Graduate programs fare well in U.S. News
In the newly released 2008 U.S. News and World Report’s rankings for America’s Best Graduate Schools, Washington University ranked in the top 10 in 18 different fields.
The 2008 edition updated rankings in several areas, including engineering, medicine, the sciences, education, law and business. Most notably, the University improved in biological sciences from ninth to seventh place and the School of Medicine retained its fourth place ranking overall for research schools.
In the School of Medicine, 11 programs have been ranked in the top 10. Among those medical programs ranked this year, biochemistry improved from number 17 to a tie for 10th, and neuroscience/neurobiology returned to ninth place after leaving the top 10 last year.
“We’re happy to be back in the top 10,” said Karen O’Malley, director of the program in neurosciences.
She said the fact that neuroscience at Washington University operates as a program rather than a department gives it a significant breadth in research. She attributed much of the program’s success to this breadth as well as to the collaborative nature of the University community.
“There are very few aspects of the neurosciences that aren’t being covered by someone in our program,” she said. “We have such a great concentration of such outstanding people here that there’s always someone who’s doing exactly the next technique you want to incorporate into your research.”
Additionally, in the medical school rankings, microbiology improved from sixth to third and genetics/genomics/bioinformatics moved up from sixth to fourth. Cell biology remained ninth, internal medicine remained seventh and immunology/infectious disease remained fifth.
Within the School of Medicine, audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and pharmacology/toxicology retained the same positions as last year’s rankings.
In the School of Law, clinical education training retained its third place ranking, while the trial advocacy program improved from seventh to third.
Additionally, the Department of Education improved five spots from 46th to 41st, the School of Business placed 29th and the School of Engineering placed 42nd.
Within the School of Engineering, the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) continued to improve, rising two more spots this year from 14th to 12th.
BME is a relatively new department, founded in 1997, yet it has managed to find its way up the rankings in that ten-year span. Frank Yin, chair professor of BME, attributed the success to the quality of students as well as faculty. “Good faculty attract good students, and good students attract good faculty.”
He noted that the department is being cautious not to place too much emphasis on the rankings.
“It’s good to go up in the rankings, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in that,” said Yin. “If we get overly happy with a rise in two positions, what happens if we fall two positions? You have to look at the long-term trend. I wouldn’t get carried away either way.”
O’Malley said that her program, too, does not put much stock in the rankings. “They’re very much dependent on who they send these surveys out to. They’re not based on anything statistical, just word of mouth. That’s the only thing that can account for the fact that we weren’t [in the top 10 last year], but we are now,” she said. “In essence, we aren’t doing anything that we haven’t always done. We’re doing the same cutting-edge neuroscience research.”
According to the U.S. News and World Report’s Web site, rankings in business, engineering, education, law and medicine are based both on statistical indicators such as acceptance rates and standardized test scores, and on assessments made by some 9,600 academics and experts.
Individual programs and areas in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, however, are ranked solely on expert opinion, which comes from deans, program directors, and senior faculty across the country. Complete rankings can be found at rankings.wustl.edu.
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