Saturday, August 21, 2010

Six Professors

 
Chad Orzel thinks you can get a good undergraduate education in physics from only six different professors [How Many Physics Professors Does It Take?].

That got me thinking about how many professors our students need. It depends on which courses they take but a typical biochemistry student encounters lots more professors in their required biochemistry/molecular biology courses. How many? ....about 25-30!!!

Is that because biological sciences are so much harder than physics? :-)


8 comments :

  1. I know that you were being tongue in cheek, but the disciplines are different.

    I am a math professor. In all honesty, we teach our students 19'th century mathematics. Why? One needs a strong base of this to be able to understand anything current. In fact, our Ph.D. preliminary examinations are frequently over algebra, analysis and topology and the topics covered were created in the early 20'th century.
    Hence, it is possible that an undergraduate can get a good education in mathematics from ONE professor (though I don't recommend it)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Harriet says,

    I know that you were being tongue in cheek, but the disciplines are different.

    The issue is complicated. We have far too many courses where individual professors just drop in for a few lectures. That's not a good way of teaching, especially in the early years.

    On the other hand, part of a good education is being exposed to as many different perspectives as possible. If you have the same professor for several courses then you are missing the variety that's necessary to really appreciate a discipline.


    ReplyDelete
  3. What percent effort does teaching make up for each of these 25-30 professors?

    ReplyDelete
  4. anonymous asks,

    What percent effort does teaching make up for each of these 25-30 professors?

    Undergraduate teaching is a minor component of the job in our department.

    A typical professor spends about 10% of their time on formal undergraduate teaching. This increases considerably if they have undergraduates doing projects in their labs.

    Graduate education/supervision is a much more important commitment.


    ReplyDelete
  5. no
    biological sciences
    have more micro-fields of
    experts

    education being exposed to as many different perspectives as possible have a better probability of assimilation

    If you have the same professor
    (depends, is a good professor
    in several fields?

    for several courses then you are missing the variety that's necessary?or that's gives a more abrangent view?

    A typical professor spends about 10% of their time on formal undergraduate teaching...in your case some spend 25%
    some give 20 hours per week
    see the slavonic professors

    ReplyDelete
  6. physics=deep
    biology=wide

    there you go

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anyone with a Ph.D. should be able to teach any undergraduate course in her/his subject, or so I tell our grad students when they are griping about having to pass Comprehensives. Indeed, many small liberal arts colleges in the U.S. have only a single biochemist on the faculty, and do a fine job of teaching the subject.

    This leads to the following theorem: lim(P)= 1, where P is the number of professors. Therefore, as the number of students, S, increases,
    lim (P/S)= lim (1/S) -> 0.

    Which is an administrator's dream.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I agree with Frank - at least the first paragraph...

    I always thought (and found empirically) that quality of a course is inversely proportional to the number of faculty teaching it.

    ReplyDelete