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Is UW-Madison hard to get into?
How Hard Is It to Get Into University of Wisconsin-Madison? During Fall 2020, the University of Wisconsin-Madison received 53,800 applications which jumped nearly 17% from the previous year, and the acceptance rate was 54.5% in 2020.
Is UW-Madison prestigious?
MADISON – The University of Wisconsin–Madison is the highest ranking national public university and fourth overall in Washington Monthly’s 2021 College Guide and Rankings. The ranking is based on three criteria: research excellence, social mobility, and community and national service.
What is University of Wisconsin – Madison known for?
If there’s one thing UW Madison does well, it’s research. The school ranks 8th in the nation for volume of research, with the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education providing 17 Research and Service Centers.
‘You Have to Look at Its Past’
Kaçar’s research compared the expression of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase in zebra fish with its expression in humans. As she moved through her Ph.D. program, her questions grew bigger and bigger. “I wondered, ‘Zebra fish have this enzyme; humans have this enzyme. Where is this enzyme coming from? What is the common origin?’” she says. “I started studying its phylogeny [evolutionary development and diversification] to understand its evolutionary route. It was evident to me that if you want to understand an enzyme’s function today, you have to look at its past.”
Ever eager to learn more, she started attending meetings in the evolutionary biology department, one floor below the lab where she worked. She quickly realized a fundamental challenge: “The majority of life’s history and innovations are lost,” she says. “We are dealing with whatever is left to us today. We are not capturing the full diversity of proteins when we ignore their past. We tend to think of the past as a failed state and that things get more optimal as they evolve, but that is not necessarily true. There is a past that we don’t yet understand, but we should.”
The readings Kaçar first encountered at the time introduced her to the origins of life and evolution, and she was hooked. “I thought, this is what I want to do,” she says, “It was my eureka moment, my calling.”
Kaçar applied for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with NASA’s astrobiology program with a radical research proposal: She would create a “molecular time machine.” Using a process called phylogenic inference, she would develop synthetic ancient proteins, insert these resurrected sequences into a modern bacterial genome, and then evolve them experimentally in the lab. The goal would be to see if she could repeat an ancient protein’s evolution in a way that matched its own natural history.
Colleagues warned her that her unorthodox proposal was a career killer. But Kaçar, ever a gözü kara, didn’t listen. “I was in it to do the science that interests me,” she says. “I knew that, after my high school and college degrees, I had already made it further than anyone in my family had done. So, the worst thing, I thought, would be that I would try, and fail, to figure out life’s origins. That, to me, is a success.”
And succeed she did: Her proposal was accepted. She started her fellowship in 2012, which launched a rewarding and ongoing affiliation with NASA, a decade of innovative research, and a dedicated outreach effort to encourage young women around the globe to pursue STEM fields.
‘We Are Life and Its Origin in the universe’
Kaçar herself was surprised that NASA was interested in biology. “In my mind, it was a space-related group that would be interested in only astronomical questions,” she says. But NASA funded its first astrobiology project just one year after its founding in 1958. (Back then it was called exobiology.) Forty years later, the NASA Astrobiology Institute was established to provide a scientific framework for all flight missions and to advance astrobiology research and training programs in concert with national and international science communities.
NASA’s astrobiology research focuses on three key questions: How does life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?
Kaçar, naturally, focuses on that first question. “Astrobiology aims to understand the origin of life in the universe,” she explains. “We forget that’s us, right? We are life and its origin in the universe, the only one we know of so far. So, we invest a lot in understanding our own origins and our own planet. We have to understand what we have here if we want to then go and find something else out there.”