The educational enterprise “has been successful at what it’s been asked to do,” said Gary B. Schuster, a chemistry professor at Georgia Tech. But the world has changed, workshop participants noted, and universities are facing declining state budgets, a poor job market, changing employer expectations, and shifting U.S. and global demographics. Workshop participants considered how chemistry graduate education in the U.S. should respond to these and other changes.
George M. Whitesides, a chemistry professor at Harvard University, suggested abandoning the model in which, for a Ph.D. thesis, a student works as an apprentice for a single professor. Instead, he said, students should have broad experience, including working closely with more than one professor, involvement in multidisciplinary programs, and at least a part of the research organized around important societal needs—such as energy and health.
Participants also proposed that the NSF Chemistry Division fund experiments in chemistry graduate education at several universities. An internship program for graduate students was one suggestion.
No single solution will work for all universities, the workshop participants agreed. Schuster called for universities to do what works best for their unique circumstances. “Not every university can and should do the same things,” he said.