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Research, rankings and recognition highlight UW–Madison’s summer break

September 6, 2016 By Bill Graf

No question, the pace of life on campus is different over the summer. But that doesn’t mean business grinds to a halt. UW–Madison has been a busy place over the past three months. If you were paying more attention to backyard grilling than to university news, here are a few highlights to get you caught up.


We established ourselves as world leaders in Zika research. One study showed that being infected with the Zika virus protects against future infection, but pregnancy may drastically prolong the time Zika stays in the body. Our researchers also confirmed that a certain bacterium can completely block transmission of the virus in the mosquito species responsible for passing it to humans.

Lifestyle factors like stress, insulin resistance, and poor sleep may be precursors to Alzheimer’s disease, according to findings in a School of Medicine and Public Health lab. Other medical school research showed all women don’t need mammograms with the same frequency, and a nursing postdoc launched a study of the little-understood effect of concussions on high school athletes.

A team of UW engineers has created the world’s fastest stretchable, wearable integrated circuits. Johnson Controls partnered with the university to enhance vehicle fuel efficiency. And a UW–Madison spinoff got FDA approval for bacteria-killing wound dressing.

Fourteen research and infrastructure projects with the potential to transform robotics, cancer treatment, data science and more were selected for support from the UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative. And a second group of companies formed with assistance from the Discovery to Product (D2P) “graduated” from the program, working in such areas as growing brain cells, virtual reality and stroke rehabilitation.


Our research was a major reason why UW–Madison placed high in several influential university rankings: 10th among public colleges by Forbes magazine; 28th among all U.S. colleges by Washington Monthly; 25th in the world by the Center for World University Rankings. We were one of only three public universities that made the top 10 list of colleges that produce the most Fortune 500 CEOs, and again ranked in the top 10 universities for U.S. patents.

A stronger community

More than 300 people attend the third annual South Madison International Community Night, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s South Madison Partnership office, Urban League of Greater Madison and Wisconsin International Outreach Consortium.

Students, staff and faculty worked to develop a program called “Our Wisconsin” aimed at increasing knowledge about cultural differences and promoting community among incoming students. SOAR featured efforts to promote inclusivity, critical thinking and social justice as fundamental values of the campus community.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank asked deans, department chairs, research center directors, and other unit leaders to engage their faculty and staff in some form of inclusion and diversity dialogue and training during this academic year. She also convened an advisory group of community leaders from across Madison to create better linkages to the community around us.

A committee of faculty, staff and students went through the more than 100 ideas for improving campus climate that were submitted in response to a call for proposals in the spring. The university is moving forward on a number of them for immediate action.


It’s nice to be recognized, and many members of the UW–Madison family received awards or appointments for their academic and professional stature. We won’t try to list them all, but here are a few notable ones:

Lynx Biosciences, a UW spinoff aiming to refine cancer treatment decisions, took the life science prize at the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, in which five UW-spawned companies were finalists. Business Professor R.D. Nair was appointed to the board of directors of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The Nelson Institute’s Tracey Holloway was tabbed to lead the NASA Health and Air Quality Initiative.

For their distinct and innovative molecular research, Feyza Engin and Srivatsan Raman earned Shaw Scientist awards. Epigenetics researcher Peter Lewis was named a Pew scholar in the biomedical sciences. Astrophysicist Ellen Gould Zweibel won the James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics.

Influenza researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka received the Japan Academy award presented by the Emperor and Empress. Sociology Professor Douglas Maynard received an honorary doctorate with much pomp and pageantry from the University of Helsinki in Finland. Twenty-five young African leaders came to campus as Mandela Fellows.

Biophysicist Paul Ahlquist and chemical engineer James Rawlings were awarded Steenbock Professorships. Twenty professors were named to Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorships.

Law Professor Tonya Brito won the Women in the Law award while Kristine Kwekkeboom and Karen Solheim were among 164 nurse leaders named to the 2016 American Academy of Nursing fellows class.

Engineering student Chris Nguyen won the international “Unimpossible Missions” competition sponsored by GE with his idea for proving that you can, in fact, unring a bell. Graham Pearce won a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship to transfer from UW-Marshfield/Wood County to UW–Madison. On the lighter side, TV’s “American Ninja Warrior” featured biochemistry Ph.D. student Zack Kemmerer on June 13.

The university was recognized as a national leader in performance-based student assessment. A national human resources association that rewards equitable and inclusive workplace practices honored UW–Madison’s Cultural Linguistic Services (CLS) program. And it was the 50th anniversary of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and its mission to enhance diversity in business education and management careers.

Hello and goodbye

New faces in campus leadership include:

Administrators departing UW include:

Badger pride

We couldn’t be prouder of alumna Gwen Jorgenson for winning the gold medal in the triathlon at the Summer Olympics in Rio. Kelsey Card capped her historic senior season with a 25th-place finish in the women’s discus. A large group of Badger student athletes, coaches and staff representing the USA, Canada and New Zealand, were at the games.