NRC finally releases updated school rankings

September 28, 2010 at 3:12 pm | | news, science and the public, science community

Phew. That was a long wait. Since 1995.

But the wait wasn’t really worth it. NRC released basically a gimungous table of data, and didn’t actually give departments rankings. I don’t have time to wade through all this data. Someone needs to tell me that my department(s) are better than Harvard.

To make things worse, their spreadsheet doesn’t work on MS Excel 2008 on Mac (only on 2004). Maybe I’ll update sometime if I can wade through the data. In the meantime, see if your school has posted its own analysis. (Berkeley has. It looks like Stanford is still in the process of manipulating the data to make themselves look awesome.)


Here are the top chemistry programs (ranked on research activity):

And programs containing the word “biophysic”:

So there. You can go make your own tables. I find this very confusing.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, there are some serious errors being found in the piles and piles of numbers being released by the NRC ranking. And come to think of it, since when does Stanford chemistry have 50 faculty members??? Something is very wrong…

NRC should just list schools according to the US News and World Report rankings and keep their data hidden. jk.

the simpsons have their own nobel predictions

September 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm | | nerd, news, nobel, science and the public, science community

This was on The Simpsons last night:

(the screenshot is from 1 min 22 sec on Hulu)

I may update my predictions to reflect the venerated opinions of cartoon writers.

By the way, seeing my PhD advisor and a member of my dissertation committee listed on The Simpsons feels really strange.

(My/our real predictions are here.)

i have a seminal contribution for you…

September 16, 2010 at 6:59 am | | science and the public

I really think this is a joke: old-man baiting, if you will.

In response to the discussion on whether the word “seminal” is sexist as well as sexual, there are two points to be made, and I would also like to offer a potential solution. First, seminal carries forward the homocentric view of scientific research from a time when males were predominant and considered more important researchers in science. Consequently, it is a sexist term unless one is talking about physiological or related dynamics.

As for seminal being seen as a sexual term, I am not sure that we should necessarily eliminate all such terminology from the dialog in science just because it refers to “sexuality.” One need only look at the extensive literature that conflates birth sex with gender. The question “What is your gender?” is incorrect unless you are doing research on gender identity. The correct question is “What is your sex?”

Many individuals incorrectly conflate the word “sex” with sexuality. Consequently, numerous scientific papers, research surveys and discussions misuse gender as an equivalent to birth sex or natal sex in response to the aforementioned difficulty.

I propose the following solution, that I have used for years. When suggesting that a particular piece of research is “seminal” simply replace the word “seminal” with the word “seminovarian.” Everyone gets equal play. Of course, we could take up the question of which should go first, but that’s another letter to the editor altogether.

Tarynn M. Witten
Richmond, VA

I mean, this is getting hilarious.

But maybe this isn’t a joke. First of all, it turns out that the first letter was serious (see “Only Males Respond“). Also, this second letter makes be think that it’s from some liberal-arts student, mostly because it is terribly written. The rambling tangent on “sex” vs. “gender” is very academic, and I can tell that the author likes using the thesaurus: what “dynamics” are related to sperm physiology? Flagellum switching?

Maybe I should be more sensitive. I don’t like the fact that females have been second-class citizens (if citizens at all) throughout our history. But when it comes down to it, sexual references are funny. And I will giggle like a middle-school boy every time.

UPDATE: Oh shit. Dr. Witten is a bio prof at VCU. Which means she probably knows a lot more about dynamics than I ever will. Oops.

how to tell if your horse is dead?

September 10, 2010 at 7:46 am | | crazy figure contest, literature, nerd

(In reference to How to tell if your rabbit is dead.)

Apparently, you can’t tell.

By the way, one of those organisms is my friend.

(source: “Evolution: What Is an Organism?“)

acs feeds broken?

September 3, 2010 at 8:53 am | | literature, stupid technology, wild web

I was forced to update all my ACS feeds in my RSS reader (Google Reader). None of the ACS feeds I follow had updated for a couple days. I think ACS switched over to Feedburner and their old feeds stopped updating. Anyone else have this problem?

And TOC images seem brokenish with the new feeds

UPDATE: Alex updated us on the issues. I’m happy that ACS is migrating to a better system. They really tried to redirect, but there are some problems. I think the new feeds seem to be working well now!

2010 nobel predictions

September 2, 2010 at 11:32 am | | news, nobel, open thread, science and the public, science community

In previous years, I’ve awarded Edsel-Nobels, which no one really cared about. Maybe this is the year I’ll make predictions for the actual Nobel. Paul at Chembark already started his predictions, and everyone else will be buzzing about it soon enough.

In no particular order (and without much forethought):

  1. Solar: Grätzel
  2. Super-resolution optical microscopy: Betzig [awarded in 2014], Hell [awarded in 2014], Zhuang, Hess
  3. Cloaking: Pendry
  4. Birth control: Djerassi
  5. Laser-induced fluorescence: Zare
  6. Inorganic: Gray, Lippard
  7. Single-molecule spectroscopy: Moerner [awarded in 2014], Orrit, Rigler, Xie
  8. Chaperonins and protein folding: Horwich, Hartl, Lindquist, Ellis
  9. DNA fingerprinting: Jefferys
  10. Electrochemistry: Bard, Nocera
  11. Polymer synthesis: Matyjaszewski, Wang
  12. NMR and membranes: McConnell
  13. Discovery of kinesin: Sheetz, Vale, Brady
  14. Nano: Whitesides
  15. Peace: Twitter
  16. Cross-coupling: Suzuki, Heck, [awarded in 2010] Sonogashira
  17. Electron Transfer in DNA/Electrochemical DNA Damage Sensors: Barton, Giese, Schuster
  18. Pd-catalyzed Alkyne/Alkene Coupling and Atom-Economy: Trost
  19. Nuclear hormone receptors: Chambon, Evans, Jensen, O’Malley
  20. Two-photon microscopy: Webb, Denk, Strickler
  21. DNA microarrays: Brown
  22. NLO: Harris (as predicted by The Simpsons)

So there. The only one I’m confident about is Twitter.

Please feel free to add more in the comments. I will probably continue to update this…

UPDATE: Paul now has updated odds. Very impressive. He’s put a lot more thought into this than I. I’ve added cross-coupling to the list. Additions are in italics.

UPDATE: Can you name all the Chemistry Nobel winners?

UPDATE: Thompson has released their predictions.

UPDATE: The Simpsons also have some predictions.

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