December 2012

The ASBMB 2012 graduation survey: a synopsis

Every year, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology requests demographic data on students graduating with bachelor’s and graduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology from more than 800 programs across the United States. The 2012 survey yielded 135 respondents, 94 of whom provided data.

Table 1 (upper table) shows how respondents characterized their programs. Each “Y” indicates a box checked by respondents. A brief inspection reveals that

  • • 57 of the responding institutions offered only undergraduate degrees,
  • • six offered both bachelor’s and master’s degrees,
  • • 20 offered bachelor’s through Ph.D. degrees and
  • • 11 offered only graduate degrees.

A majority of the responding institutions characterized their bachelor’s degree offerings as biochemistry programs or as biochemistry tracks within chemistry degree programs. Somewhat surprisingly, no institution used the term “biotechnology” to characterize its bachelor’s degree programs, although one used the term as a descriptor for its graduate degree programs. (To save space, the biotechnology category is not shown in Table 1).

Table 2 (lower table) summarizes the demographic data reported. Things to note:

  • • While females slightly outnumber males overall, males slightly outnumber females among those earning Ph.D.s.
  • • As in past years, the number of graduates from ethnic groups historically underrepresented in scientific disciplines remains disappointing.
  • • Particularly troubling was the fact that, for the second year in a row, the ratio of black students graduating with graduate degrees relative to the number of them earning bachelor’s degrees was 1:8, a decline from 1:3 in 2010 and 1:4 in 2008. In contrast, this year the graduate-undergraduate ratio for whites, Hispanics and Native Americans clustered around 1:5. While our sample size may be too small to be considered statistically significant, it will be important to examine future surveys for signs of a long-term trend.

A few institutions stood out with regard to the representation of historically underrepresented groups:

  • • The University of Virginia listed five black graduates, five Hispanic graduates and one Pacific Islander graduate among the 103-strong class of 2012.
  • • Texas Women’s University in Houston graduated 23 black and seven Hispanic students.
  • • Other schools reporting significant numbers of black students among the class of 2012 include Jackson State University in Mississippi and Oakwood University in Huntsville, Ala.
  • • The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Rice University in Houston graduated eight and five Hispanic students, respectively.
  • • Native American students tended to cluster at a few institutions, mostly private, such as Simmons College in Boston, Adelphi University in New York, Whitman College in Washington state, the University of Dallas and Mills College in Oakland, Calif. The notable exception to this pattern was the public California State University at San Marcos.

For a look at more of the survey results, please click on the image below:
2012 ASBMB student survey results.

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