commonwealth over issues of the common good, the rights of individuals, and the roles of science & scientists in public policies.

On the bright side, this week get to hear Dietram Scheufele’s analysis of what we can learn–and what we can avoid–about science communication as we in the US move ahead (albeit with ~2500 a week dying of covid in February 2023) and as the world moves on from humanity’s latest plague that to date has scythed nearly 7 million lives.


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.


On Saturday March 18 at 10am get a WN@TL Weekend Special with the McPherson Eye Research Institute’s “Vision at the Biotech Center” event featuring Richard Dubielzig of the School of Veterinary Medicine speaking on “Snake Eyes & Snake Vision,” followed by Will Vuyk of the School of Medicine & Public Health speaking on “Snakes Where We Live.”


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. 

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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 


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