These experts from the UW-Madison faculty and staff have agreed to comment on breaking news, ongoing developments and trends in their areas of expertise. If you need help arranging interviews, email University Communications.
COVID-19 Crisis: Looking Forward
Numerous experts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison are available to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and provide tips and information to help people navigate related changes to their daily lives.
Ajay Sethi on: Booster shots and Pfizer vaccine data for 5-11 years old
Ajay Sethi, an expert in epidemiology and population health, is available for interviews about the debate over booster shots in the U.S., including the latest on F.D.A. recommendations, as well as Pfizer's recently announced data on the safety and efficacy of its vaccine for 5-11 year-olds.
Jeffrey Pothof on: FDA grants full licensing to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration has granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavaccine, making it the first FDA-approved vaccine. Jeffrey Pothof, assistant professor of emergency medicine and Public Health in the School of Medicine and a practicing emergency room doctor, and Nasia Safdar, an infectious disease expert and professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health, are available for interviews about the move and how it could affect vaccination efforts and public perception of vaccines.
David Weimer on: The true value of the the pandemic dog
Many people adopted dogs during the pandemic. Now that the pandemic is waning, will they keep them? Dave Weimer, a professor of public affairs and political science, is available for interviews about his research on the cost-benefit relationship of dogs and why it matters.
Jeffrey Pothof on: Novavax trial shows promising results for fourth COVID-19 vaccine
A new type of COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective against the original coronavirus strain, and 93% effective against variants, manufacturer Novavax reports. The company will apply for authorization in the United States after it finishes developing a quality control test, according to its chief executive.
Jeff Pothof, an expert in quality improvement and patient safety, can discuss.
Jirs Meuris on: Reimagining the post-pandemic workplace
Working from home was a huge adjustment for many. But now, employees and employers are rethinking the workplace. Jirs Meuris, an expert on human resource practices, can discuss.
“Preferences have changed for remote work,” Meuris says. “To understand the consequences of that, we have to look at both sides — the employees and the employers.”
Nancy Wong on: Retail therapy
While people stocked up on toilet paper and cleaning essentials during the height of the pandemic, now shoppers are pivoting to items such as cosmetics and colorful clothing. Nancy Wong, an expert on consumer decisions and luxury marketing, can discuss this shift to spending money on products that speak to optimism and being together.
Sarah Halpern-Meekin on: Learning in a pandemic
Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, and of Public Affairs, uses qualitative and quantitative methods to study romantic relationships and low-income families’ finances, as well as government policies directed at these areas. Her research includes examining how social poverty shapes people’s well-being and decisions.
"During the pandemic, children's learning and connections to supportive adults and institutions outside their homes were disrupted, though not equally across all children," Halpern-Meekin says. "Unless we take steps to address the consequences of these disruptions, they may exacerbate preexisting disparities among children along socioeconomic, English-language-learner, and racial/ethnic lines."
Denia Garcia on: Racial inequalities of pandemic impact and recovery
Denia Garcia, an expert on the ways in which inequalities are experienced and reproduced, can discuss how the pandemic has impacted certain communities harder than others.
"COVID-19 has exacerbated racial inequalities across health, social, and economic outcomes," Garcia says. "After the pandemic, Black and Latino communities will experience a slow recovery that will have long-lasting consequences."
James Conway on: Kids and vaccines
As Pfizer applies for emergency approval for use in younger children, the question of when children will receive vaccines is still being answered. Dr. Jim Conway, professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and an infectious diseases and vaccine expert at UW Health, is available for interviews on the subject.
“When the time is right, it will be vital to vaccinate children if we hope to provide broad immunity for Americans against this dangerous virus,” Conway said. “However, children are not small adults and we must make sure these vaccines are safe for them.”
Haley Vlach on: Will your memory bounce back after the pandemic?
Haley Vlach is an associate professor of educational psychology and an expert in memory development. Vlach says the pandemic was a challenge for short-term and long term memory retrival, but says, given the opportunity, our brains and memory development capacity should bounce back as we resume our lives after the pandemic.
Catalina Toma on: Online dating profiles adding vaccination status
Are you vaccinated? It could be an awkward dating question during COVID-19 times. But the Biden administration announced Friday that it's teaming up with dating apps to add vaccination badges and “super swipes” for people who've gotten their coronavirus shots.
Catalina Toma, an expert on the social and psychological effects of communication technologies (online dating, social networking sites, email, instant messaging, etc.), can discuss.
Experts on today’s news
Robert Yablon on: Redistricting in Wisconsin
There's movement on the subject of redistricting in the state of Wisconsin. Recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear a redistricting case and in addition, the legislature issued a redistricting-related resolution. Redistricting expert and associate professor of law, Robert Yablon, is available for interviews on the subject.
Yablon says, "A decade ago, Wisconsin lawmakers overhauled the state's legislative districts in one of the country's most blatant--and successful--pro-Republican gerrymanders. This month, those same lawmakers signaled that their aim during the current redistricting cycle is to lock-in the skewed maps they created last time around. In my academic work, I have coined the term "gerrylaundering" to describe such efforts to perpetuate an existing advantage. I have explained that gerrylaundering is legally problematic and can subvert core democratic values."
Menzie Chinn on: Debt ceiling discussions
Menzie Chinn, an expert on macroeconomics and fiscal policy, is available to discuss the debate over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling.
Chinn says, "The debt ceiling is an anachronistic measure which serves no real economic purpose, as it is invariably raised. The only consequence of these events, surrounded by political posturing, is to heighten uncertainty regarding America’s servicing its debt on time, thereby potentially raising borrowing costs.“
Erin Barbato on: Legal aid for Afghan refugees
Erin Barbato, director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School, can discuss the legal aid needs of Afghan refugees. She and her students have been working with refugees at Fort McCoy.
"What we're hoping to do is ensure that people are welcomed with dignity, ensuring people know their legal rights when they are in the United States," Barbato told PBS Wisconsin.
"All of them had an evacuate in an emergent situation. Some were in the middle of their legal process. For example, many of them I met with had pending special immigrant visas, people who worked for the embassy or for the U.S. Army as interpreters. But they had to flee before their paperwork was complete. So we're hoping to learn what the next steps will be for them and to support them through that process."
Christine Whelan on: "LuLaRich" documentary explores and exposes appeal of multi-level marketing
"LuLaRich," a four-part documentary on Amazon Prime, follows the rise and fall of multi-leveling marketing clothing company LuLaRoe. It turns out that the promises of income that was too good to be true was exactly that.
"Multi-level marketing promises the American Dream -- financial success, empowerment and freedom," says Christine Whelan, a clinical professor of consumer science. "Instead MLM leaders prey on the vulnerable, manipulate emotions and create a cult-like religion of faux capitalism. It’s financial self-help gone terribly wrong.
"Many people will watch the 'LuLaRich' series with a sort of dark glee — how could these women be so stupid? — but one of the most important takeaways should be that it could happen to all of us. The one-two punch of psychological manipulation and financial language laced with religious undertones means that you could easily have been sucked in, too."
James Lattis on: Harvest Moon
James Lattis, an expert on observational astronomy and astronomy education, can discuss the Harvest Moon which will bring plenty of moonlight Sept. 20.
"The Harvest Moon means a succession of evenings with bright, full or nearly full moonlight near sunset for several evenings before and after full moon, in contrast to the full moons during most of the rest of the year when that moonlit evening is often at its best only on the evening of the full moon," Lattis says. "So what we see is the nearly full Harvest Moon rising in the early evening several nights in succession. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which creates the necessary celestial geometry. So it can generally fall a couple of weeks before and after the equinox. This year the two are pretty close: Full moon on Sept. 20, equinox on Sept. 22."
Timothy Smeeding on: 2020 data on the Supplemental Poverty Measure released
Timothy Smeeding, an expert on poverty and a professor of public affairs and economics, is available to discuss data recently released by the Census Bureau on the the Supplemental Poverty Measure which showed that poverty rates in the U.S. fell to a record low thanks to government relief efforts during the pandemic.
Smeeding says, "The new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) rates for 2020 were actually below the official poverty measure (OPM) rates for the first time, despite the fact that the OPM has a much lower poverty line, because the CARES act stimulus and its Emergency Income Payments (EIPs), plus generous help with expanded unemployment insurance, prevented tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs in March and April 2020 from falling into abject poverty."
Amber Epp on: New iPhones revealed
Apple unveiled four new iPhones, a new Apple Watch and new iPads Tuesday. The new smartphones don't include any groundbreaking design changes or features, at least compared to last year's 5G announcement. No matter. Every time a new iPhone is revealed, people clamor.
Amber Epp, an expert on family consumption behavior, decision-making, and material culture, can discuss why consumers feel the need to purchase new technology when what they already own still works.
"Logically, it's not rational to buy something new when you have something that works perfectly fine," Epp says. "The research shows that just a hint of something better out there makes us devalue what we already have."
Jenny Higgins on: Texas abortion law implications
Jenny Higgins, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, is available for interviews about Texas abortion law S.B.8. Higgins can discuss:
- When and how most people determine they are pregnant
- Whom the law most affects (people of color, people with certain health conditions, people living on low incomes)
- Implications of SB8 for Wisconsin
- Impact of state-level restrictions vs. federal policy
- The consequences of being denied abortion services
- The current state of Wisconsin