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.
Russia attacks Ukraine
Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared a state of emergency after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered military operations, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes and shelling. Experts from UW–Madison can discuss the latest situation in the Ukraine.
Kathryn Ciancia on: The Polish borderlands of Ukraine
Kathryn Ciancia is an associate professor of History. She is an expert on Poland and eastern Europe, with a focus on nationalism, borderlands, war, citizenship, and migration. She is the author of On Civilization's Edge: A Polish Borderland in the Interwar World (2020), about the multiethnic region that was part of interwar Poland and is now located in western Ukraine.
Francine Hirsch on: Russia and genocide
Francine Hirsch is a historian of Russia and the Soviet Union with an expertise in Soviet nationality policy, the Nuremberg Trials, and the history of Russian-American engagement. Hirsch makes the case that Russian leaders and state-held media have shifted rhetoric from the disinformation campaign aligning Ukraine with Naziism and a call for de-Nazification to “de-Ukranization.” Hirsch says: “These calls for “de-Ukrainization” must be read as incitement to commit genocide: as incitement to “destroy, in whole or in part,” the Ukrainian nation.”
She can also discuss the Soviet Union and its history establishing an international tribunal to try criminality in war during World War II and Vladimir Putin's efforts to frame the invasion of Ukraine as humanitarian intervention.
Paul Wilson on: Nuclear plant risks in Ukraine
Paul Wilson is a nuclear engineer and chair of the Engineering Physics department. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Wilson is available for interviews to assess the dangers of radiation leaks, should a nuclear facility take damage in the fighting.
“While Russia has committed to IAEA principles that should ensure the safe condition of Ukrainian nuclear facilities, recent actions have caused increased concern. At this time, Russian aggression has not resulted in radioactive release from any of these sites."
Yoshiko Herrera is a professor of political science. She is an expert on politics in Russia and other post-Soviet states, nationalism, identity and ethnic politics.
"The war in Ukraine was Vladimir Putin’s decision, and it was a massive miscalculation. He was wrong about Ukrainian resolve, wrong on military strategy, wrong about the economic effects on Russia, and wrong about the unity across the globe in opposing his actions," Herrera says. "While Putin is to blame for the war, there are three background factors that led to tensions between Russia and Ukraine, namely Putin’s sense of humiliation and need to avenge the 1990s; his imperial ambitions and lack of recognition of Ukrainian national identity and sovereignty; and his paranoia about Ukraine being an example to Russians of a successful social revolution and a pro-Western democracy, which could threaten his hold on dictatorial power in Russia."
Jon Pevehouse, chair of the department of political science and a professor of political science and public affairs, is an expert on American foreign policy and international relations.
"The situation in Ukraine is the most significant challenge to the post-Cold War world to date. Putin has gambled that the political cracks in NATO, a divided American public, and economic troubles in key Western states will limit strong responses from Ukraine’s political allies," Pevehouse says. "The coming weeks will tell us both the strength of the international political resistance to the invasion as well as the strength of the military resistance within Ukraine itself."
Andrew Kydd is a professor of political science and an expert on international relations, especially international security topics such as war and peace, nuclear weapons, terrorism and conflict resolution. He recently wrote a piece, "The U.S. and Europe didn’t get what they wanted from Putin. But Putin didn’t get what he wanted from them," for The Washington Post.
Experts on today’s news
Brigitte Fielder on: History of slavery and forced breastfeeding labor
Associate professor Brigitte Fielder is an expert in race, gender, and sexuality studies. Fielder is available for interviews about how enslaved people were forced to provide breastfeeding labor to white children and how that aspect of history should be understood during the current formula shortage.
"When people ask what parents did before formula was available," says Fielder, "please know that one historical answer to that question was (literally): slavery, rape, forced reproduction, forced breastfeeding labor, and denying early nutrition and care to Black infants." Fielder's tweets were referenced in this article from Forbes.
Richard Keller on: U.S. surpasses one million COVID deaths.
Richard Keller is a professor of medical history and bioethics. He is available for interviews about the U.S. surpassing one million deaths attributable to COVID-19 and what it says about U.S. public health strategy.
Tiffany Green on: Who will be most impacted if Roe v. Wade is overturned?
Tiffany Green is an assistant professor in the departments of population health sciences and obstetrics and gynecology. She is an expert on the causes and consequences of racial and ethnic disparities in reproductive health. Green can discuss the evidence for who is most likely to be affected if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Green says, "The overwhelming thrust of the evidence is that this is going to negatively impact women and other pregnant people’s economic prospects, their mental health, their physical health, and ultimately their lives. The end of Roe v. Wade is likely going to have devastating fallout.”
Beth Olson on: Baby formula shortage
Beth Olson, associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences is available for interviews about how families an cope with the baby formula shortage.
Olson says, "Any families unable to find formula for their baby should call their baby’s health care provider to help them make the best decisions they can for feeding their baby. If families participate in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Program, they can contact them for help, as well. There may be alternate places to obtain formula or different formulas which may be okay for their baby. Never water down formula, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says don’t make homemade formula. Both of these things may be dangerous for babies’ health."
Jeff Sindelar on: Meat safety tips for grilling season
Jeff Sindelar is an expert in meat science and food safety in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. As grilling season swings into high gear, Sindelar can share advice for how to cook meats safely on the grill.
Susan Carpenter on: How to support pollinators
Susan Carpenter. an expert on bumblebee conservation, is available for interviews about how to support habitat for pollinators like bees this spring. She can also discuss the No Mow May movement, which urges people to leave their lawns unmowed in May to help pollinators.
Jenny Higgins on: Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, according to a draft opinion obtained by Politico. The final opinion has not been released and votes and language can change before opinions are formally released. The opinion in this case is not expected to be published until late June.
Jenny Higgins, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Collaborative for Reproductive Equity at the School of Medicine and Public Health, can discuss.
"The overturning of Roe v. Wade, as this draft suggests will almost certainly occur, will severely if not entirely restrict abortion services in Wisconsin," Higgins says. "Research suggests that the denial of desired abortion services will have serious repercussions for Wisconsinites forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. Potential impacts include greater likelihood of staying in abusive relationships, lower likelihood of completing postsecondary education or achieving aspirational life goals, and greater likelihood of experience persistent adverse economic consequences."
Other experts available:
R. Alta Charo, emerita professor of law and bioethics.
Miriam Seifter is an associate professor law. Seifter is available for interviews to discuss Wisconsin state law regarding abortions.