Nothing to See Here

The latest novel from MFA in Creative Writing graduate KEVIN WILSON ‘04 has earned rave reviews for its hilarious, surreal take on childrearing.

In Nothing to See Here (Ecco/HarperCollins), released Oct. 29, narrator Lillian is a go-nowhere millennial who once took the fall for her well-off boarding school roommate after drugs were found in their dorm. Years later, the friend, now married to a fast-rising politician, reaches later with an offer for Lillian to work as a nanny to her 10-year-old twin stepchildren — who, it turns out, literally burst into flames when they’re upset.

Told in deadpan prose, Nothing to See Here has delighted reviewers with its peculiar sensibility and moving story. A giddy notice in The New York Times Book Review called the book “wholly original” and “perfect.”

“You’re laughing so hard you don’t even realize that you’ve suddenly caught fire,” Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote in the review. The Washington Post’s write-up, meanwhile, said, “Paradoxically light and melancholy, it hews to the border of fantasy but stays in the land of realism.”

Nothing to See Here was selected by Jenna Bush Hager as the November pick for the Today Show’s book club. Wilson told Today that he has been long been obsessed with the idea of spontaneous combustion — and it would often come to mind when his own children would have tantrums.

“I started thinking about, ‘Oh, well what would it be like if you had to take care of a kid who actually burst into flames,’” he said. “The novel just kind of spiraled out of that.”

The novel is the third from Wilson, who is an associate professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South. Wilson has also published two short story collections. His 2011 debut novel, The Family Fang, became a 2015 film starring Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman and Christopher Walken. A film adaptation of Nothing to See Here is already in the works, according to Deadline.

On Nov. 14, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles will hold a free advance screening of the documentary “Cojot.” UF professor GAYLE ZACHMANN serves as a Producer and Historical consultant while y alumnus BOAZ DVIR is the Director and Producer.

Zachmann, a professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and the Center for Jewish Studies, collaborated with Dvir (’88, MA ’08, MFA ’14), to tell the story of the late Michel Cojot-Goldberg, a Holocaust survivor who sets out to kill the Nazi who imprisoned his father and ends up playing a key role in during the 1976 Entebbe hijacking crisis.

“Although the story of an individual, the life of Cojot-Goldberg spans the second half of the 20th century and speaks to a number of different histories,” Zachmann told UF News earlier this year. “From the resistance of individuals and families, hidden children, the rise of fascism and the plight of French Jews during the occupation, to those of post-war memory, justice and modern terror.”

Developed with the help of private support, the film tells the virtually unknown story of Cojot-Goldberg, who planned to kill the infamous Nazi Klaus Barbie. Known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” Barbie personally tortured French prisoners in Lyon and played a direct role in the Holocaust, sending 7,500 Jews to concentration camps.  Barbie also imprisoned Cojot-Goldberg’s father, who was sent to Auschwitz, where he died.

Cojot-Goldberg contacted Barbie in Bolivia posing as a journalist, but once seated with Barbie could not bring himself to pull the trigger. A year later, Cojot-Goldberg then played the improbable role as a translator onboard an Air France flight from Israel to France that was highjacked by terrorists and rerouted to Entebbe, Uganda.

Cojot is an exceptionally fine film concerning the trauma of Jewish identity in France during and after the Holocaust. Spanning major events from Lyon to La Paz to Entebbe, it is well-researched, wonderfully told, and deserves a wide audience.”  NORMAN J. W. GODA, Norman and Irma Braman Professor of Holocaust Studies, and Director, UF Center for Jewish Studies, said.

The screening at the Museum of Tolerance is free and open to the public and will be followed by a discussion with Dvir and Zachmann, along with special guest Olivier Cojot-Goldberg, the son of Michel Cojot-Goldberg.

To learn more about the event and to RSVP, click here.

UF biology alumnus to speak at TED in Tanzania.

Marine biologist and UF Biology alumnus Mike Gil PhD’15 has been named a TED Fellow and is one of 21 international experts who will attend and speak at this year’s TEDGlobal, TED’s annual conference, which will take place in Arusha, Tanzania in August. “I’m truly honored by the distinction,” says Gil.

Gil shares his research stories on his vlog for his nonprofit, through which he endeavors to debunk myths and inspire interest in marine biology among the world community. The vlog includes funny moments such as fish attempting to eat his camera, scenes of adventure such as underwater footage of whales and turtles, and Gil’s direct-to-camera discussions of science careers, the nature of scientific inquiry, and how to become a marine biology. Through these videos, Gil reflects upon his own journey as a scientist while presenting science as a source of wonder and understanding.

“Humans affect ecosystems that we, as a society, have come to rely heavily upon,” he says. “I think this is among the most pressing research topics of our time.” His major research projects have revolved around the effects of human activity, especially pollution, on marine environments. At the University of Florida, his dissertation project examined nutrient pollution in coral reefs caused by nitrogen-loaded industrial and agricultural runoff. Much like when you don’t clean your fish tank, nutrient pollution can lead to algae blooms that choke coral reefs.

Gil’s recent cover story of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also touched on the algae problem. In the paper, he explains how fish eat socially and, by eating algae, help protect coral reefs. However, overfishing decimates fish populations and makes this social eating — and thus overall eating — less likely and algae takeovers more likely.

In 2012, Gil set sail on the SSV Robert C. Seamans on a research cruise with the Sea Education Association. Their itinerary took Gil through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, one of several such vortices in the world’s oceans that draws oceanic debris — especially plastics — into clumps that provide refuge for various species. Gil counted organisms living among the debris he pulled aboard and studied barnacle-made structures that constituted microbiomes on the plastic debris. His findings were published in Scientific Reports on Jan. 27, 2016. In a collaborative project with fellow UF Biology graduate Joseph Pfaller PhD’16, to whom Gil provided data about the mating pairs of oceanic crabs (Planes minutus) that he found on the debris, they offered evidence for a new spatial-behavioral model of symbiosis.

Gil says that his primary drive as a biologist is to study ecosystem resilience, i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to adapt to external stressors, especially anthropogenic factors, to help inform conservation efforts for future generations’ well-being. “To make the world aware of these answers will determine the future of our species (including our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so on),” he says. “Fortunately, there is a simple, objective process that we can use to answer these questions, and it is called science.”

In addition to being a science educator and communicator, Gil is currently a National Science Foundation (USA) Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of California, Davis.

TED has taken note of his double-edged approach to science and saving the world, stating: “We choose Fellows based on remarkable achievement, their strength of character and on their innovative approach to solving the world’s tough problems.”

“Ever wonder if true adventure still exists in this world?” asks’s tagline. Thanks to Mike Gil, we don’t have to.

UF Chemistry has bold plans for its future.

On April 21, 2017, more than 200 people gathered for the dedication of Joseph Hernandez Hall, which provides state-of-the-art facilities for general chemistry, organic chemistry, and chemical biology at UF. The two-level atrium was packed with UF Chemistry faculty and students, special guests of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and donors to the building.

David E. Richardson, Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, served as Master of Ceremonies, describing how the long trajectory of one of UF’s oldest departments led to the development of Joseph Hernandez Hall. The building will provide top-notch equipment and hands-on learning for hundreds of UF undergraduates, as well as graduate, postdoc, and faculty researchers.

Dean Richardson introduced Mori Husseini, Vice-Chair of UF’s Board of Trustees, to talk about the remarkable stature and amenities of the building. For example, the building contains enough concrete to build a four-foot wide, 15-mile sidewalk and 165 tons of metal — the weight of 400 adult alligators, if you’re counting in Alberts. Husseini’s lighthearted speech enhanced the excitement of the audience, including Joseph Hernandez’ daughter, Estelle.

Next, the building namesake and UF alumnus, Joe Hernandez ’96, MS’98, MBA’98, took the stage and explained how his curiosity led to his triple-degree career at UF and his post-graduate enterprises.

Self-described as being “attention deficit,” Hernandez has launched five biotech start-ups that are involved with creating therapies for a number of conditions, including osteoarthritis and ovarian cancer.

President Kent Fuchs was all smiles when he took the podium to describe the significance of Joseph Hernandez Hall to UF as a robust research institution. He gave the “buckyball” sculpture hanging at the atrium entrance as a symbol of the intersection between arts and sciences. Designed by UK artist Tony Stallard, the sculpture depicts the carbon-60 molecule fullerene, weighs 650 pounds, and is made of stainless steel, with a Plexiglas centerpiece.

William “Bill” Dolbier, chair of UF’s Department of Chemistry, noted that the first Master’s and PhD recipients at UF, in 1907 and 1934, respectively, were both chemists. Continuing a brief historical overview of UF Chemistry, he explained that in 2013, the Florida Legislature made its first allocation for the building, and the groundbreaking occurred in October 2014. He also thanked, from UF, Frank Javaheri, project manager; John Flowers, chemistry facilities manager; and the faculty members who designed the labs: Phil Brucat, Tammy Davidson, Steve Bruner, and Aaron Aponick.

Susan Webster, the outgoing student body president, shared her story of how she encountered a man peering into Joseph Hernandez Hall. When she asked him what he thought of it, he told her that he had just accepted an offer to join the PhD program in chemistry, in part due to the “wow factor” of the building. She then described her first meeting of Joe Hernandez and joked that all UF students should aspire to be able to donate $10 million to their alma mater by age 43.

See moments from the event on Exposure.

Hundreds turn out to leave their mark on new chemistry building

Almost a year after the groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Florida’s new chemistry/chemical biology at the corner of University Avenue and Buckman Drive, hundreds gathered to leave their signature on a one-ton beam that will be placed on the tallest portion of the building.

Skanska, the development company building the facility, and UF sponsored a beam signing and topping-out ceremony on the construction site on Friday.

“Topping out is an interesting tradition in construction and generally relates to installing the last and highest beam in the building,” said UF’s Frank Javaheri, senior project manager for the building. “It is a mini goal within the major goal and a reminder that this portion of the milestone is completed.”

Guests, including workers, faculty and staff, students and alumni, also signed two columns on the ground floor.


two people sign a beam while others look on
Attendees wait their turn to sign a beam
line of people entering the beam-signing ceremony
The line grows.


Alumnus Jorge Quintana was among those who signed the beam and columns. “I hope my children will someday attend UF, and I’ll be able to say I’ve literally left my mark on the university,” he said.

When completed next June, the $67 million facility will provide 110,493 square feet of space for undergraduate and graduate education, including an entire floor devoted to chemical biology and chemical synthesis.


people hold orange and blue permanent markers as they prepare to sign a beam
People were happy to leave their mark on the beam.
men in hard hats and two women sign the beam
Skanska workers join UF students and faculty in signing a beam.
a group of men signing the beam
L to R, Robert Kincart ’72, Mike Lee ’85, PhD ’87, Dr. Howard Sheridan ’65 and Professor of Chemistry Rick Yost sign their “Albert Alligator” to the highest beam of the new Chemistry/Chemical Biology Building.Hannah Pietrick


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean David Richardson said he is having the best year of his 30-year career at UF, largely because of this new construction. Richardson, a chemistry professor, has long advocated for a state-of-the-art building to replace the outdated and outmoded facilities. He thanked the workers at the ceremony, saying, “Thousands of students will pass through these halls that you have worked so hard to build. Where you are sitting now will become a major hub for research, learning and innovation at the University of Florida.”

See on UF News.

UF breaks ground for long awaited chemistry building.

The University of Florida will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for its new chemistry/chemical biology building at 11 a.m. Friday at the corner of University Avenue and Buckman Drive.

The facility will provide 110,000 square feet of space for undergraduate and graduate education, including an entire floor devoted to chemical biology and chemical synthesis.

“This will enable us to move into the strong, interdisciplinary area of chemical biology, which will allow us to collaborate with the medical school and the College of Engineering on drug discovery,” said professor Bill Dolbier, chair of the chemistry department.

The building is expected to cost $67 million. The state has committed $42 million toward the overall cost.

The University of Florida is among the top five doctoral chemistry programs in the country, despite its outdated labs and classrooms. This project has been a priority for President Bernie Machen, who said, “The continued rise of UF’s chemistry department is vital to the university and our plan for preeminence, and we will only remain on the trajectory with a facility that is truly world class. The new chemistry building will meet that high standard — aiding our scientists, empowering our students and enable the creative solutions to the increasingly complex and challenging technical problems facing our planet.”

Chemistry is a core discipline — required for engineering, biology and medicine. Forty percent of the current incoming freshman class is enrolled in general chemistry classes.

Dave Richardson, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said, “This new facility on University Avenue will no doubt become a popular destination for thousands of UF students every year, with its state-of-the-art teaching laboratories and striking interior design. The building will be an educational showplace that sets the bar for the next generation of instructional spaces at UF, and it will make a bold statement about our future to those visiting the campus.”