Thursday, September 06, 2007

Old News

I came across this old Boston Globe article from 2005 recently. NSF reported that, of all women who earned doctorates in science (and mathematics) between 1997-2001, more attended Berkeley as undergraduates than any other school. Jenny Harrison is quoted extensively.

All of the top 10 schools, with the exception of Cornell and Harvard, were also state flagship universities. But raw numbers do not tell the whole story. Some schools have larger undergraduate populations than others. For instance, a higher percentage of Caltech ( ~250 undergraduates per class) graduates might earn doctorates than Cal (~4-5000 undergraduates per class).

Mark wanted to know the comparable rankings for men. I recall an earlier study that showed successful scientists were most likely to have attended state flagship universities as undergrads. A few private schools such as MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Cornell, Northwestern rounded out the list but the Ivies were not hotbeds for science. (Cornell is both an Ivy and a state agricultural college.)

That said, there is something special about Berkeley. The undergraduate populations of other state flagship universities, especially the large Midwestern schools, overshadow Berkeley's. Yet Berkeley produces more people who go on to earn PhDs in science and engineering than other larger schools.

I am not a sociologist, but I think that the heavy debt loads incurred by students at the Ivies would scare students away from a career path as risky and low-paid (relative to other professions with fewer years of training) as science.

Read Cream of the Crop: The Impact of Elite Education in the Decade After College
Jenny Harrison's impact upon my career

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm... I really should have gone to Berkeley as an undergrad, but as a kid, I wanted to get as far away from my family and where I grew up as possible. I went to Caltech first and then transferred to Harvard... I've had friends who went to Berkeley for grad school and *loved* it.


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