• Local economies need jobs created by technologies based on research results.
Schuster argued that graduate education in chemistry should meet all of these objectives. But not all departments need to pursue all goals. Different departments and universities can specialize in different aspects of the work that needs to be done.
The important thing for universities to recognize is that epoch three is over, Schuster said. Today, academic chemistry continues to have a massive infrastructure focused on doing research and publishing papers. But the infrastructure built in epoch three is no longer sustainable. Other universities will not be far behind the University of California system in dealing with severe budgetary constraints, he predicted. The single objective of doing fundamental research, writing papers, and getting grants is no longer enough.
The new epoch will need to have new objectives. For example, the current PhD education is narrowly focused. This model has worked well to advance science, but it may be less effective in achieving the other objectives. Instead of a student working on one project for five years, perhaps a student could work for three different mentors over those five years on three different but related problems. “You sacrifice a bit of the depth, but increase the breadth considerably.” (This subject is discussed later in this chapter, while the structure of graduate education in chemistry is discussed in Chapter 5.)
Another option to consider, and one discussed throughout the symposium, is the professional master’s degree (which is also discussed in Chapter 5). Georgia Tech has master’s degrees in a variety of areas like computational biology and human-computer interaction, Schuster noted, though not in chemistry or physics, because in those fields the master’s degree is seen more as a consolation prize than as a desired credential. A reinvigorated master’s degree program could provide students with breadth without the great depth of a PhD program. The problem for faculty is that these options would not generate as many papers, which would be a detriment for them in the current system.
Universities are in an evolutionary period, Schuster concluded. Some will devise new structures and procedures and will succeed, while others will fail. He quoted A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard University from 1909 to 1933, who said in his inaugural address, “Institutions are rarely murdered. They meet their end by suicide…. They die because they have outlived their usefulness or fail to do the work that the world wants done” (Lowell, 1909).
During the discussion period following Schuster’s presentation, Bergman pointed out that universities cannot do everything society