On Campus – On Wisconsin https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com For UW-Madison Alumni and Friends Wed, 09 Jan 2019 19:31:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 Stone Survivor https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/stone-survivor/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/stone-survivor/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:41:24 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24277 Sandstone statue in a garden

Bryce Richter

After 70 secretive years, a gargoyle has been reunited with its twin. One of the sandstone statues, which sat atop the old Law School, was thought to have been destroyed during the building’s 1963 demolition. But the children of Paul Been ’49 LLB’53 grew up hearing a different story. Been, along with a fellow law student, hauled it away in a wheelbarrow after a storm, according to the family. His children returned the statue in September.

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The Next Dimension https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/the-next-dimension/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/the-next-dimension/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:41:24 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24280 Graphic illustration of human heart being created using a 3D printer


3D printing seems like science fiction come to life.

“It’s kind of Star Trek–like,” says Dan Thoma MS’88, PhD’92, director of the Grainger Institute for Engineering, who has researched the technology for 25 years.

Remember when Captain Picard commanded the replicator on the Enterprise to make a cup of Earl Grey tea?

“Well, we can’t make the tea, but we can [print] the cup,” Thoma says.

There are several steps to 3D printing an object: convert a physical model into a virtual design, translate it into a software that reads the object’s surfaces and stores information about its shape, and then use a second software to divide the digital model into sections and instructions the printer can understand. Once the printer is set up, it reads the digital language and prints the object in layers — a cup would have roughly 10,000 layers.

The concept is simple enough, Thoma says. Conventional manufacturing methods cut components from blocks of material and sometimes weld multiple pieces together. But 3D printing builds an entire piece from the ground up, allowing users to create new materials and design internal structures.

“You get increased functionality that you can’t get any other way,” Thoma says.

Still, 3D printing has been overhyped, he adds. It takes training to use programming software, operate the machines, pick material, and choose from dozens of different printing techniques. The technology is also expensive and can’t produce high volumes. Extensive finishing and testing to control defects on a single part can cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

“Even if I’m [just] making a coffee cup, and I have hot coffee [in it], I don’t want the handle breaking,” Thoma says.

Whatever its limitations, the possibilities still seem endless. There’s hope in the medical industry for printing 3D organs.

“I don’t know what the next great idea is going to be,” Thoma says. “I just hope [it comes from] one of my students.”

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For the Birds https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/for-the-birds/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/for-the-birds/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:41:23 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24322 Pair of hands holding notebook filled with birding notes and illustrations

Mason Muerhoff

Nomen est omen, said the ancient Romans, who liked their maxims to rhyme: one’s name is one’s destiny. And while there’s little empirical evidence about this aphorism, put Anna Pidgeon PhD’00 down on the side of support. The professor with the columbiform name has taught Birds of Southern Wisconsin for the last three years.

“I get a bit of office guff,” she says.

Birds of Southern Wisconsin is offered each spring, and most of its students are undergrads studying biology or wildlife ecology. In addition to class work, students take field trips around Dane County and southern Wisconsin on Saturdays through the semester. By the course’s end, students are expected to be able to identify 235 bird species by sight and 145 species by sound alone.

Pidgeon says students also discover how Wisconsin’s landscape is changing. From the 1850s to the 1950s, logging cleared away a lot of the state’s forests, sending arboreal birds into retreat. But in the last 60 years, the forests have been returning; forest and urban birds have returned, while grassland birds are in decline.

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How High? https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/how-high/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/how-high/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:16 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24299 Graphic of meteorological equipment with text "205 feet"

N. B. Rinehart

The tallest building on the UW–Madison campus isn’t Van Hise Hall, which stands 196 feet from the ground (not sea level). The Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences building holds that title, measuring at 205 feet (not including its satellite dishes), according to the Division of Facilities Planning & Management. The shortest building? The Poultry Research Lab — a paltry 20 feet high.

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Mind Games https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/mind-games/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/mind-games/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:15 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24252 Computer rendering of plant-like character alongside a chart listing different emotions

A video game designed by UW researchers to teach empathy has helped inform other games being submitted to the FDA for clinical applications. Center For Healthy Minds

At the age when kids first encounter anxiety, depression, and bullying, they’re also spending a lot of time with a game controller in their hands.

So a team of UW–Madison researchers at the Center for Healthy Minds and Gear Learning developed an experimental game for middle schoolers to study whether video games can be a force for good during this critical period of brain development.

In the game, players advance by building emotional rapport with aliens on a distant planet who speak a different language but have remarkably humanlike facial expressions. The researchers measured how accurate the youth players in Crystals of Kaydor were in identifying the emotions of the characters in the game, such as anger, fear, happiness, surprise, disgust, and sadness.

Before and after two weeks of gameplay, the team obtained brain scans from kids who played the experimental game as well as kids who played a “control” game. They looked at connections among areas of the brain, including those associated with empathy and emotion regulation, as well as how the kids performed on empathy tests during the scans.

Many kids who played the game showed greater connectivity in brain networks related to empathy and perspective taking. Those who improved at empathy tests also showed altered neural networks commonly linked to emotion regulation, a crucial skill that this age group is beginning to develop.

Tammi Kral ’05, MS’14, PhDx’20, a UW graduate student in psychology who led the research, says these skills are predictors of emotional well-being and can be practiced anytime — with or without video games.


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Rest in Pieces https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/rest-in-pieces/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/rest-in-pieces/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:14 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24302 Large elm tree shown partially cut down in front of the UW–Madison BioChemistry building

Robin Davies

Tragedy struck the west side of campus this summer when Elmer, a century-old elm tree, succumbed to Dutch elm disease and was cut down. Elmer stood outside the Hector F. DeLuca Biochemistry Building. The university had been working for 20 years to prevent Elmer’s demise, but the disease, which is caused by fungus and spread by beetles, finally won out. The elm was thought to be the largest tree on campus by trunk diameter, and biochemistry and horticulture staff hope to use its wood to make furniture.

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Local News https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/local-news/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/local-news/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:14 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24311 Nash Weiss poses with book of old newspapers

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Bill Glauber

For Nash Weiss x’19, the path to a career in journalism returned him to his hometown of Mondovi, Wisconsin. Over the summer, Weiss, a senior in the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication, served as interim editor of the Mondovi Herald-News, which ran his birth announcement years ago. He stepped in at the local weekly during the current editor’s maternity leave. “I grew up here. I care about the community. I always will,” Weiss told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “This is the way I could give back.”

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Bug Bites https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/bug-bites/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/bug-bites/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:14 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24297 Illustration of insect perched on edge of smoothie

Jane Webster/Début Art Ltd

More than two billion people around the world regularly consume insects — a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. UW–Madison researchers have documented, for the first time, the health effects of eating them. Their clinical trial, which had participants eat crickets ground up in breakfast shakes, shows that consuming the insects can help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Researchers also found that eating the insects is not only safe but may also reduce inflammation in the body. “Food is very tied to culture, and 20 or 30 years ago, no one in the U.S. was eating sushi because we thought it was disgusting, but now you can get it at a gas station in Nebraska,” says Valerie Stull PhD’18, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher with the UW’s Global Health Institute.

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Diplomatic Dilemma https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/diplomatic-dilemma/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/diplomatic-dilemma/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:13 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=24295 Russ Feingold

Tom Williams/AP

It’s been 47 years since Russ Feingold ’75 first walked up Bascom Hill as a freshman from Janesville, Wisconsin. He would go on to earn degrees in history and political science, win a Rhodes Scholarship, and eventually serve in the Wisconsin State Legislature and the U.S. Senate.

This fall, he made the same walk — as a visiting lecturer in UW–Madison’s African Studies Program. Feingold is teaching a capstone course for international studies based on his experiences as a special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa, which includes Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and surrounding countries.

Millions have died there since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, as armed groups fight for control of lucrative land and minerals. From 2013 to 2015, Feingold worked with envoys from the African Union, Europe, and the United Nations to successfully get Rwanda to stop supporting the March 23 Movement, a brutal rebel group. But conflict and violence remain in the region, which has a multilayered history.

“By the time we get to the end of this course, you’ll want to pull your hair out. Some things aren’t knowable,” Feingold told his students in September. “Some things are simply that complicated.”

And that’s one reason why Americans don’t know more about what Feingold calls “one of the greatest catastrophes in human history” during a class discussion on Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. (The author, Jason Stearns, worked for the UN in Congo.) The book — from a reading list Feingold received when he was appointed to his diplomatic position — explains how the conflict has involved at least 20 rebel groups and the armies of nine countries.

“There’s no one bad guy” — no single figure like Hitler or Mussolini, Feingold tells the class. That ambiguity has led to less news coverage compared to other parts of Africa, such as Darfur, despite how many have suffered and died in the Congo.

Like Feingold, most of the course’s 17 students are Wisconsin natives. “I really feel at home here,” Feingold says. “There couldn’t be a more special place in my life and the lives of many Wisconsinites.”

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Transforming Research https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/transforming-research/ https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/on_campus/transforming-research/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 17:33:27 +0000 https://onwisconsin.uwalumni.com/?p=23715 Blue, pink, and white painted rainbow


The Trans Research Lab at UW–Madison is noteworthy for its specialized focus on health outcomes for transgender people. But for founder Stephanie Budge PhD’11, the lab is more than that: it’s an old promise made good.

As a PhD student, Budge interviewed a transgender man for her career-counseling course. After discussing his career path with her at a coffee shop, he told her, “I just spent a couple hours with you. Now you can do something for me — you need to make therapists better for trans people.”

“I took that ask very literally,” says Budge, now an associate professor of counseling psychology at the UW.

Budge’s lab, staffed by students and community members who volunteer their time or receive course credit, aims to fill a substantial gap in research on effective therapy for transgender individuals. The center recently completed a pilot study that documented one-on-one psychotherapy sessions for 20 transgender individuals. The preliminary results are promising: all participants said that they experienced positive change after the sessions.

Mental health outcomes for transgender people are staggeringly negative, underscoring the need for the lab’s work. Nearly 40 percent of respondents to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reported that they recently experienced serious psychological distress, often related to mistreatment or harassment. Two out of every five respondents also had attempted suicide in their lifetimes — nine times the rate of the general population.

A primary contributor to these outcomes, Budge says, is stress that is uniquely experienced by marginalized groups. It can come both externally — from discrimination, harassment, or rejection — and internally, with how one processes that mistreatment.

While the lab continues to analyze its results, Budge says the research — providing more than 200 hours of free therapy from culturally competent therapists — is already meaningful. “Maybe in a few years, if this is just the norm, it won’t feel like it’s that big of a deal,” she says. “But in this time and in this moment, it feels really poignant.”

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