Conversation With The Dean
Supporting Research, The American Way
It is my pleasure to introduce this issue of
SMU Research, which for the first time highlights
student research on our campus. Student
research is central to SMU’s mission as
a research university and contributes to two
major goals of its Centennial Strategic Plan:
“to strengthen scholarly research and creative
achievement and to enhance the academic
quality and reputation of the University.”
As a society we have benefited enormously from the synergy between
research and economic expansion. Consider just one invention –
the microchip. Since the first prototype was developed in 1958, inventions
made possible by the microchip have transformed medicine,
communication, information technology, space exploration and military
technology. In addition, innumerable devices dependent on microchips,
from automobiles to personal computers, have improved our lives.
In the 2007 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Energizing
and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future,” the National
Academy of Sciences cites independent studies indicating that as
much as 85 percent of our nation’s economic growth has resulted from
advances in science and technology. Clearly, maintaining research
leadership has become essential to the nation’s economic well-being.
The research university has played a central role in the emergence
of U.S. leadership in science and technology.
The number of American
universities granting Ph.D.s increased from 90 before WWII to 392 by
the end of the 20th century. During this period, patents awarded each
year in the United States more than tripled, and Nobel Prizes in physics,
chemistry and medicine awarded to American scientists increased
from 14 before WWII to 204 by 2008.
The most important contribution of American universities has been
training of our nation’s future research leaders. Graduate education
is a crucial activity.
Constituting the workforce that conducts research
projects proposed and directed by the faculty, graduate students
enter the university as researchers in training and exit as colleagues
of their professors.
Since WWII, the number of Ph.D.s awarded per year in the United
States has increased by a factor of 10, with nearly half of the new
Ph.D.s in science and engineering in recent years entering the private
sector where they drive technological advances. To continue to produce
adequate numbers of American scientists and engineers, exposure
of undergraduate students to research opportunities is also
essential. That way they will experience the excitement of discovery
that can lead them to continue their education in science and engineering
*Source: “Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Energizing and Employing America
for a Brighter Economic Future,”www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11463#toc.