Summer 2020

In Vivo

A professional photo portrait of Dean Kate VandenBosch
Dean Kate VandenBosch

I have no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered your lives, just as it has transformed the way CALS operates (at least for the time being). Like you, we’re doing all we can to adapt. And our students, faculty, and staff have responded admirably with a speedy transition to remote instruction, major modifications to research and outreach, and notable efforts to help those in need during this health crisis.

Things have changed for Grow as well. The pandemic posed a variety of challenges that kept us from printing the magazine this summer. But we remain committed to staying connected with you, so we opted to forge ahead with a digital-only edition. We aim to be back in print for the fall 2020 issue, if circumstances allow. For now, to make sure you don’t miss an issue, you can subscribe to the digital version. You’ll still receive the print version when it becomes available again (unless you opt out).

One thing about Grow hasn’t changed: The magazine continues to highlight the high-quality research, instruction, and outreach and extension stemming from CALS. And in this particular issue, you’ll see that so much of what we do at CALS is highly relevant to dealing with a pandemic — and preventing the next one.

In these virtual pages, you’ll find a primer on coronaviruses from one of our biochemists who’s working to understand the protein structures associated with SARS-CoV-2. You’ll learn about a nationwide research group, led by one of our horticulture professors, and its efforts to use data science to inform pandemic management. And you’ll play a video game with one of our epidemiologists to learn about the impact of physical distancing.

The clear, direct application of the college’s work to one of the most pressing issues of our time is probably why students are so motivated to come here. Undergraduates are signing up at an even higher level than previous years. They want to make a better future. And they know an education at CALS can help them do that.

I anticipate a big wave of students interested in the biomedical sciences, a major component of what we do at the college. Undergraduates will come to us looking to study how the novel coronavirus interacts with cells in the human body, research that can further the development of vaccines and therapeutics.

Many of these students will have concerns that extend beyond the inner workings of the virus. Instead, they’ll look to its broader impact on society. They’ve witnessed disruptions in the food system, the empty spaces on grocery store shelves. They are concerned about vulnerable populations, how they’re more susceptible to negative outcomes spurred by the pandemic. They’re concerned about how science is communicated effectively to convince people to adopt best practices for public health. They’re concerned about climate change and human interaction with the environment and how these issues coincide with increased transmission of vector-borne diseases.

Our students want to take on so many monumental problems, and each problem has solutions that can be found in the classrooms, labs, and fields of CALS, in our wide array of academic realms, from microbiology and agroecology to community and environmental sociology, from life sciences communication to global health and beyond.

Fred Rogers, the famous Mister Rogers, once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You’ll always find people who are helping.’” Well, the helpers are coming to CALS. Students are asking us to help them help others. They give me hope.

I’m also hopeful because I see so many examples of innovation at UW. We’re finding better ways to prevent and react to pandemics, to make communities more resilient, and we’re passing this knowledge on to the next generation. To riff on Rogers’s quotation, I like to say, “When challenging things happen, look for the innovators.” You’ll find them here.

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