Portrait Photograph of Tom Zinnen

Tom Zinnen

Emeritus Biotech Outreach Specialist

Biotechnology Center

Hometown: Dixon, IL

Tom Zinnen was a Biotechnology Extension Specialist between 1991 and 2024. He also served as a Congressional Science Fellow in 2000–2001, and he was on loan to the National Science Foundation from 2008 to 2010 as a speechwriter for the NSF Director. He led BioTrek, the public outreach program of the Biotech Center and of the Division of Extension/Wisconsin 4-H. He was the emcee of the “Wednesday Nite @ The Lab” public science series on PBS Wisconsin. His favorite role is welcoming Wisconsinites to come experience science as exploring the unknown at their public, land-grant research university.


Changing Colors in the Spectrum of Biotechnology & Food

Biotechnology – specifically, genetic engineering- applied to food continues to spark national & international controversy. Zinnen compares a range of technologies used in crops and contrasts public response to GMOs in the US and around the world. Explore the impacts of using – or shelving – these remarkable technologies.

Approximate Length of Talk: Flexible

Sharing Science with Children and Grandchildren

Experience science as exploring the unknown through experimentation and other investigations as you hone your talents in coaching the next generation of explorers and inventors. Find out more how you can make UW-Madison- the 3rd largest research university by R&D budget in the US – your Destination for Exploration in dozens of fields of discovery.

Approximate Length of Talk: Flexible

Experiencing Science as Exploring the Unknown

Working in a research lab environment, Dr. Zinnen will lead two activities that invite students to experience science as exploring the unknown through experimentation. Those activities are the Puzzle of the Color-changing Pencil and the Paradox of the DNA Tube. Both activities emphasize the human yearning for learning and especially the discovery of the new.

Approximate Length of Talk: Flexible

X Marks the Spot: Places of Great Discoveries at UW-Madison

Explore the people and the places of great discoveries at UW-Madison that have changed how we look at life and how we lead our lives, including the discovery of vitamins, DNA breakthroughs that won four Nobel Prizes in Medicine, and the development of human embryonic stem cells.