became educating people to lead the United States through the Industrial Revolution. During this second epoch in the history of higher education, the federal government, for the first time, had a role in higher education, though the great land grant universities created by the Morrill Act focused largely on local economic development. Nevertheless, this economic development helped fuel the Industrial Revolution in the United States and raised the living standards of large masses of ordinary people.
The third epoch began in 1941 when the federal government created the Office of Scientific Research and Development to coordinate scientific research for military purposes during World War II. The tremendous success of scientific research during the war in developing innovations like radar, nuclear weapons, and penicillin led to a great expansion of science both during and after the war. Sponsored largely by the federal government and centered largely at universities, this expansion of science led to the creation of a massive infrastructure of facilities, people, and procedures serving the purposes of both research and education.
The third epoch came to an end, in Schuster’s analysis, in 1993, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Suddenly the government’s rationale for supporting science was greatly diminished, which was symbolized by the cancellation of the superconducting supercollider project that year after $2 billion had already been invested in the project. During this fourth epoch, which continues today, many of the large corporations that hired chemists in the past have faded from the scene or are shells of what they once were. Other companies, such as many pharmaceutical companies, are moving many research jobs overseas to be nearer to growing markets and to take advantage of lower labor costs.
As a result, students today face a very different work environment than in the past. More students are going into small start-up companies, but the skills required for these jobs are different than those in large corporations. These companies need people with the experience and skill to solve problems immediately, because the company may need that problem solved to survive.
Given these changes, what should be the objectives of graduate education in chemistry? Schuster listed several:
• Students need discipline-specific knowledge and enhanced critical thinking skills.
• Employers need a skilled workforce.
• New discoveries are needed to enrich science.
• Companies need new ideas from which they can develop intellectual property.