The end of the year is a great time to look back and reflect on the accomplishments of the CALS community. Here are some of the stories that made 2015 a memorable year for the college:
This year, six new named professorships were established at CALS, thanks to the generosity of alumni John and Tashia Morgridge. The couple donated $125.1 million to the UW-Madison to help recruit and retain faculty, providing a one-to-one match for other donors willing to endow a professorship, a chair or a distinguished chair. CALS’ new named professorships will support faculty working in food chemistry; agricultural and applied economics; biological systems engineering; organic plant breeding; genetics; and bacteriology.
CALS animal sciences professor Mark Cook and researcher Jordan Sand developed an antibiotic-free method to protect animals raised for food against common infections. Cook and Sand are forming Ab E Discovery LLC to commercialize the research. One of the four patents they have filed through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has just been granted, and they were recently awarded a $100,000 WARF Accelerator Program grant to pursue the technology.
Aided by decades of research at UW-Madison, Wisconsin has become the international leader in cranberry production. This fall, Chancellor Rebecca Blank and CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch visited Cranberry Creek Cranberries, Inc. in Necedah, where they stressed that close partnerships between growers and university researchers are key for developing new cultivars, improving management practices and documenting the health benefits of the Badger-red fruit.
Subjects of the project known as the “Happy Days Study” — one of the most consistent, comprehensive and expansive studies of aging and health in America — have contributed their time for repeated, highly detailed surveys of health, family life and employment for more than 50 years. This summer, it was announced that CALS bacteriologist Federico Rey would analyze their gut microbiomes.
Erik Sanson, a CALS senior majoring in evolutionary biology with certificates in global health and leadership, was among a group of undergraduate researchers highlighted on the CALS Facebook Page this past year. Based in Susan Paskewitz‘s entomology lab, Sanson is working with graduate student Xia Lee to identify tick genotypes in new areas and compare them to genotypes found on the east coast, where ticks are associated with a higher rate of Lyme Disease.
From spring through summer, CALS biochemistry professor Judith Kimble helped lead a campuswide discussion about the current state of – and a future vision for – America’s biomedical research enterprise, which has become damagingly hypercompetitive. The process was lauded for its inclusiveness, and the group’s findings were published in eLife.
Ben Futa took over as curator of the Allen Centennial Gardens this spring. Futa, who came most recently from Fernwood Botanical Garden in Michigan, is passionate about bringing more people – and more types of people – into the gardens and has already established exciting new public programming to do so.
Food Research Institute researchers led by Kathy Glass found the cause of a deadly 2014 Listeria outbreak linked to caramel apples. Glass’ team concluded that sticks poked into caramel apples can release enough juice to create a microenvironment that allows for Listeria growth. The findings were shared far and wide via the media, including stories in ABC News, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post.
Nick Smith joined the Department of Food Science this spring as the university’s first enologist. Smith’s job is to serve as a resource for the state’s 110 wineries and commercial cider makers – and help them grow and compete.
Badger mens basketball star Frank Kaminsky, a.k.a. “Frank the Tank,” got to meet his namesake in March when he interviewed Will Ferrell for Access Hollywood following Ferrell’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in Los Angeles. It was an exciting and nerve-racking “beyond the classroom” experience for Kaminsky, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in life sciences communication in spring, as he explained in this YouTube video.
CALS agronomists Natalia DeLeon and Shawn Kaeppler are involved in an exciting, data-intensive project that is linking genetic information about scores of corn varieties to plant performance (yield, ear shape and color, tasseling time, etc.) in various environments and under various growing conditions. This “phenotyping” work, as it’s called, is expected to revolutionize plant breeding.
The Department of Dairy Science has been a major player on a $5 million USDA project that will deliver genomic predictions for residual feed intake to the dairy industry — information that will help farmers select animals that can digest feed and convert it to milk and body tissue more efficiently than their herdmates. The UW-Madison has a long track record of conducting research that supports the dairy industry.
It was a great year for pumpkins – including giant pumpkins – which means horticulture professors Irwin Goldman and Jim Nienhuis were able to put on a Giant Pumpkin Regatta event this year. Participants, primarily horticulture students, paddled on Lake Mendota in massive, hollowed-out pumpkins made buoyant by inflated inner tubes.