Grad student develops a family tree for corn varieties in North America

When plant breeders develop a new line of crops, plant variety protections allow that breeder to keep the rights to it. Plant varieties, many of which are created by private seed companies, are protected this way for 20 years before their genetic information becomes publicly available. As of May 2019, the genetic information for 460 varieties of corn alone are available this way. “The material is quite elite still,” said graduate student Mike White. “Even though it’s 20 years old it is a large source of elite germplasm for companies to use and improve on.”

PhD student promotes peacebuilding through theater and drama

When PhD student Vincent Ogoti finished writing his play, A Shadow in the Sun, he approached his former professors at the University of Nairobi in Kenya hoping to publish his work. Through this, the university’s theatre group found out about Ogoti’s play and decided to bring it to the stage. The University of Nairobi Traveling Theatre performed A Shadow in the Sun in August.

Medical Physics graduate students ride for cancer research

Through their research, graduate students in the Department of Medical Physics work toward improving cancer treatments, fine-tuning the amount of radiation therapy delivered to patients, designing ways to make treatment even more precise, and collaborating with other researchers across campus. In September, the students will tackle the problem of cancer from another angle: helping fund cancer research by participating in The Ride. “We do these rides and then the money comes straight back to some [of our] close colleagues. It’s really impactful,” said graduate student Reed Kolany.

Fake news, real coverage: How conspiracy theories spread through media and politics

Half of the American public believes in a popular conspiracy theory. Take the idea that the compact fluorescent light bulbs are a form of mind control, the U.S. government was behind the terrorist attack on 9/11, or any number of theories connected to big political names, and someone believes it. Graduate student Jordan Foley studies how today’s media ecology contributes to spreading conspiracy narratives.

When rivers move borders: PhD student writes on boundaries and belonging in the Colorado River borderlands

In 1907, Cocopah Indians who had been living in Mexico suddenly found themselves farming land in the United States. The Colorado River that marked the border between the U.S. and Mexico had moved around them. That stretch of the Colorado River shifted unpredictably across its floodplain before the Hoover Dam was completed in 1936. The conflicts and alliances that arose from this ever-changing landscape are the focus of Daniel Grant’s dissertation on belonging and exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands from the late-19th through mid-20th centuries.

Beyond translation: PhD student headed to Smithsonian to study art, technology, and global belonging

There are two major collections of Korean American artist Nam June Paik’s work. Kyungso Min has already studied the collection at South Korea’s Nam June Paik Art Center. So, the natural next step for Min, a doctoral student in art history at UW–Madison, was to study the Nam June Paik Archive housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.This summer, Min will have the chance to do just that as a Smithsonian Institution Fellow.

Project creates a digital space for visually-focused humanities scholarship

A digital humanities platform at UW–Madison is developing a tool that makes visually focused objects such as medieval manuscripts available online. Digital Mappa is headed by Martin Foys in the English department along with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, and is funded in part by a UW2020 grant from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). The platform allows users to build projects in a digital space, with the ability to link documents to one another, make comments, highlight interesting points, and collaborate with others.

Graduate student research connects Wisconsin farmers to new ideas for land management

On Honey Creek Farm in Green Lake County, there is a roughly eight-acre patch of wooded land in addition to the open pasture. Farmer Jim Quick raises grass-fed beef and is looking into a way to let his livestock graze the wooded part of his land while also revitalizing the woods. Quick has become interested in the managed integration of his livestock with trees and forage, known as silvopasture. Diane Mayerfeld and Keefe Keeley, both graduate students at UW–Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, study silvopasture and, in the course of their studies, share that knowledge with farmers across Wisconsin.

Good chemistry: Protecting lakes and streams with natural chemical compounds

As a graduate student, Sarah Balgooyen has researched phenolic contaminants and their presence in water systems. Phenolic contaminants such as BPA – the chemical commonly known from plastic water bottles – enter lakes and streams where they harm the ecosystem. Other phenolic compounds often come from pharmaceuticals or personal care products.

Balgooyen focuses on a mechanism that could help break down these chemicals before they reach the ecosystems at all: oxidation by manganese oxide.

Collecting data on kids’ environments and health

Researchers use all sorts of methods to collect their data. For one project on campus, that method takes the form of a cute, animal-shaped backpack.

Graduate student Amy Schultz specializes in environmental epidemiology, which studies how environmental factors affect human health at the population level. She is a leading research assistant on a project called CREATE: Cumulative Risks, Early Development, and Emerging Academic Trajectories.