September 24, 2009

Chemistry Faculty Excel at Publishing Research in Scholarly Journals

Journal of Chemical Education ranked Lafayette second in total number of publications and first in average number of publications per faculty member among 55 peer institutions

A recent study in the Journal of Chemical Education draws attention to the chemistry department’s exceptional record of publishing research articles in academic journals.

The study, “The Change in Publication Rates at Undergraduate Institutions during the Last Three Decades,” summarizes and analyzes the number of publications arising from chemistry departments at 55 prestigious, predominately undergraduate institutions.

During the most recent time period analyzed, 1996-2005, Lafayette’s chemistry department ranked second in total number of publications. Among the schools that were strictly undergraduate, Lafayette had the most publications with 166 during the 10-year period.

Additionally, the department was ranked first among the 55 institutions for the average number of publications per faculty member. With an average of 2.08 publications per faculty member, Lafayette came out far ahead of the other institutions in the survey, many of which averaged around 1 publication for every two chemistry faculty members.

Some of the institutions Lafayette out-produced are Amherst College, Bucknell University, Colgate University, College of the Holy Cross, Franklin & Marshall College, Grinnell College, Harvey Mudd College, Macalester College, Middlebury College, Mt. Holyoke College, Smith College, Swarthmore College, Vassar College, and Williams College.

According to David Husic, Larkin Professor and head of chemistry, the majority of these journal articles were published with students as coauthors. Although he didn’t have a breakdown for the 1996-2005 time period, Husic stressed that in the last five years, 75 peer-reviewed journal articles have been published by faculty in the chemistry department, and 50 undergraduate students have been coauthors on at least one article.

“It is very rewarding to have our record at Lafayette acknowledged in this way, and to receive external verification of the extraordinary level of scholarly productivity of the department,” Husic says.

The College supports the department’s efforts to acquire research-grade instrumentation essential for much of this work and supports students working with faculty through the EXCEL Scholars program. Husic believes both factors have been important contributors to the success of the department’s student-faculty research partnerships.

“For many years, an important area of emphasis in our department has been to provide our students with the opportunity to partner with their professors on research projects that result in meaningful contributions to the scientific literature,” Husic says. “These experiences have provided our majors with the credentials to be highly competitive candidates for admission to the premier graduate degree programs in chemistry, biochemistry, and related disciplines. In fact, over the past 10 years, nearly half of our majors have entered graduate degree programs in these areas.”

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