Communicating Research to the General Public

Read Prof. Shakhashiri's Message on Chemistry and Society

Read a letter from an awardee about his experience

Interested in writing your own chapter?
More information on how to begin can be found here

The dual mission of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy
is to promote literacy in science, mathematics and technology
among the general public and to attract future generations
to careers in research, teaching and public service.



At the March 5, 2010 UW-Madison Chemistry Department Colloquium, Prof. Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, the director of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy (WISL), encouraged all UW-Madison chemistry Ph.D. candidates to include a chapter in their Ph.D. thesis communicating their research to non-specialists. The goal is to explain the candidate’s scholarly research and its significance to a wider audience that includes family members, friends, civic groups, newspaper reporters, program officers at appropriate funding agencies, state legislators, and members of the U.S. Congress.

Over 30 Ph.D. degree recipients have successfully completed their theses and included such a chapter.

WISL encourages the inclusion of such chapters in all Ph.D. theses everywhere through the cooperation of Ph.D. candidates and their mentors. WISL is now offering additional awards of $250 for UW-Madison chemistry Ph.D. candidates.

Sharing the chapters with a
member of Congress

Read why Stanford professors believe that "Writing Matters"


Thesis Awardees


David Wesley Brogden

"Synthetic, Spectroscopic, and Computational Studies of Bimetallic and Trimetallic
2,2’-Dipyridylamide Compounds"

Jennifer A. Faust

"Collisions and Reactions with Glycerol Films and Water Microjets:
Exploring the Chemistry of Interfacial Ions"

Christopher D. Jordan

"Spectroscopic and Computational Investigation of Adenosylcobalamin-Dependent Enzymes
and a Membrane-Bound Fatty Acid Desaturate"

Ambalika Sagarika Khadria

"FRET-based biophysical characterization of bacterial divisome transmembrane proteins"

Dr. Khadria also interpreted her thesis through dance. The video can be viewed here.

Nambirajan Rangarajan

"Time-lapse fluorescence microscopy of the effects of
antimicrobial peptides on single, live Escherichia coli cells"


Joseph P. Gerdt

“Quorum Sensing Inhibition in Pseudomonas aeruginosa:
Investigations Into Mechanism and Resistance Development”

Erin Selene Boyle

"New Mixed Vibrational-Electronic Methods in Fully Coherent Multidimensional
Spectroscopy: Progress Toward Metal Active Site Characterization"

Veronica Berns

"Chemical Pressure and Its Applications to the Tsai-Type Quasicrystal"

Amber Jain

"Timescales of Large Amplitude Motion — Classical and Quantum Considerations"

Laura Ruiz Espelt

"Controlling the Chemistry of Photogenerated Radicals with
Lewis and Brønsted Acid Co-Catalysts"

Tyler Adint

"Improving Accessibility of Asymmetric Hydroformylation
through Ligand Libraries and Immobilization"

Eleanor Rolfe Nelsen

"Interception and characterization of catalyst species in rhodium-bis(diazaphospholane)-catalyzed asymmetric hydroformylation"


Jennifer E. Laaser

"New Methods for Nonlinear Vibrational Spectroscopy of Materials and Biophysical Interfaces"


Stephen B. Block, Ph.D. 2012

"Picosecond and Femtosecond Coherent Multidimensional Spectroscopy
of Colloidal PbSe Quantum Dot Structure and Dynamics"

Alexander J. L. Clemens, Ph.D. 2012

"Part I. Synthesis of Garner’s Aldehyde and Efforts Toward the
Synthesis of Tapentadol via an Asymmetric Hydroformylation/Reductive Amination Sequence"

"Part II. Development of a Rhodium-Mediated Domino Annulation and
Efforts Toward the Total Synthesis of Linderagalactone C"

Joshua P. DiGangi, Ph.D. 2012

"Formaldehyde as a Probe of Rural Volatile Organic Compound Oxidation"

Laura Anne Kopff, Ph.D. 2012

"Matrix-Isolation, Photochemistry, and Spectroscopy of Benzothienyl Diazo Compounds"

Jayashree Nagesh, Ph.D. 2012

"Spectroscopy and vibrational dynamics of Methoxy and D-Methoxy radicals"

Jason D. Russell, Ph.D. 2012

"Strategies for Protein and Peptide Characterization and Quanitfication
using Electron-Transfer Dissociation Mass Spectrometry and Instrinsic Fluorescence"

Yevgeniya Turov, Ph.D. 2012

"New Axial Reactivity of Trimetallic Compounds"


Benjamin P. Bratton, Ph.D. 2011

"Dynamics of RNA Polymerase and DNA Foci in Live Escherichia coli"

Melissa M. Galloway, Ph.D. 2011

"Mechanisms of VOC Oxidation and Aerosol Formation:
Atmospheric Organic Chemistry of Glyoxal"

Amanda Long, Ph.D. 2011

"New Diruthenium Nitrido Compounds and
Intra- and Intermolecular Reactivity with Aryl C-H Bonds"

Ashok Sekhar, Ph.D. 2011

"Mechanistic Investigations on Hsp70 Chaperone-Mediated Protein Folding and Photo-CIDNP Enhancements in Heteronuclear Correlation NMR Spectroscopy"

Matt Windsor, Ph.D. 2011

"Development of a ß-Peptide Retroaldolase and Efforts
Toward Other Catalytic Foldamers"

Read about Matt's experience with the WISL Thesis Award


Susan M. Brastad, Ph.D. 2010

"Investigation of Proton Exchange Reactions between Acidic Gases
and Protic Solvents Containing Dissolved Ions"

Andrew J. Huisman, Ph.D. 2010

"Measurements and Modeling of Glyoxal: Insights into Rural Photochemistry
and Secondary Organic Aerosol Production"

Suzanne Elizabeth Kulevich, Ph.D. 2010

"Hydrophobic Modification of Peptides to Enhance
Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry Analysis"

Elizabeth C. Landis, Ph.D. 2010

"Molecular Monolayers for Attaching Electroactive Molecules
to Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanofibers"

Margrith Mattmann, Ph.D. 2010

"Interrupting Bacterial Conversations: Designing Chemicals to Control
Quorum Sensing in Pseudomonas Aeruginosa"

Jessica Lynn Menke, Ph.D. 2010

"Computational and Matrix-Isolation Spectroscopy Studies of Cyanocyclobutadienes"

Beth M. Moscato-Goodpaster, Ph.D. 2010

"Information-Rich Investigations into Catalytic Olefin Polymerization:
Technique Development and Mechanistic Studies"

Avery Watkins, Ph.D. 2010

"Synthetic and Mechanistic Studies of Rhodium-Catalyzed Asymmetric
Hydroformylation with Diazaphospholane Ligands"