Two Waisman Investigators Named Research Professors

By Emily Leclerc and Charlene N. Rivera-Bonet, Waisman Science Writers

Tracy Hagemann, PhD, and Yunlong Tao, PhD
Tracy Hagemann, PhD, (right) and Yunlong Tao, PhD, were named research professors and are the first two to hold this title at the Waisman Center and among the first with the title on the UW-Madison campus. Shown in the Alexander Disease Laboratory at the Waisman Center.

Two Waisman investigators were recently awarded a new professor title track at UW-Madison. Tracy Hagemann, PhD, and Yunlong Tao, PhD, were named research professors and are the first two to hold this title at the Waisman Center and among the first with the title on the UW-Madison campus.

The research professor title is a new non-tenure track position that allows investigators to focus on research efforts without teaching responsibilities. Research professors are expected to obtain their own extramural funding and conduct high quality research. They may also mentor graduate students, provide laboratory-based teaching, and serve on graduate student committees and as primary advisors.

Hagemann, previously a senior scientist, is now an associate research professor and Tao an assistant research professor. For Hagemann, the move to apply for the title, was a practical one. “I have been working with Albee Messing, VMD, PhD, in his Alexander disease lab for nearly 20 years,” Hagemann says. “With his retirement several years ago, it felt like it was time to become more independent, apply for my own grants, and run my own lab.” Messing is professor emeritus of comparative biosciences and a former director of the Waisman Center.

Hagemann will continue to research Alexander disease, a rare and often fatal neurological disorder that causes the destruction of the white matter in the brain, building on the work she has done with Messing over the last several decades. This new title allows Hagemann to focus solely on her research as she works to shed light on the causes and consequences of Alexander disease.

Tao, a former postdoctoral student and assistant scientist in the lab of Su-Chun Zhang, MD, PhD, a professor or neuroscience and neurology, plans to use stem cells to study therapeutic approaches for retinal disorders and other neurological diseases in his lab. Tao is thrilled by the opportunities the new title affords him. “I’m very excited about this offer,” Tao says. “With this title I can do my own research in the field I’m interested in, apply for my own grants, and provide support to my own postdocs.”

Both Hagemann and Tao’s new titles were confirmed in February 2022 and they are both excited to move forward with their important work.

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