No synthetic chemist would design a reaction scheme without a clear knowledge of the product they wish to make. The same goes for doctoral reform. "We looked for traits that we wanted to see in our graduates," says University of Wisconsin, Madison, chemistry professor Judith N. Burstyn. "Then we tried to map out a graduate program to develop the traits."
So what traits does a doctorate have? If you ask the Carnegie Institute, someone with a Ph.D. is a steward of their discipline, says Lawrence Martin, dean of the Graduate School at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. "This resonates with me. It means if everyone else in your field dropped out, science research wouldn't return to the dark ages. That's a tall order, but that's the goal,"
Howard University chemistry graduate student Ramsey Smith defines someone with a doctorate as a person who can come up with a solid research idea and know how to implement it. "You aren't a walking library, but you know how to seek the knowledge needed to solve a problem."
SUNY Stony Brook graduate chemistry student Erik Stolarzewicz sums it up this way: "Independence, leadership, communication. Independence to resolve problems on your own. Leadership in that you may be an adviser to others in the field of chemistry. Communication because if you can't communicate you'll never get anywhere."
"Someday, the doctoral student could be faced with an empty room filled only with ideas," says Michael G. White, the chemistry department chair at SUNY Stony Brook. Someone with a Ph.D. should know the essential steps to implement them. Faced with that empty room and a set of ideas, can they make their ideas reality?"