Researchers at UCSB have scored yet another point in the continuing battle against the university’s party school image.
Several UCSB programs and departments were ranked highly by a U.S. News and World Report list released April 5, 2002. Out of 145 programs, the College of Engineering was ranked 24th in a tie with Johns Hopkins University, and the Materials Dept. was 7th. The Ph.D. Physics program was ranked 10th, and the department’s specialty in condensed matter/low temperature physics placed 5th.
Fred Lange, chair of the Materials Dept. and a professor, was surprised that UCSB engineering had not ranked higher.
“It’s amazing because when people rank our research, we usually come out number one, way ahead,” he said. “That’s simply because our faculty are brilliant innovators. Two of our faculty a year ago received Nobel prizes.”
Lange said that the main reason UCSB is not ranked higher is because the Materials Dept. is aimed at graduates rather then undergraduates.
“Rankings such as these are more concerned about undergraduate education,” he said.
Materials at UCSB is also first in academic paper citations, Lange said, and the College of Engineering 10th.
“There’s a group of people who actually sort of ‘count up’ how many pages are published and what’s referenced. Generally, if your paper’s referenced, that means someone really loved it,” he said. “Or has some really dark reason to condemn it, but that’s generally not the case.”
The Physics Dept. is also first in its field in citations, though it is half the size of the other top 10 physics departments, he said.
“We’ve been in the top 10 in various polls off and on over the years,” Physics Chair Silas James Allen said. “We consider ourselves to be one of the top 10 physics departments in the country. It’d be a disappointment to us if we weren’t there now.”
“We would obviously benefit by having a large group of faculty members,” he said.
Paul Desruisseaux, the assistant vice chancellor for public affairs, said that the rankings should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
“U.S. News points out these rankings are intended to be a snapshot of where things stand at a certain point in time. They change the criteria each time they do the rankings. That’s important to remember,” he said.
U.S. News does not make available previous rankings they have done because U.S. News considers them irrelevant today.
According to U.S. News, the rankings are based on “two broad types of data – expert opinion about program quality and statistical indicators that describe the strength of a school’s faculty, its research and the performance of students both as they enter and leave.”
The reputation of a school probably also comes into play, Allen said.
“There’s no doubt that at the top of the list are Caltech and MIT. They have always had their reputation, so they would come out there no matter what, even if their programs had collapsed.”
Still, the image of UCSB as a party school is changing slowly.
“I think people who are in science and engineering already realize that,” Allen said. “I think we just want to broaden the base so that people who aren’t in science and engineering know that.”
“Students took a long time to find us out,” Lange said. “But in the last five years, the student’s GPA has climbed from 3.66 to 3.79.”