Baylor Physics Continues to Climb in the Rankings

Nov. 23, 2010

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The continuing trajectory of improvement for Baylor University's department of physics now is being recognized on the national level. The recently released rankings by the National Research Council show substantial progress between 1995 and 2006 on all of the various measures and indexes.

Even more recent and detailed data from Academic Analytics, a private company ranking Ph.D. programs, shows that the upward climb has continued since 2006.

The Academic Analytics data for 2008 show that the department's high overall ranking of faculty scholarly productivity - the FSP Index of publications, grants and awards - places Baylor physics in the company of large state-supported programs such as those at the University of Florida and Texas. The Baylor physics faculty rank No. 1 nationally among doctoral physics programs in the percentage of authors whose works are cited and are among the top 20 in dollars per research grant.

Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of the Baylor Graduate School, congratulated the physics department on their achievements.

"The significant climb in the NRC rankings is noteworthy, but I am especially impressed by the Academic Analytic rankings in publishing cited research and bringing in high-dollar grants. These are the areas in which major science programs compete," Lyon said.

Dr. Greg Benesh, chair of the physics department in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences, noted that the department is distinguished in another important measure.

"We are among only 21 Ph.D.-granting physics departments nationwide with five or more female faculty, according to the last American Institute of Physics survey performed in 2006," Benesh said.

As for Baylor's physics graduate students and their productivity, graduate program director Walter Wilcox said, "The department continues to lead the university in the number of papers published per graduate student, and these publications are invaluable when our students enter the job market."

Premier collaborations

One of the key areas of concentration within the department is elementary particle physics. A measure of success in this area was the acceptance of Baylor into one of the premier physics collaborations, the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Central European National Research Center (CERN) earlier this year. This was a natural outgrowth of the department's long-standing participation in Fermilab.

"CMS was a natural choice for our group," said Dr. Kenichi Hatakeyama, assistant professor of physics and Baylor's newest addition to its experimental high-energy particle group. Hatakeyama presented the successful proposal to CMS.

"This collaboration is very important to us because it will be a long-term research project," said Dr. Jay Dittmann, associate professor of physics, who assisted Hatakeyama in preparing the proposal. "Joining the CMS collaboration at CERN is the future of our high-energy physics research program here at Baylor."

The U.S. CMS collaboration now has a total of 49-member institutions.

"I would like to congratulate Baylor University on joining CMS," said Nick Hadley, the U.S. CMS Collaboration Board chair. "They are already making significant contributions, and I am glad that they have joined us in this crucial and exciting time."

Commitment to graduate, undergraduate students

As a part of its commitment to undergraduate research, the Baylor physics department and the Center for Astrophysics, Space Science and Engineering Research (CASPER) have hosted the National Science Foundation (NSF) REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) and RET (Research Experience for Teachers) programs for several years. Last summer the department had 11 undergraduate students and three high school teachers participating in the program. The department also was pleased to announce the approval of two new undergraduate majors in 2009 - astronomy and astrophysics - both appropriate for the International Year of Astronomy. This is a natural growth area for the department and extends existing strengths in the physics department.

The Baylor physics department continues to be successful in attracting external national research grants. Besides the Department of Energy (DOE) grants supporting experimental high-energy physics research at Fermilab and CERN, Dr. Lorin Swint Matthews, assistant professor of physics, has been awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development award, which began funding her work in 2009 in the field of complex plasmas.

In addition, Dr. Bennie Ward, Distinguished Professor of Physics, has been awarded a renewed DOE grant for his work in particle theory through 2011. Dr. Anzhong Wang, professor of physics, also was awarded a new research grant from the DOE for his theoretical studies in cosmology, including dark energy and dark matter.

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

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