Posts about university

Engineering Graduates Earned a Return on Their Investment In Education of 21%

A recent report from the New York Fed looks at the economic benefits of college. While there has been a great deal of talk about the “bubble” in higher education the Fed finds college is very wise economically for most people. They do find a larger portion of people that are not getting a great return on their investment in higher education.

That could well indicate students studying certain majors and perhaps some people with less stellar academic skills would be better off economically skipping college.

Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs?

an analysis of the economic returns to college since the 1970s demonstrates that the benefits of both a bachelor’s degree and an associate’s degree still tend to outweigh the costs, with both degrees earning a return of about 15 percent over the past decade. The return has remained high in spite of rising tuition and falling earnings because the wages of those without a college degree have also been falling, keeping the college wage premium near an all-time high while reducing the opportunity cost of going to school.

It is hard to beat a 15% return. Of course averages hide variation within the data.

The return to engineer graduates was the greatest of all disciplines examined. Engineering graduates earned a return on their investment of 21%. The next highest were math and computers (18%); health (18%); and business (17%). Even the lowest returns are quite good: education (9%), leisure and hospitality (11%), agriculture (11%) and liberal arts (12%).

These returns look at graduates without post-graduate degrees (in order to find the value of just the undergraduate degree). As those with higher degrees benefit even more but the return on graduate degrees is not part of this study and they didn’t want to confuses the benefits of the post graduate degree with the bachelors degree.

As the article points out those fields with the top returns are more challenging and likely those students are more capable on average so a portion of the return may be due to the higher capabilities of the students (not just to the major they selected). They don’t mention it but engineering also has a higher drop out rate – not all students that would chose to major in engineering are able to do so.

This is one more study showing what we have blog about many times before: science and engineering careers are very economically rewarding. The engineering job market remains strong across many fields; many companies are turning to engineering job placement firms to find specialized staff. While the engineers do voice frustration at various aspects of their jobs the strong market provides significant advantages to an engineering career. As I have said before the reason to chose a career is because that is the work you love, but in choosing between several possible careers it may be sensible to consider the likely economic results.

The study even examines the return for graduates that are continually underemployed (I am not really sure how they get this data, but anyway…) the return for engineers in this situation is still 17% (it is 12% across all majors).

Related: Earnings by College Major, Engineers and Scientists at the Top (2013)Engineering Graduates Continue to Reign Supreme (2013)Career Prospect for Engineers Continues to Look Positive (2011)

Starting a Career in Science to Fight Cancer

Keven Stonewall Preventing Colon Cancer from VNM USA on Vimeo.

Keven Stonewall is a student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison working to prevent colon cancer.

Related: I Always Wanted to be Some Sort of ScientistHigh School Student Creates Test That is Much More Accurate and 26,000 Times Cheaper Than Existing Pancreatic Cancer TestsWebcast of a T-cell Killing a Cancerous Cell

Eric Schmidt on Google, Education and Economics


Eric Schmidt, March 6th, 2009 interview by Charlie Rose:

  • “From our perspective, I think the YouTube acquisition and the Doubleclick acquisition, which are the two large acquisitions we did last year, and the year before, have been phenomenally successful.”
  • He also mentioned the idea of teachers today creating online hubs of information on educational areas, as well as lesson plans. See our Education Resources for Science and Engineering
  • And Flu Trends
  • “We needed the stimulus package, because the stimulus package had, among other things, $20 billion for science and education funding… Real wealth is created by businesses, not by financial engineering, and by businesses that provide new products that solve new problems.”
  • Why do you assume the best students in the world are going to come to America? “Because they choose to come here right now… That is a brilliant [actually not brilliant at all] strategy take the best people hire them in American universities and then kick them out” It happens. “Its shocking.” It happens. “I know we are fighting against it.” “We America remain, by far the place of choice for education, particularly higher education.
  • Technologists as a group tend to be more analytical, more data driven, more personally liberal (more willing to tolerate the differences among people, more global in their focus… [technologists] as a group believe you can literally change the world from technology.”

Related: Eric Schmidt on Management at GoogleEric Schmidt Podcast on Google Innovation and EntrepreneurshipLarry Page and Sergey Brin InterviewMarissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationLarry Page on How to Change the World

John Conyers Against Open Science

Lawrence Lessig once again has written a good blog post: John Conyers and Open Access

Open access journals, such as, for example, those created by the Public Library of Science, have adopted a different publishing model, to guarantee that all all research is freely accessible online (under the freest Creative Commons license) immediately, to anyone around the world. This guarantee of access, however, is not purchased by any compromise in academic standards. There is still a peer-review process. There is still even a paper-based publication.

Pushed by scientists everywhere, the NIH and other government agencies were increasingly exploring this obviously better model for spreading knowledge. Proprietary publishers, however, didn’t like it. And so rather than competing in the traditional way, they’ve adopted the increasingly Washington way of competition — they’ve gone to Congress to get a law to ban the business model they don’t like. If H.R. 801 is passed, the government can’t even experiment with supporting publishing models that assure that the people who have paid for the research can actually access it. Instead, if Conyers has his way, we’ll pay for the research twice.

The insanity in this proposal is brilliantly described by Jamie Boyle in this piece in the FT. But after you read his peace, you’ll be even more puzzled by this. For what possible reason could Conyers have for supporting a bill that 33 Nobel Prize Winners, and the current and former heads of the NIH say will actually hurt scientific research in America? More pointedly, what possible reason would a man from a district that insists on the government “Buying American” have for supporting a bill that basically subsidizes foreign publishers (for the biggest players in this publishing market are non-American firms, making HR 801 a kind of “Foreign Publishers Protection Act”)?

the co-sponsors of this bill who sit on the Judiciary Committee received on average two-times the amount of money from publishing interests as those who haven’t co-sponsored the bill.

The damage done to science by dinosaurs fighting progress and corrupt or inept politicians is very disheartening. Thankfully we have been able to achieve great things in spite of politicians trying to favor their donors and harm the scientific community.

Related: Science Journal Publishers Stay StupidHoward Hughes Medical Institute Takes Big Open Access StepFrom Ghost Writing to Ghost Management in Medical JournalsThe A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science

Promoting Bio-Literacy

Wisconsin State Herbarium tries to ‘counteract bio-illiteracy’

“In a past century people could go outside and name the flowers or trees,” said Ken Cameron, the herbarium’s director. “Now you take a kid outside and the most they can say is, ‘It’s a tree.’ If we can get students in and get them excited, then I think we’ve helped to counteract bio-illiteracy.”

Herbaria are becoming more of a rarity. And the UW-Madison has the third largest collection of any public university in the country, behind the universities of California and Michigan. At many universities, botany has been absorbed into large biology departments, and collections put into storage. That has not happened at UW-Madison.

“The combination of having a botany department and a big herbarium is getting pretty rare,” said David Baum, botany department chairman. “And more and more herbaria are closing or making the decision to move off campus into storage, which has a real negative effect on research.”

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Herbarium, founded in 1849 (the year the University was founded), is a museum collection of dried, labeled plants of state, national and international importance, which is used extensively for taxonomic and ecological research, as well as for teaching and public service. It contains the world’s largest collection of Wisconsin plants, about one-third of its 1,000,000 specimens having been collected within the state. Most of the world’s floras are well represented, and the holdings from certain areas, such as the Upper Midwest, eastern North America and western Mexico, are widely recognized as resources of global significance.

Related: Plants can Signal Microbial Friends for Helpposts on plantsRainforestsThe Avocado

Educating Future Scientists and Engineers

Texas in danger of losing global race

American demand for scientists and engineers is expected to grow four times faster than all other professions over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet today, only 5 percent of U.S. college undergraduates earn degrees in science and engineering, whereas in China, 42 percent of students do.

Not only are highly qualified Texas science and math teachers in short supply today, but we’re losing literally thousands each year. In 2007 alone, approximately 4,000 math and science teachers left Texas classrooms, costing our state an estimated $27 million to replace them.

Fortunately, there are programs already proven successful in preventing the loss of highly qualified math and science teachers, such as UTeach, a teacher training and support program launched at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.

The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas — made up of Texas’ Nobel Laureates and National Academies members — has proposed four practical, actionable recommendations for state leaders to adopt, putting Texas on the path to world-class math and science education for our children, and a prosperous future for our state.

Related: $12.5 Million NSF For Educating High School Engineering TeachersThe Importance of Science EducationFIRST Robotics in MinnesotaUSA Teens 29th in Science

Webcast: Engineering Education in the 21st Century

National Academy of Engineering President, William A. Wulf, discusses the future of engineering education. Very good quick overview (skip to 1m 45s point for start of the speech) – see links below for additional resources. From the speech:

  • “the practices of engineering has changed enormously in the last 20 years and engineering education has changed hardly at all.”
  • “It is a disgrace: about half the students who start in engineering do not finish in engineering… we are not weeding out the poor students we are turning off half the students with the way that we teach”
  • “engineering schools generally have not provided courses for the general liberal arts students but they must.”

view the rest of the talk

Related: Educating the Engineer of 2020: NAE ReportEducating Engineers for 2020 and Beyond by Charles VestWomen Choosing Other Fields Over Engineering and MathEducating Engineering GeeksLeah Jamieson on the Future of Engineering EducationHouse Testimony on Engineering Education

Big Drug Research and Development on Campus

Big Drug R&D on Campus

Merck and Harvard just signed an agreement to develop treatments for the bone disease osteoporosis. On Apr. 25 rival Pfizer (PFE) invested $14 million in an alliance with four universities to study diabetes and obesity.

Drugmakers are counting on these deals to solve a persistent problem: underperforming product pipelines. Merck, Pfizer, and others have been losing sales of one blockbuster drug after another as patents expire and competitors charge in with generics. Big drug companies have fought back by spending more on research, yet the number of new medicines approved each year is falling. In the last week of April alone, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration rejected two of Merck’s experimental drugs, prompting the company to lay off 1,200 salespeople.

Past deals between industry and academia have been hampered by patent disputes and tussles over publication rights, as companies tried to thwart academics who want to share their discoveries with colleagues around the world. So now the companies have devised policies allowing their Ivory Tower partners to patent and publish their discoveries, even as they draw the professors more deeply into corporate affairs.

Funding university activities this way can lead to conflicts and problems but realistically huge amounts of funding are entangled with possible conflicts of interest. The biggest concern I is that universities will bow to the almighty dollar instead of their missions. And inadequate oversight can damage their credibility (not one failure, most likely, but if a pattern emerges). For example: Researchers Fail to Reveal Full Drug Pay (“The Harvard group’s consulting arrangements with drug makers were already controversial because of the researchers’ advocacy of unapproved uses of psychiatric medicines in children.”). Then find out the companies were paying them well, the professors failed to disclose that and the advocacy is rightfully questioned.

Related: From Ghost Writing to Ghost Management in Medical JournalsFunding Medical ResearchMedical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof)Marketing Drugs

$60 Million for Science Teaching at Liberal Arts Colleges

HHMI Awards $60 Million to Invigorate Science Teaching at Liberal Arts Colleges

A year ago, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute issued a challenge to 224 undergraduate colleges nationwide: identify creative new ways to engage your students in the biological sciences.

Now 48 of the nation’s best undergraduate institutions will receive $60 million to help them usher in a new era of science education. This includes the largest number of new grantees in more than a decade; more than a quarter have never received an HHMI grant before.

Colleges in 21 states and Puerto Rico will receive $700,000 to $1.6 million over the next four years to revitalize their life sciences undergraduate instruction. HHMI has challenged colleges to create more engaging science classes, bring real-world research experiences to students, and increase the diversity of students who study science.

Creating interdisciplinary science classes and incorporating more mathematics into the biology curriculum were among the major themes proposed by the schools. Many schools will also allow more students to experience research through classroom-based courses and summer laboratory programs.

HHMI is the nation’s largest private supporter of science education. It has invested more than $1.2 billion in grants to reinvigorate life science education at both research universities and liberal arts colleges and to engage the nation’s leading scientists in teaching. In 2007, it launched the Science Education Alliance, which will serve as a national resource for the development and distribution of innovative science education materials and methods.

Related: $60 Million in Grants for Universities (2007)Genomics Course For College Freshman Supported by HHMI at 12 Universities$600 Million for Basic Biomedical ResearchFunding Medical Researchposts on science and engineering funding

Deep-Sea Denizen Inspires New Polymers

Deep-Sea Denizen Inspires New Polymers

Stealing a trick from a tiny, pickle-shaped creature that dwells in the depths of the ocean, scientists have designed a new polymer that, when exposed to water, can instantly change its rigidity and strength.

Christoph Weder, an associate professor in the same department at Case, says he and Rowan thought of copying the sea cucumber’s adaptation more than five years ago. Working with marine biologists, they determined that the deep-sea animal accomplished its transformation thanks to fibers made of a protein known as collagen. The tightness of the connections between those fibers determines how stiff the cucumber’s skin is, and is controlled by the animal’s nervous system.

To get their polymer to do the same thing, the Case scientists used fibers found in another deep sea dweller, sea squirts, and also in cotton. When they mixed those fibers – known as cellulose nanofibers – with the rubbery polymer ethylene oxide–epichlorohydrin, they formed a stiff network, “almost glued to each other,” says Weder. Due to the nature of the bonds between the polymer and the fibers, however, water gets between the two substances, weakening the fibers’ adhesion. The material then becomes soft.

Related: 100 Innovations for 2006Reusable PaperHigh-efficiency Power Supplies

Better Higher Education Will Change Lives

Better higher education will change lives by Shashi Tharoor

When i left India for post-graduate studies in 1975, there were perhaps 600 million people in India, and we had five IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology). Today, we are nearly double that population, and we have seven IITs, one of which has essentially involved the relabelling of an existing Regional Engineering College. To keep up with demand – and the needs of the marketplace – shouldn’t we have had 20 IITs by now of the same standard as the original five? Or even 30?

India is entering the global employment marketplace with a self-imposed handicap of which we are just beginning to become conscious – an acute shortage of quality institutions of higher education. For far too long we have been complacent about the fact that we had produced, since the 1960s, the world’s second largest pool of trained scientists and engineers.

Whereas countries in the Middle East, and China itself, are going out of their way to woo foreign universities to set up campuses in their countries, India turns away the many academic suitors who have come calling in recent years. Harvard and Yale would both be willing to open branches in India to offer quality education to Indian students, but have been told to stay away. Those Indians who choose to study abroad easily get scholarships to do so – currently 80,000 of them are in the United States alone.

Related: Science and Engineering in Global EconomicsGlobal Research University Rankings (2007)The Role of Science in EconomyThe Importance of Science EducationEngineering graduate: USA, China, Indiaposts on engineering education

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