McArdle 'Blog' photoMcArdle Blog L7 ~ 10/29/2013

McArdle Events: Cancer Free House

It was a cold, damp Tuesday afternoon this past October 15th. Shivering from the unexpected drop in temperature, I walked into the Free House Pub in Middleton. Inside, I was greeted by the sight of dozens of fellow researchers sporting t-shirts in the familiar color of Wisconsin Badger pride, cardinal red. Among the attendees, I recognized many students, faculty, and staff; the atmosphere was warm and jovial and I immediately perked up.

The occasion was an opportunity for local residents to meet researchers from the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research in a casual environment and become more familiar with the department, the people who work there, and the research they conduct.

Free House

Dr. Caroline Alexander, a professor at McArdle Laboratory, had initially come up with the idea for an open house-type event after several conversations with her neighbors. Their lack of familiarity with the McArdle Laboratory and its goals prompted her to try and connect the research that takes place in McArdle with the community at large. She envisioned benefit for both researchers and the public at these types of community events. Free House 2The students and researchers who work in McArdle Laboratory would get an opportunity to discuss their research and engage an audience outside that of the scientific community. For community members curious about the process of scientific discovery, these events would provide the perfect opportunity to pick cancer biologists’ brains in a friendly environment.

When selecting the venue for the event, Dr. Alexander enlisted the help of friend Tim Thompson. Mr. Thompson, who also ownsFree House 3 the Library Bar (a favorite hangout for an after-work drink for many UW students), graciously provided space in the Free House Pub for this event.

To kick off the event, Dr. Alexander gave a brief spiel introducing the faculty in attendance. Certain faculty members were responsible for fielding questions about topics in which they were experts. For example, Dr. Bill Sugden – whose research focuses on human tumor viruses – was the anointed virology expert.

After grabbing a beer, I made my way through the throngs of conversations and noticed there were posters dispersed throughout (thanks to Mrs. Jolynne Roorda, Dr. Nathan Sherer’s wife). The posters displayed beautiful scientific images generated by McArdle researchers and led to many conversations between McArdle faculty and curious attendees.

In the spacious back room, students who were catching up with each other over dinner had a stellar opportunity to interact with and answer questions from many interested visitors. Collectively, the event was enjoyable for everyone.Free House 4

I hope that this will be the first of many future gatherings. After the positive feedback following this first event, Dr. Alexander believes that we need to identify the types of audiences we should reach out to, and tailor events to address these specific needs. Dr. Norman Drinkwater, a long-standing professor and former Director of the Cancer Biology department, recalls that the last open house type event McArdle held was about 20 years ago, and the last time we had McArdle t-shirts made was for a 5K “Elf Run” in the 1990’s. He thinks these events are a great opportunity to talk about what we do here in McArdle and showcase the greatest strength of our department: the people who work here!

~Emily Chin