Faculty Subject Matter Expertise

I’m interested in student feedback regarding the level of expert knowledge the professors at the following schools possess:

  • Cornell
  • Union College
  • Penn State
  • UNC Chapel Hill
  • Texas A&M
  • Texas Tech

I am planning to major in chemistry, and pursue the pre-med track and apply to 7 year/8 year BS/MD Programs.

I am really looking for a school where my teachers are extremely passionate about what they teach , and I would appreciate any feedback.

There is really no way to generalize that. Any professor will have “expert knowledge” – they have advanced degrees in their fields. And any school will have a few teachers who are teaching a class (say, freshman gen chem) that they’re not excited about.

You must be joking. Do you really think that universities will have professors without “expert knowledge” in their fields?

What you need to do is go to each college’s chemistry faculty page, e.g., http://chemistry.cornell.edu/faculty
and look at each professor’s page.

Someone who made it to be a professor in any of those colleges will be very passionate about chemistry.

If you want to know student thoughts on the professors, you can check out: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/

They will all have a PhD in the field they teach, and they’ll have signficant publications, research, etc. But does that make them good teachers? If that’s what you’re really after, that’s a different question.

^Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. Passion for teaching is not the same thing as expert knowledge. All of the schools you listed (aside from Union College) are research universities where the professors will be expected to be top-notch researchers with expert knowledge in chemistry and whatever their respective fields are. And Union is a pretty good LAC, so the professors there will largely have that background, too, although they’ll be doing less research now. So there’s not necessarily much to differentiate the professors at that level between these schools - at least not in a way that would matter to an undergraduate.

Passion for teaching is different, though, and will vary from professor to professor. Sometimes it’s also about the rewards for teaching, too. For example, a university like Cornell rewards professors primarily for research; that means that it’s research that gets them tenure and promotion and recognition, not necessarily their teaching. On the flip side, a college like Union is going to reward teaching more than research (although only somewhat).

The field of PhD talent is unbelievably deep in the US. In terms of qualifications in their field, you’ll find great profs at literally hundreds of colleges. You may find stronger teaching at LACs where there are no grad students, and you could get better research experience because the profs only have undergrads to help them, so that is something to consider.

There is a big difference between being passionate/knowledgeable about the material and being a good teacher. To many, teaching is a necessary evil, especially the big-shot researchers.

Associate professors are usually a good bet, they’re tenured so they tend to be a bit more relaxed about grades, but they’re still fresh enough to not teach on autopilot.

Mmm, I would not make that generalization. First of all, an associate professor can be someone with anywhere from six to fifteen or more years of experience; they can be freshly tenured or they can be close to full professor status.

Tenured v. tenure-track status (or even adjunct or lecturer), in my experience, isn’t really very strongly correlated with grading style nor passion for teaching. I’ve had many full professors who were still very into teaching, especially if they could teach what they were passionate about; I’ve known many new assistant professors who hated teaching because it took time away from their research and/or were very relaxed about grades (because being uptight about grades takes time). There are lots of adjuncts and non-tenure-track lecturers who are very, very good at what they do.

Re OP:
“…the level of expert knowledge the professors at the following schools possess”
is probably best gauged by peers, not students. How would undergraduate students, with limited knowledge of the subject themselves, be in a position to evaluate the relative depth of knowledge of their professors? They can’t.

To that end, here are some rankings:
(it has been suggested that the “R” rankings may be more useful than the “s” rankings)

If your real concern is teaching ability, rather than “the level of expert knowledge”,
There is a “rate my professors” website you might consult.

I also think you are asking the wrong question. Some other questions would be:

Are classes taught by a) full time professors who teach only, b) professors who’s main interest is research and see teaching as a necessary evil, c) adjuncts who teach at multiple schools or d) graduate students? Note that all of these ca be great or lousy teachers.

Do the professors speak clearly in English or are accents an issue?

How accessible are the professors? Do they handle office hours at do they have TAs who handle office hours? Again doesn’t always mean anything because there are great TAs.

Maybe the best question for current medical students is:

If you could do it over would you still choose the school/program that you did and why do you feel that way?

All of the schools on your list will have professors with expert knowledge in their field. I agree with noname87 about some other questions you should be asking.