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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop
disservice if we set a specific timetable and say that all students have to graduate during that time. This is not going to work, particularly for the students who are not in Chicago, Harvard, or Caltech graduate programs.
The other thing is that we keep clamoring for a model in terms of science education at the undergraduate level. We don’t have to go far from here to find a model, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). They have undergraduates who come into science and, 4 years later, 50 percent of these students are still in science. They have documented data regarding comparable students who came to their institution, interviewed, and elected to go elsewhere for various reasons. As I recall, only 3 percent of the students who went elsewhere are still in science. Clearly, this is a model that works, so I don’t know why we continue to say that we have yet to find a model. The UMBC model works. Go over there and let Freeman Hrabowsky show you why it is working.
Edel Wasserman: I would like to come back to the point that Peter and Steve raised. We are dealing with individuals, and they are not going to fit into a single mold. The number of people, however, who will study molecular beams and then become stockbrokers is a sufficiently small fraction that we should not define public policy on such instances.
Most of the students we are discussing are hoping to have a career that is science related when they leave graduate school. They may change their minds. One of the reasons for a change is that through the graduate period they usually are exposed to only a few of the opportunities for those with a science-based education. If they saw a broader view, some might decide, for example, to stop with a master’s degree in chemistry and obtain an M.B.A. to allow them to pursue other possibilities. The point is to be flexible. Individuals vary, and one answer does not fit all.
The criterion that someone ought to be able to choose an appropriate research problem as a requirement for a Ph.D. is, to me, unfortunate. Some of the most talented, valuable, and excited individuals I have seen in industry are incredibly good at solving problems but seem to have less interest in choosing broad research areas. Again, I believe we ought to keep a variety of possibilities in mind as we ask what education should be.
James D. Martin, North Carolina State University: Before I make my comment, I would just like to remind us that women are getting graduate degrees, and we need to include “she” in our vocabulary. The issue I would like to raise focuses on the relation of junior faculty to the discussion at hand. I think if you take a look at your junior faculty, you are going to see that many of these issues such as time to degree and interdisciplinarity are already being addressed. I don’t know of many junior faculty who keep students in their labs more than four or five years for a Ph.D. Maybe it is because we are trying to get tenure, and we have a clock. The clock on us affects the time for students. Maybe we need to put a clock on senior faculty.
In terms of interdisciplinarity, most junior faculty that I know are interdisciplinary in the way that they look at science. Stephen Berry noted that in the days of scientists such as Linus Pauling there was a greater degree of interdisciplinary thought than is witnessed today. I believe the pendulum may be on its return. Those of us approaching the “messy problems” today have to be interdisciplinary in order to make progress in our research. At the same time, I resonate with the problem that comes when we institutionalize interdisciplinarity. This institutionalization generally comes at the direct expense of junior faculty. It takes a while until junior faculty are known in the community and sought out for collaborations. So, unless one is at an institution with an already established interdisciplinary center, junior faculty have little to no access to these resources. The majority of such resources seem to be going either to established faculty or established departments.