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.
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.
Heather Kirkorian on: Time to wean kids from excessive screen time?
Heather Kirkorian, an expert on the impact of screen media on young children and an associate professor of human development and family studies, is available for interviews about how parents and caregivers can re-think how much screen time is appropriate for children with the approach of summer and the ebbing of the pandemic in the United States.
“To manage screen time, families should establish clear and consistent expectations about when, where, how, and with whom screens can be used. A good family media plan will focus on educational content, healthy social connections, and lots of conversation about what kids are doing on screens.”
Tony Goldberg on: Epidemiology after COVID-19
Epidemiologist Tony Goldberg is availble to discuss how the study of emerging pathogens has changed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"COVID taught me that pandemics are like stock market crashes," says Goldberg. "You know they're going to happen, but you can't predict when or how bad they'll be. Coming up with better ways to forecast these seemingly random events is the next frontier in biology and computer science, in my opinion."
Evan Polman on: The pandemic made us more authentic on social media
Evan Polman, an associate professor of business at the Wisconsin School of Business and an expert on behavioral science, is available for analysis of how we've changed our behavior on social media.
Polman says, "The pandemic has normalized more authenticity on social media. Instead of browsing through over-idealized posts by influencers, people are more interested in honest posts -- sloppier posts! -- and I think this trend is here to stay. There will be more attention to posts showing a less polished, more realistic slice of life."
Thomas Friedrich on: Burnout among scientists, viral sequencing framework, improving the regulatory environment
Thomas Friedrich is a professor of pathobiological sciences and an expert on pandemic viruses. He is available to provide analysis on:
- Viral sequencing and its application for other emerging pathogens. How to build a sustainable framework, now and for the next pandemic.
- Moving toward a simpler, more nimble regulatory environment to support research and diagnostics while still promoting safety and privacy
- High burnout rate among scientists, physicians and public officials whose pace of work accelerated. How to help them recover?
- Career development of junior scientists, many had to put their work on hold during the pandemic.How will this impact the scientific enterprise?
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.”
Ajay Sethi on: Herd immunity
With more people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 by the day in the U.S., but vaccine rates beginning to slow, experts say it may be difficult for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity. However, Sethi, an expert in epidemiology and population health, says we may want to think about herd immunity at a smaller scale. "Certainly a household, a dormitory, or group living facility in which everyone is over 16 years of age can have herd immunity, if nearly everyone is vaccinated," Sethi says. "At a movie theater or concert, a workplace, or sporting event – herd immunity can be attained if most everyone in those environments is vaccinated."
However, he notes: "Herd immunity for an entire city, zip code, or just a neighborhood will not be achieved until children under 16 are able to be vaccinated, but we can still reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities by taking proper precautions."
For a video of Sethi discussing herd immunity, visit: https://news.wisc.edu/badger-talks-video-is-herd-immunity-attainable/
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
Stephen Kantrowitz on: Juneteenth
Stephen Kantrowitz, an expert on 19th-century African-American life and politics, can discuss the history of Juneteenth. The June 19th holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States is moving closer to becoming a federal holiday after votes by both the House and Senate.
"Long before the phrase became a rallying cry, Juneteenth became an occasion to affirm that Black Lives Matter," Kantrowitz writes.
_ Mitch on: Millions facing eviction or foreclosure as June 30 moratorium approaches
A federal eviction moratorium will end June 30, putting millions at risk of eviction or foreclosure. More than 2 million homeowners are behind on their mortgages and 6 million households are behind on rent, according to reports.
Mitch, an expert on rental housing regulations, can discuss.
Tova Walsh on: How COVID-19 changed fatherhood
Ths Father's Day, Tova Walsh, assistant professor in the School of Social Work and an expert on parenting and early childhood, is available to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted fathers.
Walsh can discuss:
- Transition to fatherhood
- Early father-child relationships
- The role of fathers in children's health and healthcare
- Engaging fathers in child and family services
- Fathering during the pandemic
Walsh says, "The COVID-19 pandemic has both undermined and expanded opportunities for fathers to assume a central parenting role. The stresses and uncertainty posed by COVID-19 compound existing economic instability and family pressures for low-income and noncustodial fathers. Many healthcare providers have implemented policies restricting visitors, and as a result many expectant fathers have been unable to accompany their partner to ultrasound and other appointments and fathers' participation in children's pediatric care has decreased. At the same time, many fathers have spent more time at home with their children. For some fathers, spending more time with their children has been a very special part of a very difficult year."
Chris Kucharik on: Drought intensifies in southern Wisconsin
From March to May of 2021, Madison received 5.05 inches of rain, making it the 12th driest spring since records started in 1869. Drought is intensifying across southern Wisconsin, causing concern for crops. Chris Kucharik, an expert on agroecosystems, agroclimatology, and severe weather, can discuss.
Patrick Liesch on: Mosquito season begins
PJ Liesch, an expert on insect identification and biology, can discuss the arrival of mosquito season in Wisconin and beyond.
"Wisconsinties will likely see an increase in mosquito numbers in the near future," says Liesch. "With nearly sixty mosquito species in the state, populations of these insects can vary from year to year based on factors such as temperature, precipitation, and availability of water. It's always difficult to predict mosquito pressure in a given year, but we'll get a better idea of how abundant they are in the coming weeks."
Patrick Remington on: New CDC guidance says fully vaccinated people don't need masks in most spaces
Patrick Remington, a public health expert at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, is available for interviews about the new CDC guidance stating that fully-vaccinated people no longer needs masks in most indoor and outdoor places. Remington says the news means the focus has shifted to getting as many people vaccinated as possible and away from stopping transmission.
"I think it actually is the day we have been waiting for, the day we feel good and safe gathering indoors," Remington told the Journal Sentinel.