November 24, 2004

Life Scientists Rank Cornell at No. 5

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Cornell University was ranked fifth in a nationwide survey asking life scientists whether their academic institution was the best place to work in academia. This survey was conducted by the magazine The Scientist.

“Cornell is everything I’ve wanted in an academic institution,” said Prof. Kraig A. Adler, neurobiology and behavior, the vice provost for life sciences, upon being told of the survey’s results. “I’ve been here 30-plus years, and I happen to think this is a wonderful place to work,” he added.

The survey discovered that factors such as laboratory and research facilities, working relationships with peers and research funding were most important to life scientists working in the U.S. today.

“I do agree that Cornell is one of the best places to work. The fact that I am finishing my 39th year at Cornell attests to that fact. I agree that adequate laboratory and research facilities are among the most important factors,” said Prof. Ralph Obendorf, crop and soil sciences. Obendorf felt that at Cornell, the fact that scientists and researchers were allowed the “freedom to work and teach on topics of [one’s] choice and to be permitted to follow [one’s] leads wherever they may lead,” further contributed to Cornell’s high rank in the survey. He added that there exists “a superb pool of very highly talented and informed students with abilities to do whatever interests them.”

Both Obendorf and Adler also agreed that Cornell was an especially good place to work in the field of life sciences because of how easy it can be to participate in interdisciplinary collaboration.

“We’ve hired faculty from other research universities … they comment on how much easier it is to collaborate with other institutions,” Adler added. Obendorf commented that Cornell maintained a “very rich environment” for such collaboration and is “highly regarded” for it worldwide.

When Adler notified life science faculty members of Cornell’s rank in this survey, he received numerous assents and positive responses. “I think [this sentiment] is a fairly widespread feeling at Cornell,” Adler said. He pointed out that Cornell’s recent investments in the life science initiatives continue to demonstrate the University’s commitment to the progress in the field of life science. “This is the best it’s ever been, and it’s getting better,” he added.

Approximately 1,500 respondents’ answers were used to determine the survey’s results. The survey was open to life scientists in the U.S., Canada and in several European countries, but it ranked the institutions separately within each country. Sixty-six institutions were ranked in the U.S.. Respondents were asked to rate their institution by indicating whether they agreed or disagreed to a series of statements covering topics that ranged from the quality of research facilities and opportunities to the provided health coverage, and policies on sabbaticals. The data was collected through a web-based survey form.

The top five institutions ranked in order were the California Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the University of Nebraska and Cornell. Five scientists from Cornell took part in the survey, but the names of the respondents were not released. The respondents were self-selected.