Seminars Showcase the Best of WID’s Collaborative Environment

On a campus as diverse and decentralized as UW-Madison, it can be difficult for new ideas to make their way to the attention of the right groups of people, especially when those people might be in different departments, buildings, or even zip codes. The research groups at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, however, are uniquely positioned to cut across dozens of departments and spotlight ideas that can lead to new collaborations and transformative science. On Wednesday afternoons throughout the spring and fall, two seminar series are expanding WID’s reach still further, pulling in large crowds for excellent speakers from campus and beyond.

The Systems, Information, Learning, and Optimization (SILO) seminars provide a forum that helps connect graduate students with faculty, invited researchers, and other students in math-related fields. At 12:30 each Wednesday in the Orchard View room on the third floor of the Discovery Building, dozens of attendees learn about exciting new research, open problems, and cutting-edge mathematical approaches.

SILO is about breaking down the “silos” of research created by academic department boundaries.

— Michael Ferris

SILO is hosted by the Optimization theme at WID and sponsored by the 3M Company and its Advanced Technology Group. Optimization Theme Leader Michael Ferris had this to say about the series:

“SILO is a community of mathematically-minded researchers interested in computational and mathematical sciences. SILO is about breaking down the “silos” of research created by academic department boundaries. Recent advances in information science are allowing scientists and researchers to sense, process and share data in ways and scales previously impossible. These developments have the potential to benefit work happening in a wide range of disciplines. SILO’s purpose is to help realize such potential by providing the time and space for researchers to present and interact to find common threads.”

Directly following the SILO seminars, the Quantitative Biology (Qbio) seminars start at 2:00 on Wednesdays. Qbio seminars feature speakers who pursue quantitative biology, broadly encompassing experimental, computational, statistical, and theoretical approaches to gain insights into the behavior of living systems. Qbio is hosted by the Systems Biology theme at WID and is part of a campus-wide initiative that brings together students and faculty from diverse departments, and utilizes the exceptional level of inter-departmental collaboration at UW-Madison to provide students outstanding training opportunities in interdisciplinary, collaborative research. Systems Biology Theme Leader John Yin provided his thoughts on the Qbio series:

“One goal of the Qbio seminar series is to help the campus better get to know itself and more effectively position ourselves for novel discoveries. If I’d like to develop a new kind of experiment for my lab, there’s a good chance that someone on campus has either tried something similar and succeeded or failed. If they’ve succeeded, then they might offer me tips on what works and doesn’t. If they’ve failed, then they might have experience and insight on issues to avoid.

Perhaps the hardest task is that scientists, medical doctors, engineers, mathematicians and others from different fields often use different words for related concepts, which can be a huge barrier to gaining insights from other fields. So this seminar series encourages the presenters to find a more common language to convey the essential points of their research, and it challenges the audience to glean new insights from a diversity of fields spanning biology, math, chemistry, and engineering.”

Both SILO and Qbio are open to their respective scientific communities; no preregistration is required. Find listings for upcoming seminars at

Systems, Information, Learning, and Optimization (SILO) Seminars  |  Wednesdays, 12:30 pm
Orchard View room, Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St.

Quantitative Biology (Qbio) Seminars  |  Wednesdays, 2:00 pm
Orchard View room, Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St.


— Nolan Lendved