Annual Report – 2018

The Morgridge Institute explores uncharted research to go where the science takes us. By asking the right questions and following the highest standards of quality research, we will improve human health.

Meeting society’s expectations for scientific discovery

Science holds a privileged place in society. Even amid high profile skepticism over some research areas, the scientific profession enjoys consistently high levels of confidence and trust from the American people.

In its 2018 report “Perceptions of Science in America,” the American Academy of Arts and Sciences cites a survey showing that 80 percent of respondents trust that scientific research is serving the best interests of humanity. Another 71 percent expressed strong support for public funding of basic science research, while 86 percent stated it’s important for scientists to engage with the general public.

Brad Schwartz

Brad Schwartz

This trust was hard‑earned. For the past century, major advances in scientific knowledge have been a wellspring for improved health, prosperity and quality of life for Americans and the world. Antibiotics and vaccines, advanced computing and the World Wide Web, medical imaging, regenerative medicine and biotechnology all have stemmed from curiosity — driven science — and grown in ways we couldn’t have predicted.

At the Morgridge Institute, we talk a lot about “public trust” and “serving society” because we understand it’s precious and can never be taken for granted. Through our strong partnerships with the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), we want to stay true to the principles of basic research that have made it a great engine of human progress.

We have been able to achieve things together with UW–Madison that would have been highly difficult for either entity to do alone. Our ability to establish fruitful partnerships across numerous departments and disciplines has helped deliver technologies that are transforming biology, such as cryo-electron microscopy and mass spectrometry. The UW-Morgridge alliance also has proven powerful in attracting top scientific talent to Wisconsin and building community within promising and fast-growing fields like metabolism and regenerative biology. In turn, these efforts benefit other research areas on campus, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s research.

This report will focus on specific strides made in 2018 that could not have been made without the contributions of WARF, UW–Madison and John and Tashia Morgridge. We have tremendous gratitude for the trust university partners have placed in our institute to contribute to a new generation of discoveries that will improve the world.

Brad Schwartz
CEO, Morgridge Institute for Research

Discover Outreach: 2018 Participation


Total door count in 2018


Event attendees in Discovery Building


Saturday science attendees


Field trip participants (1,280 from Madison; 1,417 across state)


Offsite programs at area schools

2018 Milestones

Morgridge, campus partner to power up ‘mass spec’ potential

The Morgridge Institute for Research, as part of its Metabolism Initiative, is working with a University of Wisconsin–Madison team to greatly expand the scope of “mass spec” applications on campus. A new resource housed in the UW–Madison Biotechnology Center brings together a multi-million dollar investment in mass spectrometry tools from multiple sources to form a central repository to tackle large-scale investigations.

Immortal: An oral history of stem cell discovery

In November 1998, the journal Science published James Thomson’s groundbreaking work on embryonic stem cells. There has been 20 years of progress since the initial discovery spawned a new field of research, and tremendous potential exists for the future. We reached out to the people who lived it, and they shared the experiences in their own words. This is their story.

Finding a weak link in the frightful parasite Schistosoma

The parasitic disease schistosomiasis is one of the developing world’s worst public health scourges, affecting hundreds of millions of people, yet only a single, limited treatment exists to combat the disease. Researchers are searching for potential new targets by probing the cellular and developmental biology of the parasitic flatworm Schistosoma.

HTCondor powers Marshfield Clinic project on disease genetics

Using the equivalent of hundreds of years of computing time on HTCondor, a Marshfield Clinic scientist is compiling a database that will map genetic connections to more than 8,000 human diseases.

Ethics cartooning competition winners announced

Umair Khan, a UW–Madison graduate student working at the Morgridge Institute for Research, took the top prize in the inaugural Ethics Cartooning Competition.

Morgridge Institute announces John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Center for Research in Virology

The Morgridge Institute for Research is launching the John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Center for Research in Virology, a new transformative research initiative made possible by the philanthropic support of John and Jeanne Rowe.

Morgridge metabolism fellowship seeks to strengthen the research network

A graduate fellowship launched this year by the Morgridge Institute for Research will help bring “fresh eyes” to the growing pursuit of metabolism research at UW–Madison.

Metabolism investigator Jason Cantor joins Morgridge Institute, UW–Madison

Jason Cantor could describe himself as an engineer, biologist and biochemist, but don’t try to put his expertise into one box. Cantor, a scientist exploring the environmental influences on cancer cell metabolism, is launching a new lab in the Metabolism Theme at the Morgridge Institute and joining the UW–Madison departments of biochemistry and biomedical engineering.

Morgridge, UW researchers win top prize in Nikon International Small World imaging contest

Henry He, a doctoral student at the Morgridge Institute for Research, and Liz Haynes, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, won first place in the 2018 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition for a video depicting neural development in a zebrafish embryo.

Have microscope, will travel: New tech project links Madison, Boston scientists

An invention designed to transform how and where high-powered research microscopes are deployed — and who gets to use them — will make its way from Madison this spring to the fertile biology labs of greater Boston.

Morgridge, Meriter research project targets the persistent risk of preterm birth

Of the approximately 4 million births in the United States each year, at least 400,000 of them still trigger a state of desperation in maternity wards. Parents, doctors and medical staff feel this way over the challenge of managing high-risk pregnancies.

Collaboration leads to ‘dream’ of artery bank

Just as blood banks are essential to medicine, the Thomson Lab hopes to see the advent of artery banks that give surgeons a better, readily available material to replace diseased arteries. The lab is using pluripotent stem cells to grow the cellular building blocks of the artery — endothelial and smooth muscle cells — and coax them into assembling into arteries that can grow and thrive in a majority of patients.

Stem cell summer camp inspiring early careers in science and technology

Every summer since 2007, students from some of the smallest high schools in Wisconsin descend on the Morgridge Institute for Research for the Morgridge Rural Summer Science Camp. Now, 12 years into the camp, organizers are finding it has been a difference-maker.

2018 Wisconsin Science Festival






STEM experts sharing knowledge


Total Events


Museums & Libraries


News outlets coverage