A “Nobel” Accolade

4 10 2012

In the proverbial confidence-measuring that is academia, one of the things that colleges and universities like to throw out there is the breadth and depth of their Nobel laureates. The reasoning is simple enough; it’s a measurement of prestige, and the caliber of alumni and faculty.

Cornell lays claim to 41 such folks, according to a fall 2009 issue of the Cornell Chronicle, and according to wikpedia, that number has held steady. Within those 41, 3 are current faculty, 13 are alumni, and the other 25 are former faculty (moved, retired or otherwise). The last recipient was Jack Szostak Ph. D ’77, who won the Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 2009.

So let’s take a brief look at how Cornell stacks up against its peers: First, the top 20 schools, as compiled by U.S. News and World Report, since that tends to be the most commonly used ranking system:

Harvard
MIT
Yale
U. Chicago
Penn
Columbia
Stanford
Caltech
Princeton
U. Mich
Cornell
Johns Hopkins
Duke
UC Berkeley
Northwestern
UCLA
Brown
UW-Madison
Carnegie Mellon
NYU

Now their Nobel laureates:

Columbia 80 (or 97, depending on your definition)
U. Chicago 87
MIT 77
Stanford 54
Yale 49
UC Berkeley 47
Harvard 46
Cornell 41
NYU 36
Johns Hopkins 36
Princeton 35
Caltech 32
Penn 28
UW-Madison 19
U. Mich 19
Carnegie Mellon 18
UCLA 14
Duke 12
Northwestern 8
Brown 7

Interestingly, U. Illinois-Urbana-Champaign has 26, but doesn’t appear in the top schools list from USNWR. International students may be annoyed at me for leaving of non-U.S. schools, and granted, there’s a few that have similarly high rankings and accolades. Forgive my blatant nationalism for the moment.

This exercise proves to me, on a very general level, that universities with Nobel affiliates tend to be more prestigious. However, there are some obvious issues- schools with large research programs tend to have more laureates, and we haven’t even explored the Nobel laureates per capita at each institution (an exercise in futility, since I would also require historical enrollement figures I don’t feel like digging for at the moment).

But whatever floats your boat Cornell P.R., and keep your fingers crosses at the next Nobel award ceremony.

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