Global Glimpses – January 2021

Jiwan Palta (right) and colleagues at research site in Peru.

From the Director’s Desk

Dear CALS Global community,

I hope you are having a great start to the New Year! We’re glad to see the year 2020 fade in our rear view mirror, after having caused so much alarm and despair around the world. We certainly hope you and your loved ones have survived the Covid-19 pandemic and are looking forward to things to cheer about this year.

Though limited by the Covid-19 restrictions, we at Global have been working energetically. We have initiated two new programs to engage our Global community. The Global Conversations series is a monthly moderated ‘conversation’ with members of CALS faculty and staff around the following Global priority themes: Feeding the World, Responding to Climate Change, Strengthening Economies and Communities, and Ensuring Health for All. The first in the series took place on Friday, January 22. You can see a preview of upcoming sessions and register for future events here. We look forward to your spirited participation. Our second initiative is the annual GARDEN seed grant, which will provide up to $5,000 for a CALS faculty and staff member to support their global research and development initiatives.

Our longtime faculty member and staunch Global supporter Professor Jiwan Palta is retiring effective January 4. Jiwan’s contributions to global research and development have been highly consequential. He is particularly known for initiating and sustaining collaborative research in Japan and Peru. CALS Global wishes him well in his retirement. Global has passed a resolution honoring his contributions and a memento will be presented in a suitable forum at a later date.

I am also very happy to announce that Dr. Alhaji N’jai has been included in Cell Mentor’s list of 1,000 African scientists in America. Dr. N’jai has been working with Global by promoting our partnerships in Sierra Leone.

We are excited to welcome many talented new faculty that joined various departments in CALS. Our one-on-one conversations with these new faculty have been very inspirational. This cadre of emerging and established scientists is motivated and ready to engage globally. For them and others I like to say that Global is here to support, facilitate, and promote your international research and development efforts.

With Best Wishes, 

— Sundaram Gunaskeran, CALS Global Director 

Join us for Global Conversations

CALS Global is proud to announce a new seminar series, Global Conversations. We hope that the series will serve as a catalyst for discourse on international collaborations, opportunities, and community-building within CALS, UW Madison, and globally. 

The conversations will be held on the fourth Friday of each month and feature CALS faculty and staff sharing their international research and development work related to CALS Global’s Strategic Priorities. Our first event, Feeding the World, was held on January 22nd and a recording of the event will be made available soon. The next conversation is Responding to Climate Change on February 26th and will feature talks from Nan Li (Visual communication and climate change in China), Jake Brunkard (The future of agriculture: Evolution of plant metabolism in Australia and South Africa), and Min Chen (Remote sensing and global change). Register here

Future events include: 

Responding to Climate Change – February 26th

Strengthening Economies and Communities – March 26th

Ensuring Health for All – April 23rd 

For more information on speakers and topics and any updates click here

Interested in participating as a speaker, or have any comments/questions? Let us know

Congratulations, Jiwan Palta!

Jiwan Palta (center, standing) and Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine colleagues from a visit to Japan in 2018.

After 39 years in the Department of Horticulture, Jiwan Palta retired this month. Dr. Palta played an instrumental role in developing the international community of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His research spanned the globe, from Japan, to Peru, to Northern Europe. His collaboration with Obihiro University of Veterinary Medicine in Japan began as a research collaboration on improving quality and production of potatoes using targeted calcium nutrition and has led to a Memorandum of Understanding, a study abroad program, and a committed partnership between two universities. In the Peruvian highlands, Palta developed a simple, affordable and locally available technology to improve production for the indigenous farmers with the cooperation of the International Potato Center and the National Potato Program. Together with other colleagues in his department he has been successful in developing frost hardy potatoes adapted to the Peruvian highlands. 

Palta has made landmark research contributions in the areas of plant cold hardiness, plant cell membrane functions especially in relation to environmental stresses, potato tuber quality in relation to calcium nutrition, fruit ripening and senescence including shelf life of food crops. He has published over 170 refereed publications and international conference proceedings, 82 articles in grower conference proceedings and grower magazine articles and over 330 printed abstracts. 

Palta served as the CALS Global Committee Chair from 2016 – 2019 and was an incredible colleague to collaborate with. CALS Global wishes him well in his retirement. We have passed a resolution honoring his contributions and look forward to presenting him with a memento in a suitable forum, at a later date.

Dr. Alhaji N’jai – Top 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America

Dr. Alhaji N’jai, research scientist in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences and founder of Project1808, was recently named as one of the top 1,000 inspiring Black scientists in America by Cell Mentor. Dr. N’jai is also an Associate Professor at University of Sierra Leone in Sierra Leone. He was part of the team working to develop the Ebola vaccine at UW-Madison in 2018 and the action on infectious diseases emerging in Africa at UW-Madison, that is working to identify and control known and novel epidemic zoonotic pathogens emerging in Africa. Along with graduate students at UW-Madison METC program in 2018, he developed a localized environmental health and toxicology course for University of Sierra Leone.  In 2011, Dr. N’jai founded Project1808, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving community livelihood and technical capacity through school, university, and community projects and global partnerships in Sierra Leone. CALS Global is very grateful to be able to collaborate with Dr. N’jai as we work to develop collaborations in Sierra Leone.

Photo courtesy of Dr. N’jai.

Now Accepting Applications for CALS Global Seed Grant

The newest CALS Global grant initiative was developed to seed and promote activities by CALS faculty and staff towards developing a Global Agricultural Research and Development Network (GARDEN). All CALS faculty (with tenure home in a CALS department) and academic staff are eligible to apply. Applications are now being accepted until March 15, 2021. The selection decision will be announced by April 15th with an expected start date of on/or after May 15th. Funds will be available for twelve months from the date of acceptance, reimbursed to the project quarterly. 

The grant may be used to support the following activities, but priority will be given to work that may lead to an international research and development grant application or funded contract: 

  1. Research project development or implementation in or with another country 
  2. Support for graduate research at an international institution
  3. Travel to an international partner institution to collaborate on project development or a grant proposal
  4. Hosting an international partner or visiting scientist at UW/CALS to strengthen global networking

Nominations for 2021 Excellence in International Activities Award

We are requesting nominations for the CALS Award for Excellence in International Activities. The CALS Global Committee previously voted in favor of alternating the award each year between faculty and staff. Consequently, this year one award will be given to honor an outstanding faculty member engaged in international research, instruction, outreach, program development, or service. We anticipate holding a virtual event to present CALS Awards on Wednesday May 5, 2021 at 3 p.m.

Eligibility: Faculty who hold appointments in a disciplinary department, center, or institute in CALS are eligible. The faculty and staff of CALS Global are not eligible. Preference will be given to international efforts that are above and beyond the nominee’s standard areas of research, teaching and/or outreach!

Selection Criteria: Nominations will be reviewed by a subgroup of the CALS Global Committee. Award recipients will be selected based on their overall contribution to further CALS mission in promoting international learning, research, and outreach among its students, staff, and faculty and the global community.

Nomination materials should include the following: 

(1) transmittal letter summarizing the significance of the nominee’s contributions to international activities. Again, preference will be given to international efforts that are above and beyond the nominee’s standard areas of research, teaching and/or outreach! 

(2) current curriculum vitae 

(3) summary document (3 pages or less) that lists and/or describes the candidate’s accomplishments in international research, instruction, outreach, program development, or service. This document should provide evidence of the impact or outcomes of the nominee’s international activities 

(4) optionally, up to three supporting documents such as letters of support (domestic or international), teaching assessments, program pamphlets, etc. can be included. 

Deadline: Please submit the nomination materials electronically as one PDF document to Julia Frangul at by Friday, February 12, 2021.

Resource for International Engagement

CALS Global has recently developed a webpage resource for international engagement. The page provides contacts, policies, travel and safety information, and resources for building alliances with foreign collaborators, for both researchers coming to the university and faculty and staff going to do research abroad. It is our hope that this resource will make international work and hosting international scholars more manageable. As always, if you have any questions about getting involved internationally, please contact CALS Global.