Posts about Universities

NSF Funding for Engineering Education, Curriculum, and Infrastructure

The Innovations in Engineering Education, Curriculum, and Infrastructure (IEECI) program supports research which addresses four aspects of engineering education: (1) how students best learn the ideas, principles, and practices to become creative and innovative engineers, and how this learning is measured (2) how application of cyberlearning resources of networked computing and communication, interactive visualization capabilities, and well designed user interfaces can be used to develop easily transportable tools and systems with low barriers to adoption which significantly improve learning, (3) integration of sustainability into engineering education, and (4) future directions of U.S. engineering doctoral programs.

Two types of awards will be supported: Expansion Projects (approximately 10 grants are anticipated) will only be available for area (1), Innovations in Teaching and Learning. Exploratory Projects (25-30 grants are anticipated) will be available in areas (2-4).

Anticipated Funding Amount: The total anticipated funding in fiscal year 2009 is $8,500,000. Expansion Projects will be funded at a level of up to $400,000. Exploratory Projects will be funded at a level up to $150,000, but exploratory projects involving multiple universities may apply for grants up to $200,000.

Full proposals are due by 11 March 2009.

Related: $92 Million for Engineering Research CentersWorldwide Science and Engineering Doctoral Degree DataNSF Graduate Research Fellows 2008House Testimony on Engineering EducationWebcast: Engineering Education in the 21st Century

University Pay Rates

academic salary chart

Interesting chart from “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham showing median salaries for various university employees: grad students $17,784; Tenured professors ~$90,000; Football coaches: $1,057,305.

Related: Ninja ProfessorsS&P 500 CEOs are Engineering Graduates (and they make even more than football coaches)High Pay for Engineering Graduates (July 2007)Open Access Legislation 25 provosts from top universities

Best Research University Rankings – 2008

The annual ranking of research Universities are available from Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University. The methodology values publications and faculty awards which provides a better ranking of research (rather than teaching). Results from the 2008 rankings of Top 500 Universities worldwide, country representation of the top schools:

location Top 100 % of World
% of World GDP % of top 500
USA 54     4.6%   27.2%  31.6%
United Kingdom 11  0.9  4.9 8.3
Germany   6  1.3  6.0 8.0
Japan   4  2.0  9.0 6.2
Canada   4  0.5  2.6 4.2
Sweden   4  0.1  0.8 2.2
France   3  0.8  4.6 4.6
Switzerland   3  0.1  0.8 1.6
Australia   3  0.3  1.6 3.0
Netherlands   2  0.2  1.4 2.4
Denmark   2  0.1  0.6 0.8
Finland   1  0.1  0.4 1.2
Norway   1  0.1  0.7 0.8
Israel   1  0.1  0.3 1.2
Russia   1  2.2  2.0 0.4
China  20.5  6.6 6.0
India  17.0  1.9 0.4

There is little change in most of the data from last year, which I think is a good sign, it wouldn’t make much sense to have radical shifts over a year in these rankings. Japan lost 2 schools in the top 100, France lost 1. Denmark (Aarhus University) and Australia (University of Sydney) gained 1. Last year there was a tie so there were 101 schools in the top 100.

The most dramatic data I noticed is China’s number of top 500 schools went from 14 to 30, which made me a bit skeptical of what caused that quick change. Looking more closely last year they reported the China top 500 totals as (China 14, China-Taiwan 6 and China-Hong Kong 5). That still gives them an impressive gain of 5 schools.

Singapore has 1 in the 102-151 range. Taiwan has 1 ranked in the 152-200 range, as do Mexico, Korea and Brazil. China has 9 in the 201-302 range (including 3 in Hong Kong). India has 2 in the 303-401 range.

University of Wisconsin – Madison is 17th again 🙂 My father taught there while I grew up.
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University Web Presence Rankings

The Webometrics Ranking of University Web Sites provides some interesting data. I don’t remember reading this last year, but they state on the site now: “The original aim of the Ranking was to promote Web publication, not to rank institutions. Supporting Open Access initiatives, electronic access to scientific publications and to other academic material are our primary targets.” I support those goals, I am not totally convinced this is the most effective measure to do that but it provides one way of ranking web presence of universities. I am not that convinced this does a good job of ranking the web presences of universities but I think it is of some interest so I decided to post on the results.

Related: 2007 Webometrics University RankingBest Research University Rankings (2007)Country H-index Rank for Science PublicationsUnderstanding the Evolution of Human Beings by Country

graph of universities web presence

Country % top 200

% top 500 % World Population Jiao Tong top 101
USA 53 37.8 4.6 54
Germany 7.5 9.4 1.3 6
United Kingdom 5.5 7.2 0.9 11
Canada 8.5 5 0.5 4
Australia 3 2.8 0.3 2
Italy 0.5 2.8 0.9 1
Japan 1.5 2.4 2 6
France 0.5 2.4 0.9 4
Netherlands 4 2.2 0.3 2
Sweden 3 2 0.1 4
Switzerland 2 1.6 0.1 3
Taiwan 0.5 1.6 0.4 0
Finland 0.5 1.4 0.1 1
China 0.5 1.2 20.1 0
Portugal 0 1.2 0.2 0

Cloak of Silence

Experts unveil ‘cloak of silence’

“The mathematics behind cloaking has been known for several years,” said Professor John Pendry of Imperial College London, UK, an expert in cloaking. “What hasn’t been available for sound is the sort of materials you need to build a cloak out of.”

The Spanish team who conducted the new work believe the key to a practical device are so-called “sonic crystals”. These artificial composites – also known as “meta-materials” – can be engineered to produce specific acoustical effects.

The research builds on work by scientists from Duke University in North Carolina, US, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Earlier this year, independent teams from the two institutions demonstrated the mathematics necessary to create an acoustic cloak. Other scientists have shown that objects can be cloaked from electromagnetic radiation, such as microwaves.

Related: Engineering Harry Potter’s Invisibility CloakNew Hearing MechanismHuman Sonar: EcholocationVideo Goggles

Women Choosing Other Fields Over Engineering and Math

graph of science and engineering degrees by gender in the USA 1966-2005

The graph shows college degrees granted in the USA. This topic sets up one for criticism, but I believe it is more important to examine the data and explore the possible ideas than to avoid anything that might be questioned by the politically correct police. An import factor, to me anyway, is that women are now graduating from college in far higher numbers than men. And in many science fields female baccalaureate graduates outnumber male graduates (psychology [67,000 to 19,000], biology[42,000 to 26,000], anthropology, sociology [20,000 to 8,000]) while men outnumber women in others (math [7,000 to 6,000], engineering [53,000 to 13,000], computer science [39,000 to 11,000], physics [3,000 to 900]).

Data on degrees awarded men and women in the USA in 2005, from NSF*:

Field Bachelors
Women Men Women Men Women Men
Biology 42,283   25,699 4,870   3,229 3,105   3,257
Computer Science 11,235   39,329 5,078   12,742 225   909
Economics 8,141   17,023 1,391   2,113 355   827
Engineering 13,197   52,936 7,607   26,492 1,174   5,215
Geosciences 1,660   2,299 712   973 243   470
Physics 903   3,307 427   1,419 200   1,132
Psychology 66,833   19,103 12,632   3,444 2,264   211
Sociology 20,138   8,438 920   485 343   211
All S&E 235,197   230,806 53,051   66,974 10,533   17,405

What does this all mean? It is debatable, but I think it is very good news for the efforts many have made over the last few decades to open up opportunities for women. I still support efforts to provide opportunities for girls to get started in science and engineering but I think we have reached the day when the biggest concern is giving all kids better math and science primary education (and related extracurricular activities). Also continued focus and effort on the doctorate and professional opportunities for women is warranted.
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Medical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof)

Merck wrote drug studies for doctors

The drug maker Merck drafted dozens of research studies for a best-selling drug, then lined up prestigious doctors to put their names on the reports before publication, according to an article to be published Wednesday in a leading medical journal.

The article, based on documents unearthed in lawsuits over the pain drug Vioxx, provides a rare, detailed look in the industry practice of ghostwriting medical research studies that are then published in academic journals.

“It almost calls into question all legitimate research that’s been conducted by the pharmaceutical industry with the academic physician,” said Ross, whose article, written with colleagues, was published Wednesday in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and posted Tuesday on the journal’s Web site.

Merck acknowledged Tuesday that it sometimes hired outside medical writers to draft research reports before handing them over to the doctors whose names eventually appear on the publication. But the company disputed the article’s conclusion that the authors do little of the actual research or analysis.

It is sad that the integrity of journals and scientists is so weak that they leave them open to such charges. The significant presence of the corrupting influence of too much money leaves doubt in my mind that the best science is the goal. Which is very sad. In, Funding Medical Research, I discussed my concern that universities are acting more like profit motivated organizations than science motivated organizations. I am in favor of profit motivated organization (those getting the micro-financing in this link, for example) but those organization should not be trusted to provide honest and balanced opinions they should be expected to provide biased opinions.

If universities (and scientists branding themselves as … at X university) want to be seen as honest brokers of science they can’t behave as though raising money, getting patents… are their main objectives. Many want to be able to get the money and retain the sense of an organization focused on the pursuit of science above all else. Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. You can, and probably should, try stake out some ground in the middle. And for me right now, partially because they fail to acknowledge the extent to which money seems to drive decisions I don’t believe they are trying to be open and honest, instead I get the impression they are leaning more toward trying to market and sell.
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ASU Science Studio Podcasts

Science Studio offers podcasts by the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences with professors discussing science; it is another excellent source of science podcasts. Podcasts include:

  • Of Whales, Fish and Men: Managing Marine Reserves – With 90% of the world’s fisheries in a state of collapse, the questions around establishing marine reserves, monitoring, and species/stock recovery take on critical dimensions. But how do decision-makers, stakeholders, and the public formulate effective conservation policies; ones right for their community?
  • Biology on Fire – Regents’ Professor, Mac Arthur Fellow, author and a world’s expert on fire and fire ecology Stephen Pyne talks about how fire, its use, misuse, and its biological nature have shaped our world, before and because of man, and learn how policies of the past still reverberate in our present, in Arizona and globally.
  • Giant Insects: Not just in B movies – Professor Jon Harrison sheds light on the evolution of his scientific career and nature’s biggest order: arthropods. How big is big? In the Paleozoic, cockroaches were the size of housecats and dragonflies the size of raptors.
  • Special Feature: Building a science career – One of the most highly cited ecologists in the world, Jane Lubchenco trod her own unique path to success. In this live recording with the Association for Women in Science, she explains how assertiveness, the art of negotiation, and knowing the currency for promotion and tenure can make the difference between achieving balance between family and career and dropping out the leaky academic pipeline that leads to advancement.

These podcasts are great way to use the internet to serve the mission of universities: to educate. And a great way to promote science.

Related: Lectures from the Stanford Linear Accelerator CenterUC-Berkeley Course VideosScience Podcast LibrariesCommunicating Science to the Public

$25 Million to Princeton for Engineering Education

$25 million to support innovation in engineering education

The gift builds on Princeton’s longstanding strength in educating engineers who are broadly grounded in the liberal arts and can reach beyond purely technical approaches to achieve wise and creative solutions. The new center also seeks to extend those connections by creating and supporting engineering courses that attract liberal arts students. For all students, the center emphasizes entrepreneurship, leadership and service.

“The quality of life for all societies is increasingly connected to our ability to understand, enhance and use technologies,” said Keller. “Since the rise of civilization, engineering has been integral to the development of societies and has helped people lead richer and more satisfying lives. More than ever, we must equip our graduates to be effective and innovative in deploying technology in the service of our nation and all nations.”

Currently, 60 percent of nonengineering students at Princeton take at least one engineering course; one of the center’s goals is to push that percentage to 100. Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science currently offers more than 20 courses that engage students from outside the engineering school. These courses place technology in a social and historical context, emphasize entrepreneurship and provide substantial exposure to issues such as energy, the environment, cybersecurity and telecommunications. The gift will strengthen those courses and encourage the development of new ones. It also will support internships, entrepreneurial activities and a vibrant program of lectures and visiting professorships from leaders in business, government and academics.

“We see all students as engineering students,” said Sharad Malik, director of the newly named Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education. “Despite its pivotal role in modern life, engineering has often been perceived as an isolated discipline. I am extremely grateful to have the Kellers’ support in pushing hard in a new direction, shaping an education that spans engineering, the sciences and the humanities and connects academic learning to societal needs.”

Related: $15 Million for San Jose State College of Engineering$25 Million for Marquette College of Engineering$35 million to the USC School of Engineering$75 Million for 5 New Engineering Research CentersArt of Science at Princeton

Drug Price Crisis

I don’t think the suggestion below really solves the drug price crisis. But I do think it is an example of an educational and research institution actually proposing sensible role for themselves. As I have said too many universities now act like they are for-profit drug or research companies: Funding Medical Research. For some background on drug prices read my post on the Curious Cat Management blog from 2005.

Solving the drug price crisis

The mounting U.S. drug price crisis can be contained and eventually reversed by separating drug discovery from drug marketing and by establishing a non-profit company to oversee funding for new medicines, according to two MIT experts on the pharmaceutical industry.

Following the utility model, Finkelstein and Temin propose establishing an independent, public, non-profit Drug Development Corporation (DDC), which would act as an intermediary between the two new industry segments — just as the electric grid acts as an intermediary between energy generators and distributors.

The DDC also would serve as a mechanism for prioritizing drugs for development, noted Finkelstein. “It is a two-level program in which scientists and other experts would recommend to decision-makers which kinds of drugs to fund the most. This would insulate development decisions from the political winds,” he said.

Book – Reasonable Rx: Solving the Drug Price Crisis by Stan Finkelstein and Peter Temin

Related: Lifestyle Drugs and RiskFrom Ghost Writing to Ghost Management in Medical JournalsUSA Spent $2.1 Trillion on Health Care in 2006Measuring the Health of NationsEconomic Strength Through Technology LeadershipUSA Paying More for Health Care

$35 million to the USC School of Engineering

The 2006 Slate 60: Donations

Ming Hsieh, 50, founder of Cogent, a technology firm in Pasadena, Calif., that specializes in sophisticated identification systems including fingerprinting, gave $35 million to the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering in Los Angeles to coincide with the 100th anniversary of its electrical-engineering program. Hsieh (pronounced “shee”) graduated from the university in 1984 with a master’s degree in electrical engineering after earning his bachelor’s degree in the same field a year earlier. In exchange for this gift, his first to the university, the department has been renamed in his honor. Born on a rice farm in northern China, Hsieh grew up very poor. As a child, he constructed small radios and televisions from spare parts, according to a university spokesman. His interest in electronics was stoked by an uncle, and Hsieh emigrated to the United States to attend college after coming into an inheritance. He recently became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Related: $25 Million for Marquette College of Engineering$40 Million for Engineering Education in BostonNSF $76 million for Science and Technology Centers$20 Million for Georgia Tech School of Industrial and Systems Engineering

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