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THE ROLE OF UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH COLLEGES IN THE EDUCATION OF FUTURE NUTRITION SCIENTISTS M.R.C. Greenwood and Patricia R. Johnson Nutrition is an old and distinguished science. It has evolved over the past century, beginning with early discoveries that living organisms, including humans, obeyed the laws of thermodynamics. In the late 1800s, nutrition scientists demonstrated that energy metabolism in man was not fundamentally different from the process of heat production by the oxidation of conventional fuels. This initial series of observations formed the basis of nearly a century of scientific investigation, which continues today, as modern nutrition scientists continue to strive to understand how the regulation of gene expression and metabolism are influenced by nutrient status. An early definition of nutrition and its role in the basis of food selection was offered in 1927 by a prominent nutrition scientist, Ruth Wheeler, then a member of the Vassar College faculty: "The only wise basis for food selection is a thorough knowledge of nutrition: the value of various foods in terms of the nutrients they supply; the importance of each nutrient in nutrition of the body; the nutritive requirements of people of different ages and different conditions of health and activity" (American Red Cross 1927~. This definition differs little from many that have been offered over the more than 60 years since then, and indeed, it could be found with little alteration on the pages of most currently used nutrition textbooks. 209

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Nonetheless? as pointed out below by a modern nutrition scientist, the same questions may remain, but the approaches are rapidly changing the power and the exactness of our possible understanding of a new nutrition science. The major undertaking for the future will be a study of the impact of the environment on precisely described living systems. The genome is shaped, molded, expressed or repressed by events occurring during "windows" of developmental opportunity. ~ ~ Among these, the influence of nutrients wntcn are pieces of the environment incorporated into the substance of living cells must surely figure prominently. This is the province of modern nutrition science. The new nutrition will utilize biological understanding at the most profound level to direct man to that selection of nutrients which will optimize health, comfort and social function. This is very little different from previous definitions of nutrition science; the goals are the same but the tools and investigative approaches are now very much more powerful and exact than in the past (Jules Hirsch, The Rockefeller University, 1987~. To ensure that the next generation of nutrition scientists includes the best creative minds, in all of the subdisciplinary areas intrinsic to nutrition in the twenty-first century, nontraditional resources will need to be more carefully examined and encouraged. One of the best, and frequently less obvious, of these resources for nutrition scientists of the twenty-first century is the graduate pool from our nation's top research colleges. THE DEFINITION OF "RESEARCH COLLEGE" Research colleges include the finest of our undergraduate colleges, which have traditionally produced large numbers of the nation's subsequent science scholars and leading clinical investigators. In research colleges, faculty members in the biological sciences and their colleagues in related science and mathematics departments are training nearly one-half of the next generation of biological science scholars and physicians. These biological science faculty members have trained in the finest research universities in the world (Table 1), and most newly recruited faculty members have had several 210

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TABLE 1 Doctoral Degree Origins of the 1985-1986 Science Faculty Harvard Wisconsin University of California, Berkeley Yale Illinois Michigan Massachusetts Princeton Institute of Technology Stanford Purdue University of California, Los Angeles Cal Tech Penn Colorado Iowa State Lehigh Case Western Rochester Cornell Ohio State Chicago Massachusetts Johns Hopkins Brown Columbia Oregon Rutgers State Dartmouth Indiana University of Washington Penn State Michigan State Minnesota Duke Kansas Washington Iowa North Carolina Pittsburgh Virginia Arizona Northwestern Syracuse Texas NOTE: There were a total of 1,385 doctoral degrees conferred by the indicated institutions. Each institution contributed at least eight doctoral degrees. The range was 68 (Harvard) to 8 (Texas). 211

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to many years of postdoctoral experience prior to joining the faculty ranks. Although the rate of scientific publication for these scholars-teachers is less than that of their colleagues in major research universities, publication in the literature is a prominent feature in the careers of these scientists as well. TRAINING FOR NEW NUTRITION SCIENTIST Crafting an education for nutrition scholars of the twenty-first century is a challenge. While the Sputnik era presented the United States with an immediately recognized educational need, particularly in the chemistry, physics, and engineering arenas, at no other time in U.S. history has there been a greater need to have the best and brightest minds turned to understanding, unraveling, and interpreting the complexity of problems being approached by biological scientists. The field of nutrition science is one increasingly important emergent area that draws the attention of many modern biological scholars. On a weekly basis, new genes are being cloned, new insights into neural mechanisms are reported, chronic diseases are associated with new cofactors or modes of genetic regulation, and behavioral concomitant factors of disease are identified. Nutrition scientists are engaged in such investigations in significant numbers. In addition to the information being provided by the use of new technologies, their impact for individuals and for human societies and cultures is being hotly debated. It is both a time of feast for the scientific intellect and a time for profoundly probing the nature and meaning of human existence. Debate and study about the relationship of nutrients to disease and health figures prominently in the literature being written. The knowledge, tools, and technologies that now reside in the collective consciousness of biological scholars as we move into the next century hold serious implications for human society. Thus, our nation requires from our colleges not only technically sophisticated graduates who will continue to add to this knowledge base but also individuals trained to interpret this new knowledge for a citizenry that is generally scientifically illiterate, some of whom will become our legislators and policymakers, and all of whom will be called upon to voice their opinions and cast 212

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their votes on complex issues that are based on biotechnology or complex biobehavioral interactions. The faculty in our research colleges is committed to the proposition that one critical approach to educating students for these challenges is to educate them to understand the interactive nature of the biological sciences. It is necessary to teach the necessity of drawing upon cognate fields and to imbue students with spirited curiosity and the confidence to address the hard questions. Perhaps most importantly in this age of scientific illiteracy and Math fear," undergraduate teachers must systematically and firmly dispel any lack of confidence in ability to master the hard sciences that students often have upon arrival at a college or university. To accomplish these ends, the infrastructure of the curriculum and departmental and collegial interactions must be such that, for example, students experience not only the individual pleasures and rigors of subdisciplinary study but also gain an appreciation of the overall intellectual network of ideas and the need for the constant communication among scholars that informs and shapes developing minds to be able to make creative leaps and connections. One of the great challenges of undergraduate science education, especially in the liberal arts setting, is to provide opportunity for detailed hands on state-of-the-art instrumental work, which is, by design, particular and subdisciplinarily specific, while at the same time encouraging students to keep minds open to ever-increasing opportunities for scholarship in emergent inter- and multidisciplinary fields. As nutrition becomes both more didactically specific and more multidisciplinary in its applications, the need to attract young scholars with vision and finely attuned skills at hypothesis testing will become ever more acute. The best of our research colleges have a special opportunity to provide this stimulation. SOME DIFFERENCES IN EMPHASIS BETWEEN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES Our great universities place considerable emphasis on scientific specialization and productivity measured by a variety of standards such as publication rate, amount and duration of extramural funding, and national rankings. This atmosphere has certainly led to many superb 213

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accomplishments in nutrition science as well as in other subdisciplines of biological science, but the university model is not without its problems, particularly at the undergraduate level. In attempts to meet requirements for national and international success, departments may become insular, and individual investigators may feel that they do not have time to step outside their subdisciplinary area. Because of their size alone, university departments may not interact extensively with any but the most closely allied departments or with those with which they share equipment. In addition, the best and most experienced scholars are infrequently in extended contact with substantial numbers of undergraduate students. In contrast, in the research colleges, departments are small, necessitating curricular and collegial interaction between science departments. While the need to produce recognized scholarship is also felt strongly at these institutions, the primary product for evaluation is the number of well-educated and inquisitive young scientists who are graduated. In these colleges, it is the mature scholars trained at the best research universities in the world who themselves serve at the bench with their students. They design the laboratory experimental work, they read and grade the papers and reports, they listen to the first (and subsequent) oral presentations attempted by students, and they make substantial contributions to the scientific literature with their own scholarly endeavors. This vital link in the scientific pipeline of the future must not only be preserved but it also must be strengthened. THE PAST RECORD OF RESEARCH COLLEGES Over the past several decades the research colleges, including Vassar College, have consistently contributed to maintenance of the scientific pipeline by proportionately outproducing the research universities in training science undergraduates. A 1951 Carnegie Foundation report examining the productivity of institutions whose graduates went on to obtain doctoral degrees in the sciences noted that small liberal arts colleges were prominently and disproportionately represented among the top 50 most productive institutions (Knapp and Goodrich, 1951~. This early study 214

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concentrated primarily on the baccalaureate origin of males, but a more recent report confirmed that although the actual institutions from which women who subsequently go on to obtain doctorates differ from the male pattern, the small liberal arts colleges are most productive of female as well as male scientists (Tidball, 1986; Tidball and Kistiakowsky, 1976~. This argument is now detailed in the report entitled "Maintaining America's Scientific Productivity: The Necessity of the Liberal Arts Colleges" (Carrier and Davis-Van Atta, 1987~. This study, released in March 1987, provides data from 49 colleges chosen because of their previous history of sending graduates for further professional scientific training. The study shows that these colleges, including Vassar, contribute over 40% of all baccalaureate degrees awarded in the basic sciences in this country. Even more impressive is the evidence that while the number of baccalaureate degrees in basic sciences produced by the research universities fell by IS% over the past decade, the number produced by these colleges has remained constant over the same period. Furthermore, the percentage of science graduates is greater in the research colleges that it is In the universities, and this percentage has remained constant for over a decade (Figure 1~. In fact, the actual number of baccalaureate degrees may have increased since 1983. 30 cow so q) 20 10 O t 974 1976 1978 - my- a pe~lt chaligc 20fF 1980 1982 1984 Year Confers FIGURE 1 Percentage of baccalaureate degrees awarded to basic science majors. The overall percentage is highest in the colleges listed in Table 1 and has decreased less than that of the university group. SOURCE: Data from Carrier and Davis-Van Atta (1987~. 215

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Of those students who graduate, a large proportion enter into postgraduate training. For example, of the students from the class of 1980 whose postgraduate fate was known, approximately 80% of biology majors and chemistry majors had entered professional training (primarily medical school) and nearly 50% of math majors had enrolled in postgraduate work (Figure 2~. In 50 40 30 20 10 O Discipline Biology Chemistry Science O Professional Non-science Mathematics FIGURE 2 Patterns of graduate school attendance of the class of 1980 after 5-6 years. Nearly 80% of the biology and chemistry graduates, whose decisions were known, have entered graduate or professional schools. SOURCE: Data from Carrier and Davis-Van Atta (1987~. addition, these graduates of the research colleges are prominently represented in measures of recognized scholarly contributions. For example, when the baccalaureate origins of members of the National Academy of Sciences were examined, 15 of the research colleges were represented in the top 25 institutions from which members obtained baccalaureate degrees. Furthermore, among the 1,000 most cited authors indicated in the I.S.I. Citation Index, again, the baccalaureate origins 216

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included 15 research colleges in the top 25 institutions and 5 among the top 10 institutions. The future predictions of a continuing pool of new scientists from these institutions are also encouraging since, in these 49 research colleges, nearly 30% of entering freshmen intend to major in the sciences. Furthermore, the representation of groups currently underpresented in science may be growing at these schools, and thus, the potential expansion of the overall pool may be possible in this setting. This current enrollment trend is in significant contrast to national trends at the highly selective top 20 research universities, where the percentage of freshmen intending to major in science is approximately IS% and is in stark contrast to overall national trends, for which the estimate is 5% (Figure 3~. Thus, the major conclusion of 40 30 20 10 o 50 CollegesO Private 4-year non-sectarian O Private Univs.Colleges high selectivity Nation 976 1979 1984 1985 l ~- Year of Enrollment FIGURE 3 Freshmen intent to major in basic sciences _ higher in the 50 college group than in any of the other comparison groups and is not declining significantly. SOURCE: Data from Carrier and Davis-Van Atta (1987~. 217

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the Oberlin College study (Carrier and Davis-Van Atta, 1987) is that the selective liberal arts colleges are an indispensable national resource for maintaining scientific manpower in the United States. The success of these colleges in training fine scientists may lie at least partly in their historic traditions. In virtually all these colleges, classes are small and the faculty are dedicated to educating students in the process of science, rather than in its products alone. Thus, all those who major in the sciences have extensive laboratory experience. This tradition is particularly strong in the biological sciences, where most courses in the major include integral laboratories from the introductory to the senior level. In many of these colleges, upper-division courses feature project-oriented laboratories in which students first learn new basic methodologies, which they apply in the design, conduct, data analyses, and reporting of experimental projects. In addition to course-related laboratory learning, the biological sciences curriculum frequently offers students the opportunity to earn credit in independent study with faculty members. When this is coupled with opportunities for summer research either at the home institution or at a university, considerable sophistication is evidenced. Thus, many biological science majors are able to engage in sustained experimental work that results in publishable contributions to the scientific literature. Indeed, nearly one-third of the publications emanating from these colleges are coauthored with undergraduate colleagues. opportunities provided in the research colleges are apparently important in maintaining and creating a sustained interest in science. This is a pool of talent that must be tapped with more frequency as we search to identify the next generation of nutrition scientists. Thus, for many undergraduates the - SUMMARY AND DIRECTIONS FOR THE FUTURE The education of the nutrition scientists of the future requires the same basic education at the undergraduate level that is required of any prospective scientific scholar. There is considerable evidence that the nation's research colleges are an especially excellent 218

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source of such scientists. The new nutrition science will require that the best scientific minds be attracted into the field. The increasing need for scientists in many disciplines will be competing for an ever-shrinking traditional pool of potential scientists for all fields of science in the future (National Science Board Task Force, 1986~. Thus, new mechanisms to expose students in these colleges to the excitement and opportunities in nutritionally related sciences must be found if we are to expect students to select careers in nutrition science. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The authors are particularly grateful to Professor Emeritus Elizabeth Daniels, the Vassar College historian, for her assistance in finding materials on early nutrition science at Vassar College and on the career of Ruth Wheeler. We are also grateful to the members of the Vassar College Library Special Collection Office who helped assemble historical materials. We thank Jim Brown for preparing the figures. REFERENCES American Red Cross. 1927. Textbook on Food and Nutrition. A Study of the Basis of Food Selection. American Red Cross, Washington, D.C. Carrier, S.C., and D. Davis-Van Atta. 1987. Maintaining America's Scientific Productivity: The Necessity of the Liberal Arts Colleges. Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. Knapp, R.H., and H.B. Goodrich. 1951. The origins of American scientists. Science 113: S43-S4S. National Science Board Task Force. 1986. Undergraduate Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education. A report of the National Science Board Task Force. March. National Science Board. Tidball, M.E. 1986. Baccalaureate origins of recent natural science doctorates. J. Higher Ed. 57:606-620. Tidball, M.E., and V. Kistiakowsky. 1976. Baccalaureate origins of American scientists and scholars. Science 193:646-652. 219

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