Spring 2021

In Vivo

A professional photo portrait of Dean Kate VandenBosch
Dean Kate VandenBosch

Last spring, I happily announced that our faculty ranks welcomed a tremendous influx of new talent, with 19 new hires in 2019. Now I’m pleased to report that the trend continued in 2020.

During the last calendar year, we had another 19 new faculty begin their appointments in eight different academic departments. These talented folks bring expertise in areas ranging from animal welfare and fruit pathology to quantitative genomics and science communication. Collectively, they will increase our research capacity, foster new collaborations on and off campus, and position CALS to serve more students while offering a wider variety of course subject matter.

There’s always variation in hiring from year to year, but the last two years were especially good. And the timing was fortunate. It was vital that we fill these positions, especially as we anticipate leaner years to come while budgets recover from the effects of the pandemic. But whether times are lean or prosperous, it’s also critical that we align our investments — in people, in equipment, and in facilities — as best we can. That’s precisely what we did with many of our recent hires, who have come to CALS to run some of our new, cutting-edge facilities.

In fall 2020, the new Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery (MASBD) building opened with a virtual celebration. And the new UW–Madison Cryo-EM Research Center will be up and running in spring 2021, followed by the Midwest Center for Cryo Electron Tomography in early 2022. These highly advanced facilities represent significant investments in time and capital. The MSABD building stands on the foundation of more than 90 years of meat-related research at UW, and it was made possible through a commitment of $57.1 million from the State of Wisconsin, the UW campus, and scores of individual and corporate donors. Likewise, our cryo-EM hub owes its existence to decades of prior campus work in structural biology; the accumulation of significant extramural funding, including a $22.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health; and $15 million in contributions from campus partners.

These facilities began with grand visions, and they moved forward through substantial commitments of time and planning from on-campus experts and off-campus stakeholders. Finally, through major investments of funds, they became real. Now, it’s an absolute pleasure to see our newest faculty and staff arriving on campus and working their magic. It’s the perfect combination of assets: highly trained experts — among the best in their respective fields — leading and utilizing our state-of-the-art buildings and hardware, on their way to accomplishing incredible things.

And it doesn’t stop there — one investment begets another. Our cryo-EM centers will draw researchers from other institutions, scientists who want to learn and apply cryo-EM technologies, use our unique facilities, and collaborate with our experts. And the advanced BSL2 (biosecurity level 2) lab in the MSABD building will offer a place for food industry researchers to investigate and address some of the biggest challenges they face.

I hope you’re as excited about these new facilities and faculty as I am. You can learn more about our cryo-EM centers, and the amazing people involved, in our cover story, A Cold, Hard Look at Macromolecules, on p. 18. For more about the MSABD building and its experts, see ‘Meat’ Our New Building on p. 11, and look for a Grow feature in summer 2021.

This article was posted in Basic Science, Food Systems, In Vivo, Spring 2021 and tagged , .