the next 10 to 15 years, many chemistry faculty members are expected
to retire. When replacing these faculty members, university search
committees will find that their historically preferred candidate
pool--doctoral graduates from 10 universities--has changed substantially
in recent years. The pool has shrunk in size, and the percentage
of women has substantially increased.
Along with my colleagues at Seton
Hall University, Cecilia H. Marzabadi, Janine P. Buckner,
and Susan A. Nolan, I recently reported that half of the 1,595
tenured and tenure-track faculty members at the top 50 National
Research Council ranked chemistry departments (NRC-50) in 2001
received their doctoral degrees before 1979 [J. Chem. Ed.,
81, 356 (2004)].
A rough estimate of the age distribution of faculty members
at these schools was obtained by determining the year of doctoral
receipt for tenured and tenure-track faculty from the American
Chemical Society's "2001 Directory of Graduate Research." It is
highly probable that a large percentage of the 546 professors
who received their doctorates before 1971 will retire in the next
In the same paper, we reported that the NRC-50 preferentially
hired doctoral graduates trained at a select group of universities.
For example, in 2001, 60% of the tenured and tenure-track faculty
members who were hired after 1978 at these departments had received
their doctorates from 10 universities: California
Institute of Technology; Columbia; Cornell; Harvard; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford; University
of California, Berkeley; University
of Chicago; University of Wisconsin,
Madison; and Yale.
The pool of candidates for new faculty jobs is shrinking overall.
Data obtained from the National
Science Foundation's WebCASPAR database show that the number
of U.S. citizens and permanent residents receiving doctorates
in chemistry remained fairly constant from the early 1980s to
the early 1990s. In 1995, the number of doctorates granted to
U.S. citizens and permanent residents peaked at 1,624 and then
slowly fell to 1,227 in 2002, a 24% decrease.
number of doctorates awarded to foreign students has been slipping,
too. The number of doctorates awarded to temporary residents reached
a high of 727 (33% of the total) in 1992. It then fell slightly
and has hovered around 630. In 2002, temporary residents received
595 (31%) doctorates, a drop of 18% since the 1992 peak. Indications
are that the number of doctorates earned by temporary residents
will continue decreasing in future years.
Of the many possible reasons for this decline, one is the chilly
atmosphere of the U.S. government regarding foreign nationals.
Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, foreign students seem to be
less interested in or less able to pursue their educations in
U.S. schools. Data from the Department of State's Immigrant Visa
Control & Reporting Division show that overall student visa
applications decreased from 400,000 in 2001 to 326,000 in 2003.
The Educational Testing Service
recently reported that from 200203 to 200304, the
number of applications for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
from China dropped 50% and from India, 37%. This decline is noteworthy
because, in 1998, these two countries supplied 50% of the foreign
GRE applications and made up 36% of the science doctorates, according
other studies indicate that there will be fewer foreign students
in graduate school in the near future. In a survey of 113 graduate
schools, which altogether enroll nearly one-half of the foreign
graduate students, the Council of Graduate Schools found a 32%
decrease in the number of foreign applications for fall 2004 in
physical sciences programs from the 2003 enrollment. Moreover,
in June 2003, NSF reported that the enrollment of temporary residents
who were first-time, full-time graduate students in the physical
sciences during 200102 had dropped 7% from the preceding
These changes are reflected in the Ph.D.-recipient populations
at the 10 schools that we identified as the preferred recruiting
campuses (the top 10 suppliers). In 1992, the total number of
doctorates granted at these schools reached a high of 333 and
has since decreased; 263 degrees were conferred in 2002, a 21%
decline. The rise in the number of chemistry doctorates granted
by these institutions in the 1980s and early 1990s reflects the
influx of foreign students at the 10 universities. In 1982, U.S.
citizens and permanent residents received 285 doctorates (90%
of the total); however, in 2002, they received 202 doctorates
(77%), a 29% decline in 20 years. Since 1995 alone, there has
been a 23% drop in the size of this doctorate pool.
In addition to the smaller numbers of U.S. citizens and permanent
residents, significant changes also have occurred in the gender
distribution of Ph.D. recipients at those 10 universities. There
has been a consistent decline in the percentage of doctorates
earned by men. In 1982, men obtained 86% of the doctorates, whereas
in 2002 they received 66% of the doctorates. If these trends continue,
women should reach parity with men in 10 years.
of the trends observed for the top 10 suppliers indicate that
search committees will be challenged to find a sufficient number
of traditional candidates in the pool. Hiring at the top 10 suppliers
will be affected most by the decline, as 77% of the faculty who
were hired since 1978 at those 10 schools were doctoral graduates
of those same departments. Also affected will be the departments
that have been slow to hire women or have been unable to retain
female faculty members, as they will find it hard to attract enough
new faculty members from the top 10 pool.
A similar pattern of shrinking pool size with an increasing
percentage of female doctorates is also seen with the top 25 faculty
supplier departments that have trained 87% of the NRC-50 faculty
members hired since 1978. Considering the total number of doctorates
granted after 1980, a high of 786 was reached in 1992; but in
2002, the number had decreased to 641, an 18% decline. Similarly,
the greatest number of temporary residents receiving degrees was
achieved in 1992, with 222 doctorates; by 2001, the number had
dropped 32% to 151.
Between 1995 and 2000, doctorates obtained by U.S. citizens
and permanent residents from the top 25 supplier departments fell
by 31%. They peaked at 594 in 1995 and reached a low of 409 in
2000. Since then, they rose to 470 doctorates in 2002. Like the
top 10 suppliers, the gender distribution of this pool also has
changed. In 2002, women received 39% of the doctorates from these
departments, and women will reach parity with men in about 10
years, similar to the projection for the top 10 pool.
If the percentage of graduates electing to do postdocs falls
from its current level (60% for doctoral graduates from the top
10 suppliers) or if the percentage of students interested in positions
at Ph.D.-granting institutions (49%) decreases, the situation
will be exacerbated.
The decline in size of the doctoral pools from the top suppliers
will affect not only research institutions, but also four-year
colleges and industrial and government laboratories. Hiring candidates
from these universities will become far more competitive, with
educational institutions concerned about having sufficient numbers
of faculty to teach undergraduate courses. This situation most
likely will result in the hiring of new faculty members who have
been trained at a more diverse group of institutions and the acceptance
of women faculty at a faster pace than that seen over recent years.
Valerie J. Kuck is a visiting professor
at Seton Hall University's Center for Women's Studies and Department
of Chemistry & Biochemistry. She retired in 2001 from Lucent
Technologies' Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, N.J,. after a career
of 34 years. There she worked on a number of projects, including
the development of materials and devices for use in telecommunications.
She has been very active in local and national activities of the
American Chemical Society, and this year she was the first recipient
of the ACS Award for Volunteer Service. She is an avid promoter
of the careers of women chemists.