Tom Zinnen

Extension Biotechnology Policy and Outreach SpecialistTom Zinnen

Schedule a Field Trip to any of the two dozen science outreach venues at UW-Madison

Schedule a Field Trip to the Biotechnology Center:  contact Tom at

Watch Wednesday Nite @ The Lab live at or in archive at .  WN@TL is a public science series that runs every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, starting at 7:00 pm Central.

Position Priorities

  • Sharing Science with Wisconsin:  connect with your land-grant research university at
  • Improving science savvy to enable people to better use science in making personal choices and public policies.
  • Providing information on biotechnology products, processes and risk assessment techniques


  • Bachelor’s degree in biology from University of Wisconsin-Platteville
  • Master’s degree in plant pathology from University of Illinois
  • Doctorate in plant pathology from University of Wisconsin-Madison

Previous Professional Experience

Tom was a post-doc researcher at Agrigenetics in Madison in 1985-86, and then worked at Northern Illinois University for five years as an assistant professor in the Biology Department and the Plant Molecular Biology Center. He joined UW-Extension on June 3, 1991. In October 1995 Tom and his other colleagues at the Biotechnology Center moved into a new building on Henry Mall on the UW-Madison campus;  this Genetics/Biotech Center includes two labs dedicated for outreach to learners of any age, including adults, 4-H groups, scouts and other youth groups, schools and afterschools.  From October 2000 to August 2001 Tom served as a Congressional Science Fellow with the House Committee on Agriculture in Washington, DC.  From November 2008 to August 2010 Tom served as a speechwriter for the Director of the National Science Foundation near Washington, DC.

Highlights of Current Assignments and Programs

  • Providing field trips for learners of all ages, with an emphasis on welcoming people to the UW-Madison campus to experience science as discovery and to explore science a way of probing the unknown (
  • Training and coaching volunteers to provide community-based events such as Family Science Nights at schools and volunteer-staffed Exploration Stations at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days and county fairs.
  • Developing new hands-on activities, especially those based on foods & nutrition, to develop science savvy for learners of all ages, including in conjunction with the 4-H STEM Team.
  • Creating materials and training on the technical and social impacts of biotechnology (
  • Organizing the UW-Madison Science Alliance and the science outreach portal for the public ( to synergize the wide range of science outreach programs and to improve the public’s access to the science outreach resources of UW-Madison and UW-Extension.
  • Organizing the UW-Madison Science Expeditions campus-wide science open house for the public every spring (March 20-22, 2015).
  • Organizing the Wednesday Nite @ The Lab public science series offered at 7 pm every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, and viewable live and in archive at as well as on the “University Place” series of Wisconsin Public Television’s “Wisconsin Channel” (see‎).

Contact Tom at:

1120 Genetics – Biotech Center Bldg.
425 Henry Mall
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: (608) 265-2420
FAX: (608) 262-6748