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The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery is a research institute on the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison built to develop a new approach to science driven by unlikely collaborations and the greatest research minds from across the campus and the world.

From the WID Director:
Jo Handelsman
Jo Handelsman

WID was created in 2010 with the intent of exploring new ways of generating innovation in science and engineering. Its first years were dedicated to building an outstanding team of 19 faculty members with dynamic, groundbreaking research programs that have generated more than 500 publications in data sciences, tissue engineering, nanomedicine, multi-omics, and complex systems.
In 2017, to build on these strengths, the WID community rededicated itself to serving as a catalyst for innovation through interdisciplinary research on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus and beyond. WID is exploring new ways to embody the Wisconsin Idea, the long-held tenet of the University of Wisconsin–Madison that a university is at its best when it is in dialogue with the public.

WID is experimenting with new methods of creating unlikely campus-wide interdisciplinary research teams that generate unexpected discoveries. For example, campus-wide town hall meetings are broadening the intellectual diversity brought to bear on problems by enabling members of the campus community to self-identify their interest, rather than requiring that they are already known to the research project leaders. This approach is intended to broaden participation in science and engineering problem-solving by social scientists and those in the arts and humanities, among others.

By deliberately engaging unconventional partners who bring new ways of thinking to research problems, WID works to overcome the pernicious effects of unconscious biases that act as unintended barriers to engaging with diverse people. For example, WID has a cartoonist among its faculty, we work with rural and urban Wisconsin high schools, we contract with minority-owned businesses, and we collaborate with the Minority Coalition for Precision Medicine, a faith-based group that promises to change the ethnic profile of patients engaged in medical research trials by creating alliances between African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Hmong communities and researchers.

To catalyze new collaborations on the UW-Madison campus, WID has created hubs that nucleate new cross-campus research projects and provide services to enable other campus researchers to enhance their efforts in areas of WID expertise. Initially, WID has formed three hubs: the Data Science Hub, the Multi-Omics Hub, and the Illuminating Discovery Hub.

WID has created an environment that is open, collegial, and respectful, and a scientific culture that is keen on challenging the conventions that keep good ideas from becoming scientific revolutions. Join us in pushing the boundaries of disciplines.

– Jo Handelsman

Make a gift to WID through the University of Wisconsin Foundation.

Your gift furthers WID’s investment in:

  • Highly original, collaborative science, ranging from data science and complex systems to tissue engineering, nanomedicine, and multi-omics research.
  • Undergraduate and graduate fellowships, which provide rigorous systems of thinking to students working on interdisciplinary problems
  • In-residence scholars, artists, and professionals who bring radical new ideas and a breadth of perspective to the WID community
  • Events and lectures geared at bridging the gaps among disciplines, industries, and the public
  • Skill-oriented workshops that promote a greater public understanding of science and new tools for 21st-century professions
  • Partnership programs across campus, focusing on new approaches to interdisciplinarity, collaboration, and life-long education

For questions about gift options or to learn more about becoming a supporter of WID, contact Beth Misco.