curious about Science and Engineering?

<p>Science and Engineering PhDs</p>

<p>According to the National Science Foundation, after adjusting for number of science and engineering undergraduate degrees, Oberlin is in the top 20 producers of S&E PhDs nationally. </p>

<p>Adjusting for number of students in S&E majors, Oberlin ranks higher than Stanford, Brown, Wesleyan and Amherst. See Table 2. Interestingly, the NSF calls the liberal arts colleges that are especially effective in producing Science and Engineering PhDs the "Oberlin 50." </p>

<p>nsf.gov</a> - SRS Baccalaureate Origins of S&E Doctorate Recipients - US National Science Foundation (NSF)</p>

<p>"According to the National Science Foundation, after adjusting for number of science and engineering undergraduate degrees, Oberlin is in the top 20 producers of S&E PhDs nationally. "</p>

<p>That is not how I read the link you provided. They use as their denominator the number of ALL degrees granted by the institution, not the number of science and engineering degrees. To quote the linked article, " The number of 1997–2006 S&E doctorate recipients per hundred bachelor's degrees awarded in all fields 9 years earlier is higher among private research universities and the Oberlin 50 liberal arts schools."</p>

<p>Note it says "degrees awarded in all fields".</p>

<p>Liberal arts colleges usually show up deceptively high on these "% of undergraduate degrees awarded" measures, because they have a much more homogeneous student population, and narrower range of programs of study, than universities do. The range of "degrees awarded in all fields" is narrower, and realtively more of the liberal arts fields traditionally lead to PhDs.
They also tend, as a group, to have much fewer recruiters coming to campus, so great alternatives to graduate school may be relatively low.</p>

<p>They also have a small population altogether, which can make the % higher.
If you have a school with 2 graduates, and one gets a physics Phd, that''s 50%. But it's still only one kid, whoopdy-do. It is statistically insignificant.
It's the same principle as when you read about some dink country receiving the highest percentage of medalists at the Olympics.</p>

<p>This in no way means a student attending a diverse university who is interested in eventually obtaining a PhD is in any way disadvantaged in doing so. Just that a higher proportion of his fellow students at the university may be pursuing other fields, with other interests. For many of these paths the PhD is not the terminal degree of choice.</p>

<p>For one thing, many engineers choose industry employment and many eventually pursue MBAs. Moreso that physical scientists. LACs do not have large engineering programs. This point alone would distort such results, even if the denominators were actually relevant- ie # physical science & engineering majors alone.</p>

<p>Look at the total numbers, not the percentages. If 6 zillion graduates of a particular university are eventually getting PhDs, obviously that university is capable of educating students to accomplish same. Even if, due to its diversity, many others at the same university seek and attain different goals than that. And if 2 people at some hole-in-the -wall LAC got a Physics Phd, that does not necessarily mean they have a program in any way comparable to the big u, it can be a statistical fluke due to the small #s involved. Some of these shools that show up on these % lists probably have very marginal programs, actually, in terms of breadth and depth of coverage of the field. You can be dealing with "the law of small numbers".</p>

<p>Table 3 on that link shows the total numbers. Those are the undergrad schools producing most of the science & engineering Phds. Though other people at those schools may have other interests, objectives,and abilities, hence lower %.</p>

<p>Liberal arts colleges are small and have a higher proportion of majors for which the PhD is the terminal degree of choice. Some of the ones with relatively smart but not wealth-oriented student bodies with many who are not "business types",that do not have good recruiting and where seniors can or must write a senior thesis, wind up high on these % lists, pretty much for these reasons alone. For some of these students grad school probably looks like the path of least resistance. Good for them, but their school is not necessarily "better", even for this objective, than institutions that offer far more, to more different types of students, simply because the LAC students have and/ or desire fewer options.</p>

<p>I don't see how it is "deceptively" high. For those who are the type of students who are likely to want to go on to grad school -- not because they have no other idea of what to do, or because there aren't "enough" recruiters for investment banking visiting the college, but because they WANT to earn PhD's in their field - liberal arts colleges offer a particularly strong education because there are many other students proportionally sharing those goals, there is a very supportive faculty (at least at Oberlin), there are lots of papers assigned (and graded by professors, not anonymous readers) and other writing opportunities, and there are smaller classes where students can gain confidence in articulating their views. For reasons like those, there are about the same number of students at Oberlin majoring, for example, in Classics as at Harvard, which has a far bigger student population and a huge faculty by comparison. Students perhaps self-select for such an environment.</p>

<p>"I don't see how it is "deceptively" high"</p>

<p>It is deceptively high because it suggests that the fate of the arts & sciences college graduates at a multi-college university is somehow linked to the presence of nursing students, business students, etc, who happen to be studying, in separate colleges, at the same university, but are nevertheless lumped into the denominator on a measure that computes % of whole student body. It does not isolate out comparable majors. For one thing.</p>

<p>",,there are lots of papers assigned (and graded by professors, not anonymous readers)"</p>

<p>D1 was in a largish class at Oberlin and I was shocked that she had a couple exams only, no papers at all, in a subject where I would have thought a paper would be obvious. My conclusion was: in the larger LAC classes, professors may very well assign LESS work, not more, than at a university, precisely because they have no TAs and would otherwise have to grade everything themselves. To the extent they do have TAs or use student graders, these individuals are obviously far less qualified than graduate student TAs who have been admitted to selective graduate programs.</p>

<p>".because there are many other students proportionally sharing those goals,"</p>

<p>The proportion means nothing, it probably means there are students in unrelated colleges at the u where a Phd is not the logical terminal degree, or they were diverted to fields they preferred, because they had that option there.</p>

<p>"there are about the same number of students at Oberlin majoring, for example, in Classics as at Harvard, which has a far bigger student population and a huge faculty by comparison. "</p>

<p>Those other Harvard students found other fields they preferred, believe me their vistas are not being limited by their education. I imagine those classics majors there have as good or better access to top PHd programs in their field as the Oberlin students do. If more of those students there want to attend Phd programs instead of going to [top] law school, med school and the investment banks, I'm sure that they would have that option available. Less so, the other way around. Despite this, a very large number of Harvard undergrads go on to get PhDs. For example, table 3 of the referenced link show that 1,775 Harvard grads got doctorates in sciences & engineering. Those many individuals obviously received sufficient instruction to accomplish that objective. While others there chose a different path.</p>

<p>Kei-o-lei: the NSF uses the term "Oberlin 50" not as a pat on the back of Oberlin, but because it is the Oberlin Group, which is an "informal consortium of the libraries of approximately 80 selective liberal arts colleges in the United States. The group developed as a result of conferences held in 1984-85 at Oberlin College when the presidents of 50 colleges met to discuss the role of science education."</p>

<p>Oberlin</a> Group - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia</p>

<p>^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^</p>

<p>yes, that is where the name came from, smartalic</p>

<p>sorry for the incorrect inference; as you point out the honorific comes from a more general sense of Oberlin excellence than one drawn just from S & E :-)</p>

<p>In re: monydad's comments . . . The point of the article as to look not JUST at absolute numbers when evaluating LAC's contributions to the nation's supply of Science and Engineering students; when monydad sticks to data he is perceptive and illustrative</p>

<p>Wheat: </p>

<p>good catch on the data; ironically, I think that strengthens the article's point: the smaller LACs make critical contributions to producing S & E students; I was surprised that the contribution was as large as it is, and that - as monydad pointed out - a fairly high percentage of students at LACs pursue PhDs in S & E </p>

<p>Chaff: </p>

<p>But so many of monydad's other comments are just so much LAC-bashing drivel . . Some of my favorites: at LACs "great alternatives to graduate school may be relatively low" . . . paying attention to small S & E programs at LACs is " the same principle as when you read about some dink country receiving the highest percentage of medalists at the Olympics" . . . for students at LACs "grad school probably looks like the path of least resistance" . . . LACs are "not necessarily "better", even for this objective, than institutions that offer far more, to more different types of students, simply because the LAC students have and/ or desire fewer options"</p>

<p>Now we are at the nub: somehow an article pointing out that LACs make a larger contribution to S&E education is falsely transposed into an argument that LACs are "better" than larger institutions, which precipitates a counterargument that LACs have fewer options, hence, implicitly, are inferior as a group</p>

<p>Three points:
1) EOO (Erudite Observation of the Obvious): smaller schools have fewer academic options than larger schools; Harvey Mudd has fewer academic options than UCLA
2) the value of options for people that don't want or need those choices is approximately zero; UC Santa Cruz's strong astronomy program doesn't help an ag chemist
3) what LACs do have - in general - is a stronger focus on undergraduate teaching, with more inquiry and smaller seminar type courses than larger institutions; it is a healthy thing for our educational system to have different kinds of education, even if some of them are smaller</p>

<p>P.S. It is interesting to note how some of those "dink countries" have higher rates of Olympic medals awarded for their population than countries with larger populations; but, hey, if all you're after is "more is better", I guess that would not be interesting, after all</p>

<p>The point is that, due to having more options, the denominator of the larger universities will usually include a great proportion of students who do not desire Phds in physical sciences & engineering than is the case at "LAC-only" schools, hence their %, measured across their entire, diverse student body, will typically be lower for this reason alone. However this in no way means the (smaller %) subset of university students who actually have such interests and abilities are disadvantaged in obtaining Phds in their fields. Or that LAC students are actually advantaged for same over that subset. That subset is actually a lot of students, and a humongous number of them do achieve Phds, as table 3 demonstrates.</p>