In some circles, Reed is thought
of as a progressive institution that places a particular emphasis on the
arts and humanities. Those who truly understand Reed, however, know that
our very real strength in humanistic studies is to put it mildly
complemented by some of the strongest and most rigorous natural
science programs in the country. Our devotion to serious, high-powered
study in laboratory and theoretical science has long been a fundamental
and distinguishing feature of the academic program.
The pantheon of Reed faculty giants includes, indeed gives a certain pride
of place to, professors such as Knowlton and Griffin, Kleinholz and Scottto
mention but a few of those who brought national prominence to our science
programs. The achievements of their students are undeniable. Of all American
colleges and universities, only Cal Tech and Harvey Mudd have sent a larger
portion of their graduates on to earn doctorates in science. In biology
alone, Reed is far and away the nations leading per capita producer
of Ph.D.s. Over the years, Reed graduates have been elected to the National
Academy of Science in numbers far beyond what one would expect from a
small school, and our alumni are well represented on many of the nations
most distinguished science faculties.
You may have recently read about one such outstanding alumnus, Wise Young
71, in the August 20 science and medicine issue of Time magazines
ongoing Americas Best series. Young, a Reed biology
major, a neurosurgeon, and head of the Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience
at Rutgers University, is doing breakthrough spinal cord research. He
was one of 18 scientists that Time calls brilliant researchers who
are the envy of the world.
The tradition of excellence abounds. Last year Reed ranked 18th in the
nation among all colleges and universities in the numbernot the
percentage, but the actual total numberof seniors majoring in physics.
Enrollments are similarly healthy in chemistry, biology, psychology, and
mathematics. The division of mathematics and natural science accounts
for about 40 percent of all graduating seniors, and when psychology students
are added, the figure approaches one half. We take special pride in the
comparatively large number of female students who perform with distinction
in the sciences and who go on to pursue important and rewarding scientific
science requires serious infrastructure, and we have worked hard to make
sure that our students and faculty have the kind of equipment they need.
The chemistry building is surely one of the finest of its kind anywhere,
and the psychology building is similarly impressive. The recently completed
biology addition and renovation is a terrific facility, and we continue
to pursue major ongoing improvements to our physics labs.
At the heart of the program, however, is a teaching faculty that I would
characterize as brilliant. Reed long ago pioneered a research-oriented
pedagogy that puts students in labs early on, that thinks of students
not primarily as note-takers but as active investigators, and that culminates,
of course, in the senior thesis project, itself conceived as an original
exercise in systematic scientific inquiry. Todays faculty continues
to pursue this approach with enthusiasm. Its not at all unusual
for Reed undergraduates to publish in scientific journals as co-authors
with their faculty advisers, and the overall quality of student work is,
by any measure, extremely high.
The other articles in this issue focus on Reeds biology program.
But the undeniable success of that program needs to be understood in the
context of our larger commitment to a first-rate education in science
and mathematics. And if the focus here is on students majoring in science,
its important to emphasize as well that the faculty requires every
Reed student, regardless of major, to take at least two full courses in
laboratory science as a prerequisite for graduation. At Reed scientific
inquiry is an integral and essential part of how we understand a liberal
Steinberger is Reeds acting president and the Robert H. and Blanche
Day Ellis professor of political science and humanities.