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Girls and women not a “silver bullet” for ending poverty  external link

Kathryn Moeller first started looking into efforts by major corporations and their foundations to support girls and young women in Latin America, Africa and Asia more than a decade ago. At the time, several global brands, such as Nike and ExxonMobil, were getting behind theories promoted by some economists in the early 1990s that considered investing in girls’ and women’s education to be the most efficient way to end poverty and promote development.

“My work challenges this assumption that investing in girls and women produces a silver bullet for solving global concerns from ending poverty and promoting economic growth, to fighting climate change,” says Moeller, an assistant professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies.

Photo of Kathryn Moeller

Kathryn Moeller

This week, Moeller’s extensive research on how multinational companies and their foundations conducted this work with development institutions such as the World Bank and and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was released in a new book titled, “The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development.”

Moeller argues that while these movements are promoted as a way to educate and empower girls and women, they’re an attempt to end poverty and bolster economic growth in order to develop a new frontier for global capitalism at the bottom of the economic pyramid. She adds that such initiatives transfer the responsibility for change onto girls and women, and away from governments, corporations and global governance institutions whose actions have often led to the unequal distribution of resources, poor labor conditions and other structural inequities.

Moeller is concerned about the consequences this type of development logic has on education.

“When the rationale for investing in girls’ and women’s education is driven by the logic of investment, people begin talking about girls and women as they talk about drilling untapped oil reserves or unleashing new technologies — in the language of maximizing returns,” says Moeller. “When the focus is on rates of return, efficiency and calculating gains to GDP, programs that promote girls’ and women’s education as a fundamental human right are marginalized and underfunded.”

Moeller first started researching inequities in girls’ and women’s education across the globe while conducting doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley. It was on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2005, that Moeller came across a press release from Nike that jolted new energy into a project that ultimately evolved into the focal point of her academic life for the next 10 years. On that day, the athletic apparel and shoe giant’s philanthropic arm, the Nike Foundation, announced it would be focusing its efforts on helping to “improve the lives and well-being of adolescent girls in the developing world.”

In 2008, the Nike Foundation launched The Girl Effect. The idea behind this initiative, explains Moeller, is that by investing in girls and their education there would be a multiplier effect across a range of development indicators — such as reducing adolescent pregnancy, population growth and the spread of HIV/AIDS, while ending poverty and increasing economic growth. Such efforts, the theory goes, could ultimately bolster families, communities, nations and the world.

Moeller’s book utilizes ethnographic research with rare access to powerful institutions to examine The Girl Effect as a central case study, moving between the corridors of influence in New York and Washington, D.C., corporate headquarters in the U.S., and classrooms in communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  For her fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro, for example, Moeller spent a year conducting interviews and observing efforts by NGOs that were recipients of Nike Foundation funding in support of the Girl Effect. She conducted ongoing observations of classrooms and after school activities, while speaking with everyone from executive directors of NGOs and classroom educators, to girls and young women in the program.

In one program focused on economic empowerment, girls and young women were offered training in how to be both an administrative assistant and an entrepreneur. When classes started, Moeller says that the participants shared a wide range of professional aspirations — with students expressing a desire to become doctors and veterinarians, for example. Six months later, these same students were asked what they wanted to become and nearly all now said they hoped to land positions as administrative assistants.

“Rather than an education that is more holistic and transformative, we see the program limiting their future possibilities,” says Moeller. “The Girl Effect is about educating girls and young women in other places, of other races, in a way that would never be acceptable for the children of the elites funding and supporting the programs.”

Moeller recalls an interview she conducted with an executive of an international company who mentored the girls in the NGO’s educational program. He explained to Moeller that the program didn’t need to focus on supporting the young women to attend the university and how, instead, it should try to provide workshops for the students to learn how to become bricklayers.

“An executive would never say, ‘My daughter doesn’t need to go to the university, she should learn to become a bricklayer or administrative assistant,’ ” says Moeller.

Moeller explains that positive changes did come out of the Nike Foundation’s efforts to help girls and young women in impoverished locations across the globe. Perhaps most significantly, these educational programs brought girls and young women together in a safe place where they could learn and build community. Unfortunately, notes Moeller, the economic empowerment program she observed led to few good jobs, with those who did find work being employed in low-wage fields such as call centers or as ticket takers at a bus station — positions the girls and young women likely could have received without the program’s support.

Near the end of her research in September 2015, the Nike Foundation abruptly ended its institutional relationship to the Girl Effect, which was spun off as its own independent organization that Nike continues to support.

Moeller’s hope with her book is that funders, policymakers and development experts will consider the consequences of framing girls’ and women’s education as an investment with high rates of return for economic development and instead think about it as an end in and of itself when designing programs and policies.

 

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Forecasting antibiotic resistance with a ‘weather map’ of local data  external link

Photo: Laurel Legenza holding petri dish at lab bench

The researchers, including Comparative Health Systems Global Pharmacy Fellow Laurel Legenza, are developing a visual display of antibiotic resistance data across Wisconsin. Photo: All Ways Forward/UW–Madison

The resistance that infectious microbes have to antibiotics makes it difficult for physicians to confidently select the right drug to treat an infection. And that resistance is dynamic: It changes from year to year and varies across a region.

To help choose the best antibiotic first, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are drawing inspiration from another dynamic process — the weather.

The researchers, at the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy and the State Cartographer’s Office, are developing a visual display of antibiotic resistance data across Wisconsin. By showing where in the state resistance to particular drugs is highest and making the information as easy to read as a weather map, the researchers aim to give physicians the tools they need to quickly and accurately choose the best antibiotic.

Image: A weather map of Wisconsin

By making the information as easy to read as a weather map, the researchers aim to give physicians the tools they need to quickly and accurately choose the best antibiotic. Wisconsin State Climatology Office

Hospitals and public health officials have collected data on which microbes — bacteria and infectious fungi and yeast, mostly — are resistant to particular antibiotics for decades. That information shows that resistance varies by location and is influenced by antibiotic use and other factors. Urban centers have different resistant microbes than rural areas, and the patterns fluctuate as you move across a region.

But the dense table that hospitals organize the information into is time-consuming and tedious to interpret. And hospitals might only have access to their own information, not a statewide outlook.

Comparative Health Systems Global Pharmacy Fellow Laurel Legenza and School of Pharmacy associate professors Warren Rose and Susanne Barnett wanted to find ways to improve how physicians use this critical information. As part of their efforts, they surveyed health care providers to assess their use of antibiotic resistance data and inform improvements.

Then, along with Rose, Barnett, and Associate State Cartographer Jim Lacy, Legenza developed the idea to put together the information in a more user-friendly and helpful format. Legenza and Natalee Desotell, a geographic information systems master’s student, created the first interactive Wisconsin antibiotic resistance visualizations. The project won funding from the 2017 Fall Research Competition of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

Photo: Warren Rose

Warren Rose

Photo: Susanne Barnett

Susanne Barnett

“We want to create dynamic visualizations that are not only showing this data in a way that hasn’t been shown before in our state, but also is very intuitive, so it’s like looking at a weather map,” says Legenza.

The final product will allow physicians and other health care providers to quickly look up the patterns of resistance in the community where their patient lives. That will help them select the right antibiotic the first time.

“Choosing the appropriate antibiotic is really important, because if we get it wrong, then it could lead to very poor outcomes,” says Barnett.

Beyond antibiotic resistance, Legenza and the research team plan to incorporate information on antibiotic sales, demographic data, and the site of the infection — all of which will allow the new tool to assist with making a decision on which antibiotic is best for each particular patient and predict resistance trends.

The research team is currently collecting resistance data from 2017 to add to existing data they have assembled from 2009, 2013 and 2015. The 2017 data will be gathered with more patient information, helping tailor antibiotic recommendations to the local community where a patient lives.

By making the information as easy to read as a weather map, the researchers aim to give physicians the tools they need to quickly and accurately choose the best antibiotic.

That more detailed data will allow the researchers to “with a fine grain of detail, map the spatial patterns of what’s happening around the state,” Lacy says. Lacy adds that the program will give practical experience in data mapping to students in the State Cartographer’s Office, which is housed in the UW–Madison Department of Geography.

Over the next 18 months, the team will assemble the data and prototype the map that will present the information to physicians. The goal is that, before too long, physicians across Wisconsin can improve their patients’ outcomes by tracking antibiotic resistance as easily as they track a storm.

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Ebola vaccine inches toward human clinical trials  external link

A whole-virus vaccine to confront Ebola, the rare but often fatal hemorrhagic disease that periodically erupts in sub-Saharan Africa, may soon be one step closer to the clinic.

With the help of experts at Waisman Biomanufacturing, within the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Waisman Center, UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka will lead a $3 million effort to produce as many as 1,000 doses of an experimental vaccine that has already been proven to work safely in monkeys.

Photo: Micrograph of Ebola virus, which looks like a fibrous sphere or disc

Ebola virus swarms the surface of a host cell in this electron micrograph. Like most viruses, Ebola requires the help of a host cell to survive and replicate. Photo: Takeshi Noda, University of Tokyo

“The goal is to produce a safe and effective vaccine against Ebola virus for people,” says Kawaoka, a world expert on Ebola and influenza. The vaccine is planned for use in a phase 1 clinical trial in Japan and is the only whole-virus Ebola vaccine candidate under development.

It will be produced at Waisman Biomanufacturing, a specialized facility whose mission is to help translate scientific discovery into early-stage clinical trials. The staff of the facility provides expert help with manufacturing processes, quality control and overall product development in addition to regulatory support.

“Waisman Biomanufacturing produces many different types of biopharmaceutical products, keeping our range of expertise broad in order to serve any University of Wisconsin investigator who has a biological that they wish to bring into the clinic,” says Carl Ross, the facility’s managing director. “We have made many prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines for use in human clinical trials.”

The technology behind the new Ebola vaccine was devised nearly a decade ago by Peter Halfmann, a research scientist in Kawaoka’s lab who is also an expert on the Ebola virus. It is known as “Delta VP30,” and is a form of Ebola virus that is noninfectious and safe to work with under routine laboratory conditions such as those at Waisman Biomanufacturing. The virus is missing a critical gene — one of only eight genes that make up the virus genome — that makes a protein the virus needs to reproduce in host cells.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka

Photo: Carl Ross

Carl Ross

Vaccines work by exposing the immune system to viruses or parts of viruses. The Delta VP30-based vaccine may offer better protection against Ebola virus than others in the pipeline, Kawaoka says, because it is a whole-virus vaccine. Other Ebola vaccine candidates use vector viruses to ferry a single Ebola protein, a surface antigen, to prime the immune system.

“Here, we have a whole-virus vaccine that presents all the viral proteins to the immune system, which may result in increased and broadened immune responses compared to vaccines that present only a single viral antigen to the immune system,” Kawaoka explains.

The need for an Ebola vaccine is acute. Periodic outbreaks of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, including an epidemic between 2013 and 2016, caused major loss of life and serious economic disruption in the three countries where it occurred: Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

The technology devised in 2008 by Halfmann in Kawaoka’s lab provides a safe way to explore countermeasures for Ebola, a disease whose high mortality rate is amplified by a lack of clinically-tested vaccines and antiviral compounds. The Delta VP30 technology has been approved by the National Institutes of Health for use under Biosafety Level 2 conditions and has been utilized safely for a decade to study the basic biology of the virus, identify potential antiviral compound candidates, and make the whole-virus vaccine.

The need for an Ebola vaccine is acute. Periodic outbreaks of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa caused major loss of life and serious economic disruption.

“We have 10 years of experience with this system,” says Kawaoka of work performed in the UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and the Influenza Research Institute (IRI) located in University Research Park. “That includes data that demonstrates that the vaccine does not replicate in and is not pathogenic in animals, including mice with deficient immune systems and nonhuman primates.”

Waisman Biomanufacturing, notes Ross, has a long history of producing experimental vaccines for clinical trials, including for HIV, influenza, hepatitis, herpes and human papillomavirus, among others. In addition to its emphasis on producing vaccines, the lab specializes in gene and cell therapies, including stem cell products.

The Ebola vaccine work at Waisman Biomanufacturing will begin in March, with the clinical vaccine doses for the Japanese trial produced by December of 2018.

The new vaccine project will be the subject of an informational meeting to be held Feb. 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Friends of the Waisman Center Auditorium on the first floor of the West Annex. The Waisman Center is located at 1500 Highland Ave. Free parking is available after 4:30 p.m. in Lot 82, behind the Waisman Center and accessible from Highland Avenue.

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To sleep, perchance to forget  external link

Photo: Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli in the lab at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness.

Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli in the lab at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness. Photo: John Maniaci

The debate in sleep science has gone on for a generation. People and other animals sicken and die if they are deprived of sleep, but why is sleep so essential?

Psychiatrists Chiara Cirelli and Giulio Tononi of the Wisconsin Center for Sleep and Consciousness proposed the “synaptic homeostasis hypothesis” (SHY) in 2003. This hypothesis holds that sleep is the price we pay for brains that are plastic and able to keep learning new things.

A few years ago, they went all in on a four-year research effort that could show direct evidence for their theory.

The result, published in February 2017 in Science, offered direct visual proof of SHY. Cirelli, a professor in the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health, expanded on the research today (Feb. 17, 2018) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Striking electron-microscope pictures from inside the brains of mice suggest what happens in our own brain every day: Our synapses — the junctions between nerve cells — grow strong and large during the stimulation of daytime, then shrink by nearly 20 percent while we sleep, creating room for more growth and learning the next day.

A large team of researchers sectioned the brains of mice and then used a scanning electron microscope to photograph, reconstruct, and analyze two areas of cerebral cortex. They were able to reconstruct 6,920 synapses and measure their size.

The team deliberately did not know whether they were analyzing the brain cells of a well-rested mouse or one that had been awake. When they finally “broke the code” and correlated the measurements with the amount of sleep the mice had during the six to eight hours before the image was taken, they found that a few hours of sleep led on average to an 18 percent decrease in the size of the synapses. These changes occurred in both areas of the cerebral cortex and were proportional to the size of the synapses.

The study was big news, picked up by outlets including The New York Times and National Public Radio. It was bolstered by a companion Johns Hopkins University study that analyzed brain proteins to also confirm SHY’s prediction that the purpose of sleep is to scale back synapses.

For Cirelli, the study was a big gamble that paid off. But she’s not resting on her laurels. Her lab is now looking at new brain areas, and at the brains of young mice to understand the role sleep plays in brain development.

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New approaches in neuroscience show it’s not all in your head  external link

Our own unique experiences shape how we view the world and respond to the events in our lives. But experience is highly subjective. What’s distressing or joyful to one person may be very different to another.

These differences can matter, especially as a growing body of research shows that what happens in our inner landscapes — our thoughts about and interpretations of our experiences — can have physical consequences in our brains and bodies.

Photo: Richard Davidson, arms crossed, in front of bookshelf

Richard Davidson

This was the subject of a talk given Feb. 16 by University of Wisconsin–Madison Center for Healthy Minds founder and director Richard Davidson at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, titled: How the Mind Informs the Brain: Depression and Well-Being.

“How we experience the world affects us in more ways than we previously thought,” says Davidson, William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at UW–Madison. “We’re finding that emotions and thoughts can alter neural pathways in the brain in relatively short amounts of time and even affect processes like gene expression and aging.”

Davidson says tapping into the role experience plays in mental health could help scientists and clinicians design better interventions to treat disorders such as anxiety and depression.

This framework stands in contrast to the tendency of neuroscientists to place more value on behavior in lieu of studying experience. In his talk, Davidson made the case for more fully integrating emerging scientific knowledge of the mind-body connection with neuroscience study design.

Not only should individual experience be more fully accounted for and measured in neuroscience studies, Davidson argues, efforts to do so are revealing previously unknown neural networks that are implicated in well-being and mental health disorders.

The problem, he says, is that experience has long been thought of as synonymous with behavior, when in fact the two are separate and can influence each other.

Davidson and other scientists in the field have used imaging tools like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) to measure activity and structures in the brain while observing relationships between specific neural networks and behaviors.

“How we experience the world affects us in more ways than we previously thought.”

Richard Davison

“What’s exciting about these findings is that when we take experience into account, certain neural mechanisms are implicated that would not otherwise be identified,” he says. “The findings underscore the importance of taking both experience and behavior into account when building neural accounts of emotion, well-being and psychopathology.

Studies of mindfulness and meditation serve as examples of interventions that focus on experience. These forms of mental training hold the potential to influence how people notice sensations and form emotional responses to the events around them in ways that can affect their biology and actually drive behavior.

Previous research related to emotional well-being and depression can act as helpful models, Davidson says, because there is evidence that psychological interventions that include mental training practices to increase positive qualities of mind such as attention, kindness and compassion can leave lasting effects on the brain and physiological aspects of health.

In theory, scientists can take this information and begin looking at other interventions that influence experience to see what kind of impact on the brain and body they may have.

Davidson is excited for new study methods enabled by smartphones because they can gather critical data about a person’s experience at specific intervals during the day — outside of the lab — in more natural, everyday environments. Called “experience sampling,” the idea is to deliberately gather information about a person’s mental state and experiences to create a larger picture of how his or her brain, behavior and experiences interact.

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UW-Madison announces six new ‘cluster hire’ initiatives  external link

It’s no secret that the University of Wisconsin-Madison has faculty in a wide range of fields all across campus. But some of the best ideas are generated from conversations between people with different areas of expertise.

That’s part of the goal of the cluster hiring initiative, designed to foster collaborative research, education and outreach by creating new interdisciplinary areas of knowledge that cross the boundaries of existing academic departments. UW-Madison’s Cluster Hiring Initiative was launched in 1998 as an innovative partnership between the university, state and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). The university and WARF have just funded six new cluster hire initiatives.

“UW-Madison has long been a leader in taking this interdisciplinary approach,” says Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf. “This is an investment in our university’s future and strengthens our commitment to our research, education and outreach mission.  This not only provides an opportunity for faculty members to work together across disciplines, it encourages us to think bigger in our approach to research, learning and problem solving.”

Forty-eight proposals were submitted for a first round of cluster hires, with six proposals chosen to be funded. Submissions for a second round of proposals will be announced, with a deadline of April 2, 2018.

“The proposals were chosen on the basis of their ability to catalyze new, pathbreaking areas of research, to engage researchers and students alike, and to provide the foundation for new areas of teaching and outreach,” says Michael Bernard-Donals, vice provost for faculty and staff. “In their focus on the interrelation of research and teaching, and the outcomes of the work for the public good, they are excellent examples of the Wisconsin Idea in action.”

The Cluster Hiring Initiative aims to provide an alternative to departmentally based hiring practices and norms. In essence, the initiative is an incentive plan designed to facilitate interdisciplinary strategic hiring by providing salary support for faculty positions. The historical objectives are to:

  • Enable the campus to devote a critical mass of faculty to an area of scholarship that would not be addressed through existing departmental structures.
  • Provide for new research tracks and collaborative opportunities.
  • Address complex societal problems.
  • Advance the Wisconsin Idea by serving society’s needs through interdisciplinary research, learning and service.
  • Encourage and foster cooperation within an already strong faculty and staff.
  • Create new curricular offerings on the undergraduate and graduate levels.
  • Assist in fulfilling other missions of the university, particularly increasing campus diversity.

“These truly outstanding proposals have the potential to transform a number of fields of study, continuing the tradition of the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a leader in collaborative, interdisciplinary research,” says Marsha Mailick, who championed this initiative as the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

The six being funded are:

Reproductive Equity Cluster Alta Charo (Law School), Deborah Ehrenthal (Obstetrics & Gynecology), Pamela Herd (La Follette School of Public Affairs, Sociology), Jenny Higgins (Gender and Women’s Studies, Obstetrics & Gynecology) Laurel Rice (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

The purpose of the cluster is to build cross-disciplinary research expertise necessary to examine the drivers and consequences of inequities in reproductive health and to identify potential solutions. A goal is to add greater diversity to the voices engaged in these discussions, particularly with respect to health disparities and inequities, whether due to geography, socio-economic status, race or ethnicity.

Initiative in Social Genomics Jason Fletcher (Sociology/Public Affairs/Population Health Sciences), Corinne Engelman (Population Health Sciences),James Li (Psychology) andQiongshi Lu (Biostatistics and Medical Informatics)

Advances in genomics are transforming the world and allowing us to ask new questions and also approach old questions in new ways. The costs of sequencing the human genome have fallen an unprecedented 100 million times over the past 15 years, making the technology widely available to clinicians, researchers and the broader public. This proposal’s goal is to expand emerging expertise by integrating genetic and social and health science questions from multiple disciplinary backgrounds in health economics, genetic epidemiology, psychology and statistical genetics.

Functional Genetics/Genomics of Neurodevelopmental and Neurodegenerative Diseases Qiang Chang (Medical Genetics and Neurology), Anita Bhattacharyya, Cell & Regenerative Biology), Qiongshi Lu (Biostatistics & Medical Informatics), Luigi Puglielli (Medicine), John Svaren (Comparative Biosciences), Xinyu Zhao (Neuroscience)

The long-term goal for this cluster is to develop a pipeline of discovery that completes a cycle that begins with patients in the clinics and ends with new approaches for treatments or cures. This cycle of discovery begins with the identification of patient- specific genetic variants in the clinical setting, and then continues through experimental studies to confirm pathogenicity.

The Comparative Study of Modern Arab Politics and Society Nevine El Nossery (French and Italian), Nadav Shelef (Political Science), Mary Layoun (Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies)

This cluster focuses on the comparative study of the modern politics and societies of the Arab world.  The cluster will not only complement existing strengths by addressing an area not well represented on campus, it will also establish a nexus for innovative and compelling research on the cutting edge of work on the region. Within the university, a focused cluster on the contemporary study of Arab politics and society will generate substantive collaborative scholarship between scholars in different departments. From outside our campus, this cluster will attract attention from other universities, major foundations and government agencies interested in developing a greater understanding of the policy challenges currently facing the country.

Human Cancer Genetics/Precision Medicine Paul F. Lambert (McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, SMPH), Margaret Raymond (Law School), Susannah Tahk (Law School), Robert Golden (School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), Richard Moss (SMPH),  Steven M. Swanson (School of Pharmacy), Howard Bailey (Carbone Cancer Center), Stephen Meyn (Center For Human Genomics and Precision Medicine), Martha “Meg” E. Gaines (Center for Patient Partnerships), Arash Bashirullah (Pharmacy), Emery Bresnick (SMPH), Mark Burkard (SMPH), Susan Lederer (SMPH)

Cancer Genetics (includes epigenetic and omics research) has increased our basic understanding of how human cancers arise, and how to treat patients through precision (personalized) medicine. With the advent of these capabilities also come new uncharted territories, including how individuals respond to targeted drug therapies (pharmacogenomics) and the legal/ethical issues arising with genetically testing patients. The goals of this cluster are to enhance the UW-Madison campus’s studies on the genetics of human cancers, cancer pharmacogenomics, and the legal/ethical issues associated with genetic analyses of human patients.

Advanced Biomanufacturing William L. Murphy (Biomedical Engineering, Orthopedics & Rehabilitation), Sean Palecek (Chemical and Biological Engineering), Christian Capatini (Pediatrics, Carbone Cancer Center)

Advanced manufacturing of therapeutic medical devices, cells or tissues — termed “biomanufacturing” — is experiencing explosive growth as a scientific topic and as an industry in the United States. Thus, the state of Wisconsin — and the University of Wisconsin in particular — is clearly emerging as a national center of excellence in biomanufacturing. Current opportunities for scientific discovery and technological innovation in biomanufacturing create an ideal set of local ingredients for new, interdisciplinary faculty hiring at UW-Madison. The “Advanced Biomanufacturing”cluster  emphasizes complex interdisciplinary approaches to manufacture functional human cells and tissues.

To learn more about the Cluster Hiring Initiative, visit facstaff.provost.wisc.edu/cluster-hiring-initiative.

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Blank lists successes, commitments in Regents speech  external link

University of Wisconsin–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the UW System Board of Regents last Thursday that “demand for what we do at UW–Madison is higher than it’s ever been.”

Blank addressed the board at Varsity Hall in Union South and stressed the university’s partnership with the state. She said preliminary numbers indicate that undergraduate applications have increased by more than 20 percent this year, with increases in applications from Wisconsin (6 percent), Minnesota (17 percent), as well as nonresidents (approximately 30 percent).

“There are a lot of good things happening at UW–Madison,” Blank said.

Photo: Rebecca Blank holding up budget booklet at podium

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blanks speaks during her presentation at the UW System Board of Regents meeting at Union South on Feb. 8, 2018. Photo: Bryce Richter

“UW–Madison is important to Wisconsin for many reasons, including its world-class education, research and outreach. It provides access to a world-class education for Wisconsin students at an affordable price — $10,533 a year for tuition and fees. The only higher-ranked public in the Big Ten is the University of Michigan. But if you’re a Wisconsin resident and want to attend Michigan, it will cost you more than $47,000 a year in tuition and fees.

“This access to excellence is important to keep our best students in this state. We are committed to making it possible for every qualified Wisconsin student to attend,” Blank said.

Attracting Wisconsin students

Each year, UW–Madison guarantees admission to a minimum of 3,600 Wisconsin students in its freshman class. This year that number topped 3,700, Blank said.

UW–Madison is focused on attracting the best Wisconsin high school students, she said. To recruit those students, the university has launched the PRIME program, which targets Wisconsin high school students with top grades and an ACT score of 30 or higher. The goal is to reach 800 students with high-touch recruiting to communicate why a top student would want to attend Madison.

“We’ve just started the program, but I think we’re on the right track,” said Blank, who had lunch with a group of students targeted by the program last week. “The more of these excellent students we attract to UW–Madison and keep in Wisconsin for college, the easier it’s going to be for Wisconsin’s businesses to recruit those students into jobs.”

To improve access for students from low- and middle-income Wisconsin families, the university introduced the Badger Promise a year ago. It guarantees a year of free tuition for first-generation students who transfer after completing a degree at a participating two-year UW college or technical school. This fall, 139 Badger Promise students enrolled at UW–Madison.

Lowering financial hurdles

Furthering that commitment to Wisconsin students, Blank unveiled Bucky’s Tuition Promise, which provides free tuition to undergraduate students whose families earn $56,000 per year or less. The median income for Wisconsin families is roughly $56,000.

“We want to make sure that all students from Wisconsin who are admitted to UW–Madison can afford to come,” Blank said.

The university continues to work on expanding merit aid as well as need-based aid, with low- and moderate-income families in Wisconsin the first priority. In December, donors John and Tashia Morgridge announced a gift of $10 million in matching money for need-based scholarships. When this match is completed, it will generate a $20 million endowment for need-based scholarships. The payout from the endowment will provide a substantial part of the funding needed for Bucky’s Tuition Promise.

UW–Madison is also exploring ways to continue to attract and retain nonresident and international students, Blank said. She said these students bring more diversity to the student body and improve the educational experience for Wisconsin students, while at the same time providing an opportunity to Wisconsin businesses to recruit top talent to work for them. She said one year after graduation, about 22 percent of nonresident students have jobs in Wisconsin.

“This in no way lessens our commitment to Wisconsin freshmen. But at a time when the number of Wisconsin high school students is stagnant or declining, growth is going to have to come from out of state,” she said.

Research benefits Wisconsin

“The university’s research enterprise, ranked sixth in the nation, helps Wisconsin businesses to stay on the cutting edge of technology, attracts new businesses to Wisconsin and spurs many startups. For every $1 in state investment the university returns $24 in economic activity across the state.

“We bring more than $1 billion into Wisconsin in federal and private research funding,” Blank said. “This is money that is largely spent in Wisconsin, primarily to create jobs and buy materials. Based on our research enterprise alone, we are one of Wisconsin’s largest employers and a major source of jobs and spending in the state, largely funded by outside revenues.”

The university has also been focused on expanding revenues through entrepreneurial efforts, Blank said. The six-point strategy includes expanding summer semester offerings, growing professional degree and capstone programs, setting tuition rates that are equivalent to market peers, growing alumni support and research funds, and expanding nonresident undergraduate enrollment.

“UW–Madison has been part of this state for 170 years,” Blank said. “Our partnership with the state is central to who we are as a public university, and the state’s partnership with us is central to its economic future. It’s exciting to think about all the things we can do together in the decades ahead.”

Read the full speech

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Beyond silicon: researchers solve a materials mystery key to next-generation electronic devices  external link

Materials science and engineering postdoctoral researcher Hyungwoo Lee looks inside a thin film deposition system during oxide thin film structure growth. Renee Meiller/UW-Madison

Lennon and McCartney. Abbott and Costello. Peanut butter and jelly.

Think of one half of any famous duo, and the other half likely comes to mind. Not only do they complement each other, but together they work better.

The same is true in the burgeoning field of oxide electronics materials. Boasting a wide array of behaviors, including electronic, magnetic and superconducting, these multifunctional materials are poised to expand the way we think about the functions of traditional silicon-based electronic devices such as cell phones or computers.

Yet until now, a critical aspect has been missing — one that complements the function of electrons in oxide electronics. And a team led by University of Wisconsin–Madison materials scientist Chang-Beom Eom has directly observed that missing second half of the duo necessary to move oxide electronics materials forward.


From left, materials science and engineering postdoctoral researcher Jungwoo Lee, physics graduate student Neil Campbell, materials science and engineering postdoctoral researcher Hyungwoo Lee, materials science and engineering professor Chang-Beom Eom, and physics professor Mark Rzchowski. Renee Meiller/UW-Madison

It’s called a two-dimensional hole gas — a counterpart to something known as a two-dimensional electron gas. For more than a decade, researchers have recognized a hole gas appearance was possible, but haven’t been able to create it experimentally.

Writing today (Feb. 5, 2018) in the journal Nature Materials, Eom and his collaborators provided evidence of a hole gas coexisting with the electron gas. They designed an ultrathin material, known as a thin film structure, specifically for this research.

“The 2D hole gas was not possible primarily because perfect-enough crystals could not be grown,” says Eom, the Theodore H. Geballe Professor and Harvey D. Spangler Distinguished Professor of materials science and engineering. “Inside, there were defects that killed the hole gas.”

Eom is a world expert in material growth, using techniques that allow him to meticulously build, or “grow,” each layer of a material with atomic precision. That expertise, combined with insight into the interaction between layers in their structure, was key in identifying the elusive 2D hole gas.

“We were able to design the correct structure and make near-perfect crystals, all without defects that degrade the hole gas,” he says.

Also important in identifying the hole gas was the almost-symmetrical way in which Eom assembled the various layers — something like a club sandwich. While other researchers have made the material in a bi-layer structure, Eom designed a triple layer. He alternated layers of strontium oxide and titanium dioxide on the bottom, then layers of lanthanum oxide and aluminum oxide, then added additional layers of strontium oxide and titanium dioxide on the top.

As a result, the hole gas forms at the interface of the layers on the top, while the electron gas forms at the interface of the layers on the bottom — the first demonstration of a very powerful complementary pair.

Just as people 50 years ago likely could not have envisioned communicating via wireless devices, the advance sets forth a platform that can enable new concepts-applications that today remain beyond our wildest dreams.

“We’re not just improving the performance of devices,” says Eom. “So, not improving a cell phone, for example — but envisioning an entirely new device made possible by this advance. This is the beginning of an exciting new path.”

Eom’s collaborators from UW–Madison include physics professor Mark Rzchowski and graduate students in materials science and engineering and physics, as well as collaborators from The Ohio State University, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Argonne National Laboratory, and Sungkyunkwan University and Pohang University of Science and Technology in Korea.

This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (DMR-1629270, DMR-1420645 and DMR-1305193), the U.S. Department of Defense (AFOSR FA9550-15-1-0334), the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (FA2386-15-1-4046) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DE-FG02-06ER46327 and DE-AC02-06CH11357).

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Freely shared satellite data improves weather forecasting  external link

On Nov. 18, 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA launched the Joint Polar Satellite System, the first in an advanced series of polar-orbiting weather satellites.

The new satellite, named NOAA-20 after its launch, continues a legacy of providing scientists and citizens across the world free access to the weather data it collects — without restrictions or encryption.

Photo: Artist's rendering of satellite orbiting Earth

Artist’s rendering of NOAA-20, originally known as JPSS-1, orbiting Earth. It is the first in an advanced series of polar-orbiting weather satellites. NOAA, NASA

For decades, the world meteorological satellite community has operated under a policy of freely shared data. It represents a philosophy and model of cooperation first promoted by the United States and adopted by global satellite agencies, which endure regardless of political or national persuasion.

It’s also a legacy and philosophy with roots that trace back decades to the University of Wisconsin–Madison Space Science and Engineering Center and the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.

“We at SSEC and CIMSS are very proud of our part in establishing and promoting this world community approach to better understanding and forecasting weather and climate,” says SSEC scientist Liam Gumley.

Better forecasting with NOAA-20

In the early 1980s, scientists at SSEC developed some of the first software tools to process data from instruments on NOAA’s early polar-orbiting satellite series known as TIROS.

Today, Gumley specializes in receiving and processing data from satellites like NOAA-20 for use by everyone from other researchers and meteorologists to the general public.

Photo: Liam Gumley sitting in front of computer screen displaying satellite image

Liam Gumley and other scientists are using NOAA-20’s data to improve forecasts, assist in real-time decision-making, and analyze global environmental processes over longer periods of time. Bill Bellon, SSEC

The NOAA-20 satellite was designed to circle the planet 14 times each day. From its low orbit just over 500 miles above the Earth, it collects high-resolution data in consecutive swaths to construct a picture of the planet twice daily.

The satellite joins its predecessor, Suomi NPP (named for SSEC’s founder, the late Professor Verner Suomi), as well as satellites operated by other countries, in making important measurements of Earth’s environment, forming the backbone of the global observing system by delivering detailed information on the state of the planet’s atmosphere, land and oceans.

Gumley and his team, other scientists at SSEC, and scientists worldwide are using NOAA-20’s data in three distinct ways: to improve forecasts; to assist in real-time decision-making; and to analyze global environmental processes over longer periods of time.

Improving forecasts is paramount to scientists like Gumley, who notes that while weather balloons, aircraft, ground-based instruments and other sources provide data that feeds into weather prediction models, “by far, the most important data source is the satellite data,” he says.

Photo: View from space of Tropical Cyclone Cebile

NOAA-20 observed Tropical Cyclone Cebile, and its well-defined eye, in the Indian Ocean on Jan. 30, 2018. Imagery and data from NOAA-20 are preliminary, until the satellite is declared operational. NOAA, CIMSS

Data from these satellites — all of which have infrared and microwave sensors onboard — are crucial to the numerical weather prediction (NWP) at the heart of U.S. forecasting, which harnesses the power of computers to run algorithms that process massive amounts of satellite data.

Making satellite data accessible

Data from all United States geostationary and polar orbiting environmental satellites are stored in NOAA’s CLASS archive (Comprehensive Large Array-Data Stewardship System) within about 10 hours of collection. Anyone can visit CLASS and download these data.

However, those with an interest or need to obtain the data sooner — like weather agencies for forecasting purposes — can install an antenna and specific hardware to receive data in real time, directly from the satellite. Within minutes of digitization on the satellite, this direct broadcast data is transmitted to receivers below.

In developing countries, where acquiring and running the proper equipment to directly receive and process the data may be cost-prohibitive, Gumley says that for less than $1,000 they can purchase a small antenna or computer to receive rebroadcasts from another source.

“It is gratifying to see that all of the money, expertise and hard work that goes into building these systems results in something that is shared for the global good.”

Liam Gumley

For NOAA-20, the European satellite agency EUMETSAT or NOAA can receive and process the data, uplink it to a telecommunications satellite, and then beam it back down on a signal similar to that of a digital television.

Rebroadcasting is not done directly at SSEC, Gumley says, but the center does assist EUMETSAT with some of the data to rebroadcast it over Europe as part of a system called EUMETCast.

“It is gratifying to see that all of the money, expertise and hard work that goes into building these systems results in something that is shared for the global good,” Gumley says.

Connecting decision-makers with satellite data

Data from satellites like NOAA-20 also play a key role in decision-making, especially when time is of the essence. Scientists like Gumley are critical to that endeavor.

Satellite Data Services at SSEC ingests and archives daily data from numerous satellites. With almost immediate access, Gumley and colleagues can view and analyze satellite data streams and imagery in 15 minutes or less.

In fact, his team developed a suite of software called the Community Satellite Processing Package (CSPP) that can be downloaded from the program’s website, without cost or restriction, aimed at supporting the decision-making process in the U.S. and making it more economical for other countries.

Photo: Satellite image of U.S. Great Lakes region

The Great Lakes region early on the morning of Jan. 30, 2018 via the Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band. Data acquired and processed via SSEC direct broadcast antenna.

As part of a community effort, SSEC and partner sites have developed CSPP products that convert digital satellite signals into usable information. The products can be used to detect fires, gain information about temperature and water vapor, assess vegetation and more. The data can aid in weather forecasting and disaster response.

The immediacy it affords users, like NOAA’s National Weather Service, allows them to quickly assess situations that could affect public safety. For example, the VIIRS Day/Night Band on NOAA-20 can detect nighttime fog in valleys. If low-level fog is blanketing a highly traveled interstate, forecasters can quickly inform the state highway patrol or other relevant agencies to alert drivers of diminished visibility.

Or, notes Gumley, “fires can be spotted from satellite images, too. If we see a fire at a particular latitude and longitude, we can notify fire protection agencies so that they can dispatch personnel.”

Researchers are also using these data to study global processes over an extended period of time (20-30 years) to determine climate trends. For example, scientists have already determined that clouds are one important variable in the global radiation budget. For today, says Gumley, the question is: “Are we seeing more or less high clouds as a result of climate change?”

Photo: Satellite view of continental U.S.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true color image over the continental U.S. on Jan. 18, 2018. Data acquired and processed via SSEC direct broadcast antenna.

NOAA-20 will continue these and other types of observations collected and archived from previous generations of satellites for the last 25 years, which makes identifying trends more reliable.

Additionally, Gumley’s group is part of the ground team tasked with characterizing the data from NOAA-20 for its completeness, validity, accuracy and consistency. Starting three days after launch, and as sensors onboard the spacecraft were turned on, his team has worked with NASA and NOAA to ensure the integrity of several terabytes of data each day.

“Now that NOAA has given the go-ahead,” says Gumley, “we are supplying it to NWP centers so they can start evaluating the NOAA-20 data, too.”

Tracing back to Suomi NPP and extending to NOAA-20, SSEC also continues to be involved in a contract with NASA to create atmosphere products that support long-term climate study, called Science Investigator-led Processing Systems (SIPS). It is the only one of six groups involved in SIPS development that is based outside of NASA.

For Gumley, it is rewarding to work within a global collaboration where despite differing environments and locations, everyone receives the same data and is interested in using it for improving forecasts and studying environmental conditions.

“It’s not just the U.S., but because of its example, all the major satellite operators are participating,” he says.

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Enter your amazing science images in the 2018 Cool Science Image Contest  external link

Photo: Microscopic closeup of tick's head

Extreme closeup of a tick that attached itself to the leg of Department of Botany staffer Sarah Swanson on a camping trip. She parlayed her pain into a prize in the 2016 Cool Science Image Contest. Photo: Sarah Swanson

Science is a visual enterprise. Scientific imagery created with microscopes, telescopes, cameras and scanners makes even parts of the world that our eyes can’t perceive visible, understandable and often beautiful.

To recognize the visual and exploratory value of scientific imagery, the 8th annual Cool Science Image Contest is soliciting the best images from members of the University of Wisconsin–Madison community.

Sponsored by Promega Corp. with additional support from the UW–Madison Arts Institute and DoIT Digital Publishing and Printing Services, the Cool Science Image Contest offers an opportunity to show off compelling science images made by students, staff or faculty.

See the 2017 winners

More than 130 images and videos — depicting animals, insects, plants, cells, stars, weather and nanoscale compounds — were entered in last year’s contest. Submissions are featured on university websites and other communications, and in exhibits on and off campus. Ten winning images and two winning videos are also showcased in a fall exhibit at the Mandelbaum and Albert Family Vision Gallery of the McPherson Eye Research Institute, and at Promega’s Fitchburg headquarters.

To enter your cool science images or videos, visit the contest webpage for guidelines, submission requirements and a link to the entry form. The submission deadline is March 9.

Winners, chosen by judges with experience in scientific imagery and visual art, will be announced in April. Each winning entry receives a $100 Downtown Madison gift card and a poster-size print of the submission. All qualified entries will be displayed in a slide show at the 2018 Wisconsin Science Festival and during the exhibit at the McPherson Eye Research Institute.

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