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.
Experts on today’s news…
James Conway on: Importance of flu shots
Get your flu shot, especially this year. That's the message health care professionals are helping spread. Dr. James Conway, an expert on infectious diseases, and Dr. Jonathan Temte, an expert on influenza prevention and control, can comment on the importance and the role it plays in fighting COVID-19.
Sanjay Limaye on: Scientists find hints of life in the atmosphere of Venus
Sanjay Limaye, a senior scientist at UW-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center and an expert in the atmospheres of planets, is available for interviews about new research findings that describe the discovery of a chemical in the atmosphere of Venus that suggests the presence of life.
Limaye says, "If confirmed, the reported discovery of phosphine suggetss that there is phosphorous, an essential ingredient for life, is present in the Venus clouds. Whether or not the reported phosphine is created naturally or through biology can be confirmed by direct measurements in the clouds. We proposed in a paper published in Astrobiolgy (2018) that microorganisms may contribute to absorption of sunlight on Venus, a century old mystery, so the report is exciting."
Richard Keller on: Western wildfires
Huge swaths of the American West are burning, with smokes and fires stretching from Californai to Washington. Richard Keller, a professor of medical history and bioethics, is an expert on climate change and its health consequences. He's available for interviews on the Western wildfires.
Keller says, “The staggering wildfires that have engulfed California, Oregon, and Washington reveal the dangerous synergies of a changing climate, as unprecedented heat waves drive the destructive force of these fires to new levels.”
Alvin Thomas on: The mental health toll of the Jacob Blake shooting
Alvin Thomas is an assistant professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department in the School of Human Ecology, and director of the Ethnic Youth Risk and Resilience Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Thomas says, "From Emmet Till to now, by rope, gun, or indifference the generational trauma slogs on. Jacob Blake will live with the visible and invisible scars of his interaction with America's police, and in tow will be his family, and his innocent young boys and their nightmares, broken innocence, shattered view of the world, traumatized brains. Our systems policies and actions must be balanced by an unassailable level of accountability that sees Black men and boys as human first, and prioritizes the common humanity that links us all."
Christy Clark-Pujara on: The shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha and the history of racism in the North
Christy Clark-Pujara, an expert on early African-American history, can discuss the Kenosha shooting of Jacob Blake and the history of racism in the North. In the essay "Many Tulsa Massacres: How the Myth of a Liberal North Erases a Long History of White Violence," Clark-Pujara and her co-author Anna-Lisa Cox, write:
"There is a toxic myth that encourages white people in the North to see themselves as free from racism and erases African Americans from the pre-Civil War North, where they are still being told that they don’t belong." Read the full essay here.
William Hartman on: UW Health and University of Wisconsin selected as one of first clinical sites in the country to test new COVID-19 vaccine
William Hartman, principal investigator for the UW-Madison COVID-19 convalescent plasma program, is available to discuss news that UW Health and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) are among the first sites in the country to study whether an investigational vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca can prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Read the full article here.
Keith Findley on: The role of video and deadly force in the Jacob Blake shooting
Keith Findley is an assistant professor of Law. Findley is an expert on criminal appeals, post-conviction review and wrongful convictions. Findley is available to discuss the shooing of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha. Findley's areas of expertise include:
- The role of video in criminal cases
- Police use of deadly force or violence
- Investigation into police officer's actions on the job
- The rights of victims and their families in actions involving police force
Ralph Grunewald on: Police violence and the Jacob Blake shooting
The shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha has sparked protests and further debate about race, police violence, and the criminal justice system. Ralph Grunewald, an assistant professor at the Center for Law, Society, and Justice, can discuss.
Grunewald teaches classes on American criminal justice, juvenile justice, comparative criminal justice, and law and literature. Grunewald says, "The shooting of Jacob Blake comes almost exactly three months after the killing of George Floyd. In these three months, public protests and many legislative and social initiatives addressed issues of systemic and individual racism and police accountability. But as much as holding officers accountable helps to provide a sense of justice, it does not save lives because it does not affect how officers go into unclear situations and deal with conflict. What affects police behavior is training based on principles of de-escalation and proportionality. A unique feature of the criminal justice system in the United States is the almost completely unreviewable and unregulated amount of discretion officers have. Other criminal justice systems require officers to apply standards of proportionality in their every-day interactions with people (use of force continuum). Deadly force must always be the last resort and reserved for situations in which another life is at risk. Racism and abuse of force are complex issues that require thought-through responses that address the roots of that behavior."
Travis Wright on: Back to school when everything's different
It’s that time again but nothing about this new school year is ordinary. Travis Wright, an expert on resilience and emotionally responsive teaching, can discuss ways to help.
"Even though back-to-school may look a bit different this year, it is still an important time for your child," Wright says. "We want children to be excited about learning and feel like their work is important. Be careful not to undermine or talk negatively about back-to-school as this will influence your child's attitude."
Since things can't be the same, Wright suggests creating something new.
"With many of the regular back-to-school rituals disrupted this year, children may find the transition especially challenging," Wright says. "I encourage families to develop a few rituals of their own to help mark the new beginning. For example, take 'back to school photos,' plan a special family time to celebrate back-to-school, or schedule a 'zoom' playdate with some of your child's favorite classmates."
Cindy Kuhrasch on: Inspiring learning through movement
Cindy Kuhrasch believes that movement is simply a means of learning. And with the pandemic putting a pause on organized activity, the head of UW–Madison’s Physical Education Teacher Education program is proving that movement can take just about any form – if you use your imagination.
Kuhrasch is posting videos on Facebook to demonstrate safe, equipment-free physical activities for children during an isolating time: simulating golf with sticks and dandelions, playing catch with a plastic bag in windy conditions, punting a crumpled newspaper, attempting solo volleyball with an erratic marble-filled balloon.
“The response has been amazing,” Kuhrasch says. “I’ve heard from parents who are grateful for movement ideas that they could use with their children, and I’ve heard from kids who look forward to the activities each week.”
Richard Keller on: Death Valley hits 130 degrees; heat wave hits west
There's hot and then there's 130 degrees. Death Valley hit the temperature Sunday, the highest recorded on earth since 1913. The heat will continue into the week as dozens of heat records are set to be broken as the Western heat wave continues.
Richard Keller can discuss historic heat events and the impact of climate change
"Record temperatures like we’re seeing in Death Valley are important in their own right, but even more important as indicators of rising mean temperatures linked to a changing climate,” Keller says. "These rising means—as witnessed in Europe last summer, Australia a few months ago, and now in California, are frightening trends that signal rising risks of extreme heat.”
Anuj Desai on: History of the United States Postal Service
Anuj Desai, an expert on free speech/freedom of speech and communications/information technology, can speak about the history of the United States Postal Service, including how it's been subsidized by the government. His article "The Transformation of Statutes into Constitutional Law: How Early Post Office Policy Shaped Modern First Amendment Doctrine," takes a look at the early Post Office and how statutory protection of letters influenced constitutional law.
"The Founders of the country knew how vital it was for a republic to have a government agency promoting long-distance communications to every corner of what even then was a geographically spread out country," Desai says.
David Gustafson on: Mental health and substance abuse issues amplified by pandemic
It is increasingly evident that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the burdens of substance abuse and mental health strain across the population as a whole. A recently published U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that 40 percent of U.S. adults struggled with mental health and substance use in late June, including a quarter of 18-24 year-olds reporting suicidal thoughts in the month prior to the survey.
David Gustafson can speak to these issues and how the pandemic has forced changes across the mental health and addiction treatment landscape. He has decades of experience working with organizations that offer aid to patients who struggle with addiction to improve care quality and efficiency. Gustafson has also long studied ways to predict and address mental health issues, such as suicide.
William Hartman on: FDA authorization of convalescent plasma treatment
William Hartman, principal investigator for the UW COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Program, is available to analyze news that the FDA has granted emergency authorization of convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19.
“We started the plasma program as a way to save lives. We believe that it is very effective when used early and with high Ab titers. Our purpose in using it is to lessen severity of disease and to save lives,” said Dr Hartman. “While we appreciate the support and the endorsement of convalescent plasma, we have a long way to go to get COVID-19 under control. We at UW will continue our mission to provide every patient the highest quality, individualized care that they expect and deserve."
Beth Olson on: Back to school: healthy eating
Many students won’t be going physically back to school. That means more meals for parents to plan.
Beth Olson, associate professor and extension specialist in the UW–Madison Department of Nutritional Sciences, can offer tips on how to eat healthy even when grocery store trips may be less frequent and ways to involve children in the planning and cooking process.
“Spending more time at home, and lacking the ability to go out to eat, may provide us with an opportunity to spend a little more time being creative in the kitchen. It’s possible to eat healthy, even if you are using more shelf-stable and frozen foods than you normally would,” says Olson. “This may also be a good time to involve family members in preparing meals and snacks—perhaps involving kids in some learning activities—and to try a new recipe or two.”