Posts about Madison

Starting a Career in Science to Fight Cancer

Keven Stonewall Preventing Colon Cancer from VNM USA on Vimeo.

Keven Stonewall is a student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison working to prevent colon cancer.

Related: I Always Wanted to be Some Sort of ScientistHigh School Student Creates Test That is Much More Accurate and 26,000 Times Cheaper Than Existing Pancreatic Cancer TestsWebcast of a T-cell Killing a Cancerous Cell

Open Source Seeds

I find the current status of government granted patents to be very flawed, including patenting life.

Plant Breeders Release First ‘Open Source Seeds’

A group of scientists and food activists is launching a campaign Thursday to change the rules that govern seeds. They’re releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new “open source pledge” that’s intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely.

Irwin Goldman, a vegetable breeder at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, helped organize the campaign. It’s an attempt to restore the practice of open sharing that was the rule among plant breeders when he entered the profession more than 20 years ago.

Good for them. This needs to be supported. The crazy practices of seed companies shouldn’t be legal but they pay lots of cash to politicians and the corrupt politicians (which seems to be an awful lot of them) write bad policy and encourage bad regulation.

Even those administrators taking control of universities have subjugated the search for knowledge and improvement to seek monetary gain instead of what the universities used to prioritize. It is a shame and those that have distorted universities so much should be ashamed.

Initial efforts that lead to the bad place we find universities in now were to promote the adoption of university research. To do so they partnered with business in sensible ways. Then administrators saw money was being made and turned the priority into making money and if that meant restricting the benefits to society of university research so be it. This has created universities that have lost ethical foundations and have destroyed a big part of the value universities used to provide society.

Related: Open-Source Biotech (2006)Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Prevent Research (2009)The A to Z Guide to Political Interference in ScienceArduino: Open Source Programmable HardwareMoney Is Corrupting Our Political Process

George Box 1919 to 2013 – A Great Friend, Scientist and Statistician

Reposted from my management blog.

I would most likely not exist if it were not for George Box. My father took a course from George while my father was a student at Princeton. George agreed to start the Statistics Department at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and my father followed him to Madison, to be the first PhD student. Dad graduated, and the next year was a professor there, where he and George remained for the rest of their careers.

George died today, he was born in 1919. He recently completed An Accidental Statistician: The Life and Memories of George E. P. Box which is an excellent book that captures his great ability to tell stories. It is a wonderful read for anyone interested in statistics and management improvement or just great stories of an interesting life.

photo of George EP Box

George Box by Brent Nicastro.

George Box was a fantastic statistician. I am not the person to judge, but from what I have read one of the handful of most important applied statisticians of the last 100 years. His contributions are enormous. Several well know statistical methods are known by his name, including:

George was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1979. He also served as president of the American Statistics Association in 1978. George is also an honorary member of ASQ.

George was a very kind, caring and fun person. He was a gifted storyteller and writer. He had the ability to present ideas so they were easy to comprehend and appreciate. While his writing was great, seeing him in person added so much more. Growing up I was able to enjoy his stories often, at our house or his. The last time I was in Madison, my brother and I visited with him and again listened to his marvelous stories about Carl Pearson, Ronald Fisher and so much more. He was one those special people that made you very happy whenever you were near him.

George Box, Stuart Hunter and Bill Hunter (my father) wrote what has become a classic text for experimenters in scientific and business circles, Statistics for Experimenters. I am biased but I think this is acknowledged as one of (if not the) most important books on design of experiments.

George also wrote other classic books: Time series analysis: Forecasting and control (1979, with Gwilym Jenkins) and Bayesian inference in statistical analysis. (1973, with George C. Tiao).

George Box and Bill Hunter co-founded the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984. The Center develops, advances and communicates quality improvement methods and ideas.

The Box Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Industrial Statistics recognizes development and the application of statistical methods in European business and industry in his honor.

All models are wrong but some are useful” is likely his most famous quote. More quotes By George Box

A few selected articles and reports by George Box

Related: It is not about proving a theorem it is about being curious about thingsBox on QualitySoren BisgaardLearning Design of Experiments with Paper HelicoptersPeter Scholtes

Top Online Graduate Engineering Programs in the USA

Online degree programs are growing quickly in popularity in the USA. Over 6 million students took online courses in 2011. The costs of traditional education continue to rise at extremely high rates – schools have done a horrible job of dealing with this. I personally, don’t understand how they have done so horribly on this measure. Administration costs have exploded. Building vanity projects that costs tens of millions of dollars add little to student achievement and waste limited resources driving up costs.

We really need to find administrators that will reduce administrative staffing levels and costs. Let some schools continue on the ego driven spiraling costs, but let us at least find some who will focus on reducing education costs and providing good education at reasonable costs. For engineering, more than maybe any other discipline, I can excuse some of the costs. But given the universal failure to manage costs I think the failure to manage costs is the primary issue (the extra demands for spending on engineering education, I understand).

The failure to stop the lavish spending has greatly increased the demand for online education. Given the unreasonable cost increases for traditional education many are priced out of considering that option. Given how unable schools have proven to be at providing good education for reasonable rates the last few decades it is reasonable to assume online education will continue to gain popularity. I don’t see the top tier schools facing much competition from online efforts (even if some students are drawn away there are plenty wanting to upgrade their school choice at whatever the cost – as the administrators know as they continue to drive up costs).

One danger is that online education is hardly a proved commodity yet. Both in terms of what you learn and the acceptance and desirability of degrees. So right now students are having to make guesses that are more challenging with online programs than the traditional choices. US News and World Report has selected 3 online engineering master’s programs for the honor roll.

Related: Engineering Education in the 21st CenturyHow the Practice and Instruction of Engineering Must ChangeGlobal Engineering Education Study

Dennis Hong, Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Professor, Leading Robotics Innovation

Dennis Hong is the U.S. star in humanoid robotics

Hong came by his interest in science naturally. He was born in 1971 on the exclusive Palos Verdes Peninsula, outside Los Angeles, and his father, Yong Shik Hong, worked as an aerospace engineer at the federally funded Aerospace Corp. The family returned to Seoul in 1974 so the elder Hong could lead South Korea’s short-range missile program, at the bidding of then-President Park Chung Hee.

Korean fathers of that era were strict and remote. Hong’s father was engaged and intellectually indulgent. He installed a work bench in Dennis’s room when he was 4, complete with a hammer and saw. He led the children in chemistry experiments and brought home model airplanes from America.

Dennis Hong built things with scraps of wood and metal and bits of plastic. He disassembled toys and stored the parts in a chest beneath his bed.

“We spent a lot of time building things and breaking things,” said Julie Hong, Hong’s older sister. “He was the one who broke things the most and built things the most.”

Hong traveled to America to complete his university study, following his father’s credo, “Big fish must swim in the big sea.” He earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin and a master’s and doctorate at Purdue.

Dennis’ success illustrates several themes repeated in posts on this blog: the USA attracting talent from overseas, kids curiosity and exposure to science and engineering leading to great things, the value of strong science and engineering programs and professors. Robotics continue to progress very quickly. The economic impact of robotics is large already (largely in manufacturing) and will continue to grow dramatically. Likely robots will find their way into much more diverse areas over the next 2 decades. The Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, lead by Dennis Hong, seems poised to play a big role in that future.

Related: Robocup 2010, Robot FootballSoft Morphing Robot FutureEvolution of Altruism in RobotsToyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

Continue reading

Cooking with Chemistry: Hard Candy

The video by Richard Hartel, professor of food engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, demonstrates how the molten liquid candy cools to form what from a technical standpoint actually is a glass. Unlike window glass made of silica, this tasty glass is made of sugar.

Viscosity describes a fluid’s internal resistance to flow and may be thought of as a measure of fluid friction. Water has very little viscosity (unless it is frozen). Thick honey has higher viscosity (especially if it is cooler – I keep my honey in the fridge and it does not flow very quickly).

As I have said before if I had understood the chemistry behind cooking as a kid I think I would have been much more interested in cooking.

Related: Understanding the Chemistry Behind CookingThe Man Who Unboiled an EggTracking the Ecosystem Within Us

Variation in Human DNA

Variation on the order of thousands to hundreds of thousands of DNA’s smallest pieces – large swaths varying in length or location or even showing up in reverse order – appeared 4,205 times in a comparison of DNA from just four people.

Those structural differences popped into clear view through computer analysis of more than 500 linear feet of DNA molecules analyzed by the powerful genome mapping system developed over nearly two decades by David C. Schwartz, professor of chemistry and genetics at UW-Madison.

“We probably have the most comprehensive view of the human genome ever,” Schwartz says. “And the variation we’re seeing in the human genome is something we’ve known was there and important for many years, but we haven’t been able to fully study it.”

To get a better picture of those structural variations, Schwartz and his team developed the Optical Mapping System, a wholly new type of genome analysis that directly examines millions of individual DNA molecules.

“Our newer genome analysis systems, if commercialized, promise genome analysis in one hour, at under $1,000,” Schwartz says. “And we require that high speed and low cost to power the new field of personal genomics.”

Read full press release

Related: New Understanding of Human DNAOpossum Genome Shows ‘Junk’ DNA is Not JunkBacteria Can Transfer Genes to Other BacteriaScientists crack 40-year-old DNA puzzle

Green Technology Innovation by College Engineering Students

With prizes totaling more than $100,000 in value, this year’s Climate Leadership Challenge is believed to be the most lucrative college or university competition of its kind in the country. The contest was open to all UW-Madison students.

A device that would help provide electricity efficiently and at low cost in rural areas of developing countries took the top prize – $50,000 – this week in a student competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for innovative ideas to counteract climate change.

The “microformer” is the brainchild of Jonathan Lee, Dan Ludois, and Patricio Mendoza, all graduate students in electrical engineering. Besides the cash prize, they will receive a promotional trip worth $5,000 and an option for a free one-year lease in the University Research Park’s new Metro Innovation Center on Madison’s east side.

“We really want to see implementation of the best ideas offered,” said Tracey Holloway, director of the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison, which staged the contest for the second year in a row. “The purpose of this competition is to make an impact on climate change.”

The runner-up for the “most action-ready idea” was a proposal to promote the use of oil from Jatropha curcas plants to fuel special cooking stoves in places like Haiti. UW-Madison seniors Eyleen Chou (mechanical engineering), Jason Lohr (electrical engineering), Tyler Lark (biomedical engineering/mathematics) won $10,000 for their scheme to reduce deforestation by lowering demand for wood charcoal as a cooking fuel.

CORE Concept, a technology that would cut emissions from internal combustion engines by using a greater variety of fuels, won mechanical engineering doctoral students Sage Kokjohn, Derek Splitter, and Reed Hanson $15,000 as the “most innovative technical solution.”

SnowShoe, a smart phone application that would enable shoppers to check the carbon footprint of any item in a grocery store by scanning its bar code, won $15,000 as the “most innovative non-technical solution.” Graduate students Claus Moberg (atmospheric and oceanic science), Jami Morton (environment and resources), and Matt Leudtke (civil and environmental engineering) submitted the idea.

Other finalists were REDCASH, a plan to recycle desalination wastewater for carbon sequestration and hydrogen fuel production, by doctoral student Eric Downes (biophysics) and senior Ian Olson (physics/engineering physics); and Switch, an energy management system that integrates feedback and incentives into social gaming to reduce personal energy use, by doctoral students David Zaks (environment and resources) and Elizabeth Bagley (environment and resources/educational psychology).

Related: University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Challenge AgainCollegiate Inventors Competition$10 Million X Prize for 100 MPG Car

Researching Direct Brain Interfaces for Text Entry

Adam Wilson posted a status update on the social networking Web site Twitter — just by thinking about it. A UW-Madison biomedical engineering doctoral student, Wilson is among a growing group of researchers worldwide who aim to perfect a communication system for users whose bodies do not work, but whose brains function normally. Among those are people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain-stem stroke or high spinal cord injury.

The interface consists, essentially, of a keyboard displayed on a computer screen. “The way this works is that all the letters come up, and each one of them flashes individually,” says Williams. “And what your brain does is, if you’re looking at the ‘R’ on the screen and all the other letters are flashing, nothing happens. But when the ‘R’ flashes, your brain says, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Something’s different about what I was just paying attention to.’ And you see a momentary change in brain activity.”

The system still is not very quick. However, as with texting, users improve as they practice using the interface. “I’ve seen people do up to eight characters per minute,” says Wilson.

Read full press release

Related: Toyota Develops Thought-controlled WheelchairRat Brain Cells, in a Dish, Flying a PlaneThe Brain Hides Information From Us To Prevent MistakesRoachbot: Cockroach Controlled Robot
Continue reading

S&P 500 CEO’s: Engineers Stay at the Top

2008 Data from Spencer Stuart on S&P 500 CEO shows once again more have undergraduate degrees in engineering than any other field, increasing to 22% of CEO’s this year.

Field
   
  
% of CEOs
2008
   
2007
   
2006
   
2005
Engineering 22 21 23 20
Economics 16 15 13 11
Business Administration 13 13 12 15
Accounting 9 8 8 7
Liberal Arts 6 6 8 9
No degree or no data 3 3


In 1990 Engineering majors accounted for 6% of the bachelor’s degrees in the USA (1970 5%, 1980 7%). Business accounted for 23% of the majors in 1990 (1970 14%, 1980 21%). Liberal arts 3% in 1980 (1970 1%, 1980 2%).

The report does not show the fields for the rest of the CEO’s. 39% of S&P CEOs have MBAs. 28% have other advanced degrees. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard tied for the most CEO’s with undergraduate degrees from their universities at 13. Princeton and the University of Texas had 9 and Stanford had 8.

While the CEO’s have engineering education backgrounds the work they have done is often in other functions. The top function that CEO’s that have worked in during their careers: Operations (42%), Finance (31%), Marketing (24%), Sales (17%), Engineering (11%).

Data for previous years is also from Spencer Stuart: S&P 500 CEOs are Engineering Graduates (2007 data) 2006 S&P 500 CEO Education StudyTop degree for S&P 500 CEOs? Engineering (2005 study)

Related: Another Survey Shows Engineering Degree Results in the Highest PayScience and Engineering Degrees lead to Career SuccessThe Future is Engineering

Image of the Common Cold Virus

image of the rhino virus (human cold)image created by Dr. Jean-Yves Sgro, Institute for Molecular Virology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, from published X-ray data. larger image

Sequences capture the code of the common cold

Conducted by teams at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, UW-Madison and the J. Craig Venter Institute, the work to sequence and analyze the cold virus genomes lays a foundation for understanding the virus, its evolution and three-dimensional structure and, most importantly, for exposing vulnerabilities that could lead to the first effective cold remedies.

“We’ve had bits and pieces of these things for a long time,” says Ann Palmenberg, of UW-Madison’s Institute for Molecular Virology and the lead author of the new study. “Now, we have the full genome sequences and we can put them into evolutionary perspective.”

As its name implies, the common cold is an inescapable, highly contagious pathogen. Humans are constantly exposed to cold viruses, and each year adults may endure two to four infections, while schoolchildren can catch as many as 10 colds.

“We know a lot about the common cold virus,” Palmenberg explains, “but we didn’t know how their genomes encoded all that information. Now we do, and all kinds of new things are falling out.”

The newly sequenced viruses also show, says Palmenberg, why it is unlikely we will ever have an effective, all-purpose cold vaccine: The existing reservoir of viruses worldwide is huge and, according to the new study, they have a tendency to swap genetic sequences when cells are infected by more than one virus, a phenomenon that can lead to new virus strains and clinical manifestations.

The ability of different cold virus strains to swap genes and make entirely new strains was thought to be impossible, notes Claire M. Fraser-Liggett, a co-author of the new study and director of the Institute for Genome Sciences and professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “There is the possibility that this could lead to the emergence of a new rhinovirus strain with fairly dramatic properties,” says Fraser-Liggett.

Related: Common Cold Alters the Activity of GenesLearning How Viruses Evade the Immune SystemLethal Secrets of 1918 Flu Virusimages of snowflakes

  • Recent Comments:

    • Chem: I take pride in studying in chemical engineering
    • Michael: This is a truly beautiful design idea: simple, functional, and useful. I had’nt heard of the...
    • Michael: I love projects like this but I can’t imagine that the wind turbine was a justifiable...
    • xay dung dan dung: Science develops, more people to enjoy the novelty. Sometimes life around us there are...
    • Anonymous: The Link the Feynman videos seems to be working both with IE and FF, provided you have the...
    • Justin Hunter: Very cool illustration of mistake proofing! But as you suggest, it could be further improved...
    • Anonymous: I grew up around hummingbirds, and there’s simply nothing like watching them buzz around...
    • James Bly: The statement that most tires are landfilled is not accurate and has not been true for at least...
  • Recent Trackbacks:

  • Links