UW-Madison Science Alliance Updater: October 30, 2023

UW-Madison Science Alliance Updater

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Monday, October 30, 2023

 Hi Everyone,

“Xenos” is a Greek word infused with contradictions:  it can mean foreigner or stranger, and it can mean hospitality or guest. The irony reverberates in words like ‘xenophobia’ and in towns named Xenia.

Universities, especially public land-grant research & extension universities, have long faced a Xenos Paradox.  Do we view visitors as strangers to be tolerated, or as guests to be welcomed?

Luckily, US universities can look back beyond their roots in medieval European universities that grew out of an insular, monastic tradition.  We can claim kinship with Aristotle, who when he set up his Lyceum in Athens provided not only for graduate studies and a research library, but also for daily lectures for the public.  In at least these two features, the polymath Aristotle distinguished himself from his teacher, the philosopher Plato, whose Academy lacked a comparable focus on engaging the public.

The distinctions resonate still today.  When I ask Wisconsin middle-school students visiting the campus, “Who owns the University of Wisconsin-Madison?” the responses are enlightening.  I offer to them the proposition that they are the owners, they are all co-owners, along with the 5.9 million other residents of Wisconsin.  I base this proposition on the opening gambit laid out by Charles Van Hise in his 1905 speech in the Red Gym that laid out his vision of the U as a state institution for the beneficence of every family in the state.

When I ask the same middle-school students, “Are you taxpayers?” almost all them laugh and say no, and many of them quickly add, “But my parents sure are!”  Then I ask them, “If you go into a Kwik Trip to buy a $2 Snickers bar with your own money, how much more than $2 do you have to leave at the store?”  Then comes the dawn’s early light:  because of the sales tax, they too are taxpayers.  By virtue of their taxpayerness, the students are also co-funders of this place.

Being a co-owner and a co-funder raises yet a third question:  “What does it mean to be a good steward of a public resource?”  Here in Wisconsin, famous for conservation and the Land Ethic, in part because Wisconsin is infamous for the slaughter of the Pinery, we have long wrangled with stewardship, with being a stakeholder in the common weal in addition to being a stockholder in private wealth.

The university 175 years ago had one mission:  instruction.  I am happy to count myself among those who nod in agreement when someone says, “The university has a long tradition of excellence in research and public engagement.”  But that’s not the same as claiming the university has always been so engaged.  These missions grew out of the vision and work of people working long after 1848. The research mission emerged only in the following decades: the UW didn’t confer its first PhD until 1892, and its first MD until 1927.  The outreach mission coalesced in part as a logical extension of practical research fueled in large part by federal funds given to land-grant universities, starting in 1887.  The part of the outreach mission that I work for—cooperative extension—traces its origins to 1912.

This is a good year to remember that the evolution of these missions, of these values, of these visions for what a welcoming & engaging university could be and should be will flow on through future generations who, like Van Hise, will never be content, who will always press forward towards not only an idea, but towards the ideal.


Tom Zinnen

  1. The UW-Madison Science Alliance meets Mondays at 10:00 am by Zoom and in person at the Wisconsin Energy Institute, Room 1120, first floor (1552 University Avenue).  Our next meeting is Monday, October 30 at 10:00 CT.


The Zoom link for the 2023-2024 meetings of Science Alliance will continue to be: 

The draft agenda for October 30, 2023 at 10 am includes:

  • Welcome
  • Updates
  • Mark your calendars for 22ndAnnual UW Science Expeditions April 5, 6 & 7, 2024.  UW-Madison 175th Anniversary Campus Open House is also on April 5-7, 2024, in concert with UW Science Expeditions
  • Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers annual meeting April 18-20 in La Crosse. https://www.wsst.org/2024-conference
  • Other Business
  • Meet next on Monday, November 6, 2023, 10 am, in person in Room 1120 Wisconsin Energy Institute

 As with the #Updater, the Science Alliance meeting notes are also archived on https://science.wisc.edu/science-alliance/.

  1. Recurring Programming Events Coming This Week and Soon


  • “Wednesday Nite @ The Lab” series of public science talksevery Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT by Zoom (go.wisc.edu/240r59) or in person in Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall.   On November 1 Scott Coyle of the Department of Biochemistry will speak on “What Are Cells, and Could They Be More?




  1. Call for Proposals for Events for the 175th Anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Madison



From July 2023 through May 2024, the University of Wisconsin–Madison is celebrating its 175th Anniversary. Focusing on the impact and reach of the Wisconsin Idea, UW will honor the accomplishments of those 175 years, with a particular emphasis on the past 25 years.

In addition to several larger events scheduled to mark the anniversary, Chancellor Mnookin and the 175th Anniversary Steering Committee encourage the entire campus community to participate with special events, programs, and initiatives. Accordingly, faculty, staff, and students are invited to submit proposals for funding to support activities that recognize and celebrate this anniversary.

Proposals might take the shape of events, initiatives, research projects, curriculum, academic efforts, artistic works, or community outreach that center around and/or recognize the 175th Anniversary and the Wisconsin Idea. There is no particular limit on the subject, size and scope of the proposals, although funded proposals will typically be granted an award no larger than $1,000.

Proposals should be submitted here and will be reviewed on a rolling basis until funding is depleted. Please submit your proposal at least 60 days in advance of your planned programing or need to allow for review, notification, and funding. Projects will be approved based on the appropriateness of the proposal to the 175th themes, relative uniqueness, and likelihood of impact.

To help guide proposals, the themes of the anniversary are:

  • Acknowledge 175 years of the university’s rich and complex history, including successes and challenges
  • Celebrate the reach and impact of the Wisconsin Idea, not only in Wisconsin but around the nation and the world, both in the past and in the future
  • Spark curiosity and pose questions about UW’s future, particularly the next 25 years leading to UW’s bicentennial in 2048
  • Learn from the past to inform the future

Proposals must include the following:

  • Project title
  • Name of UW–Madison unit or team submitting the grant proposal (can also be an individual student, faculty, or staff member)
  • School/college or division under which the unit is administratively housed (if applicable)
  • A description of the project
  • Detailed budget information including the requested grant amount and any other support that is anticipated from other sources of funding.

For your reference, here’s a list of past and upcoming activities planned by central campus for the 175th Anniversary:

Other 175th Anniversary resources:

For questions or more information, please email celebrate175@wisc.edu.


Charles Hoslet

Vice Chancellor for University Relations

Chair, 175th Anniversary Steering Committee


  1. The October 23 issue of Chemical and Engineering Newscontains an editorial that marks the centenary of Carl Djerassi.  


Carl Djerassi is among the most distinguished alumni of the UW-Madison Department of Chemistry. He completed his PhD with Prof. Al Wilds in 1945, after two and a half years in Madison.

Carl invented the first commercially viable antihistamine, led the development of the first birth control pill, among other steroid pharmaceuticals. Thanks to Carl’s work, mass spectrometry and circular dichroism became part of the organic chemist’s tool kit.  The world has benefited much from Carl’s scientific research, in natural products, in instrumental analysis, and in the earliest stages of artificial intelligence.

More about Carl Djerassi, including his interests and accomplishments in the arts, can be found on his Wikipedia page.

 A collection of photos and links to articles about Carl Djerassi is available here:

 Bassam Shakhashiri


  1. Goodman Library Public Science Event Next Monday

Will Glenn from the Goodman Library and Ana Garic of the Neuroscience Training Program are scheduling three events at the Goodman Library.

Monday, November 6 from 3pm – 5pm

For these events, interested science outreach colleagues please email Ana Garic to sign up to participate.


  1. Check Out the 2023-2024 “Family Science Nights” Opportunities: 


The Calendar of upcoming science outreach at schools is at https://teamup.com/ks37f37f6a8028e6d0

Researchers & Outreachers, if you’d like to help with Family Science Nights over the coming months, please sign up here.

Parents & Teachers, if you’d like help in inviting UW researchers & outreachers to participate in your Family Science event, please sign up here.


  1. Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers annual meeting April 18-20 in La Crosse. https://www.wsst.org/2024-conference 



  1. Yerkes Observatory Now Open for School Visits

Yerkes Observatory is excited to welcome school groups for curated educational visits for the 2023-24 school year! Details and information, such as costs per student and other logistics, can be found on the Yerkes website. 

Plan your school visit today and reach out to Mallory Conlon (mconlon@yerkesobservatory.org) with any questions.


Mallory Conlon, M.S.

Outreach & Education

Yerkes Observatory | Yerkes Future Foundation


  1.  Post & Promote Your Science Outreach Events athttps://today.wisc.edu/events/tag/science


And check out what your colleagues are offering in the coming days and weeks, on campus and in communities around Wisconsin.




  1. Waunakee Prairie Elementary Science Night on Thursday November 9

Help us fill the school with science at the 2nd Annual Waunakee Prairie Elementary Science Night! We are looking for groups to present science-related activities on Thursday, Nov. 9 from 5:30-7 pm at the school in an open-house format. All topics and formats (hands on, presentations, demos, etc) welcome!

If interested, please fill out the form here: https://forms.gle/7wu4wN7AH1uYSrrp8 or contact Jen Grosh at jenlee30@hotmail.com.


  1. UW Arboretum Fall Events

Saturday work parties, Sunday walks, and night walks
Saturday restoration work parties, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.: https://arboretum.wisc.edu/get-involved/volunteer/work-parties/
See the full list of Sunday walks (nature hikes, family walks, and garden strolls), plus monthly night walks, on the Arboretum events calendar: https://arboretum.wisc.edu/visit/events/

Taking a self-guided stroll is one way to explore the Arboretum on your own terms. Some of the most popular routes include the Grady Tract Loop, the Curtis Prairie, or a five mile loop through the whole arboretum. Always remember to stay on the paths to preserve wild plants + wear appropriate shoes.

You can also take one of the free guided nature walks offered for different skill levels and ages on a weekly basis. Most meet at the Visitor’s Center, located right in the heart of the arboretum.

4    Nature Walks — Every Sunday at 1 p.m., learn about the land, plants, and animals from local naturalists.

5    Nature Hikes — On the first and third Sundays of the month, adults are invited on these longer walks.

6    Family Nature Walks — On the second Sunday of the month, families can explore the arboretum with a guide.

7    Garden Strolls — On the fourth Sunday of the month, gently-paced strolls are offered with wheelchair-accessible routes.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Check out the calendar for monthly night walks, seasonal birding hikes + more family-friendly events.

The arboretum is open daily from 4 a.m.-10 p.m. and is always free.

UW Arboretum Events

See Arboretum events calendar for details and registration: https://arboretum.wisc.edu/visit/events/



  1. “Madison FUN/Friends of Urban Nature” Announcements 



We are happy this week to welcome our latest class of Madison FUN Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteers who will be helping lead walks and activities with our groups, a picture is attached.  Thank you everyone who helped facilitate this class and shared your love of nature, expertise and enthusiasm!

Oct 2023 FREE Bird and Nature Adventures 

Enjoy Weekly Inclusive Educational Nature Outings in Local Parks and Natural Areas! 


See http://facebook.com/groups/MadisonFUN for weekly outing updates and feel free to share and help publicize those too!  Current copies of the outing calendar and upcoming outing details and flyers can also be accessed any time at http://tinyurl.com/MadisonFUNAdventures.


Thanks Everybody for helping connect Madison area communities and kids with nearby nature year-round and with each of our partner groups and more great activities supporting Nature Recreation, Nature Education, Nature Citizen Science Research, Nature Stewardship and Natural Health for People and Nature right where we live!

Paul Noeldner


  1. Check out the Nelson Institute’s audio walkabout of the UW-Madison campus, presented as an aural destination for environmental exploration: