WVU Ranks in “Best Places to Work in Academia”

1310215665 story 150x144 WVU Ranks in Best Places to Work in AcademiaWVU clocks-in as one of the “best places to work in academia” according to The Scientist magazine and ranked ahead of such research powerhouses as Penn, Cornell, Rice, Vanderbilt, Michigan, UCLA, Johns Hopkins,and Yale.

The interdisciplinary and cooperative nature of West Virginia University’s research community was a key factor in a prestigious magazine for scientists selecting the University as one of the best places to work in academia. WVU’s research enterprise clocked in at number 20 on the list of U.S. research sites complied by The Scientist – a respected news magazine that focuses primarily on biology and life science. The magazine’s Best Places to Work in Academia survey was released this week. The magazine’s introduction, which noted that most of the top sites were small in size, highlighted WVU.

“Though large universities can rarely offer their researchers the camaraderie that comes from a small, tight-knit community, their size provides access to high-end resources,” the magazine wrote. “Enterprising life scientists at West Virginia University, this years #20 US institution, take advantage of their school’s breadth of brainpower by tapping colleagues in the physics department to build custom tools they need.”

“To be included in this group, especially as one of only four comprehensive universities – and one of only two land-grant institutions – in the top 20, is a testament to the culture not only of West Virginia University, but also of West Virginians,” President Jim Clements said. “We work together to solve problems and get things done. “This is a great tribute to our faculty and staff who work hard every day to fulfill our strategic vision of growth in research, scholarship and innovation, making WVU one of the hottest universities in the country.”

The article noted how Elena Pugacheva, assistant professor of biochemistry and a member of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center in the School of Medicine needed a new, specialized ultrasound machine for her research on cell proliferation in tumor cells associated with breast cancer. Instead of seeking an expensive private sector remedy for the situation, colleagues across town in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences’ Physics Department rode to the rescue and helped build a new ultrasound machine from scratch.

Pugacheva, who has received a Career Catalyst Research grant from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and support from the National Institutes of Health, told the magazine that, “this kind of cross-disciplinary aid was something that simply wasn’t available at the cancer center. You didn’t have an in-house department that could do that. It’s a big plus here.”

The Scientist survey judged Pugacheva’s story as illustrative of the magazine’s view of WVU as a place where cooperation and collegiality “keep research running smoothly in the face of economic adversity.” WVU Vice President for Research and Economic Development Curt M. Peterson said the cooperative multi-disciplinary approach is an important quality at the University that has helped drive its rise in national research prominence.

He said the recognition from The Scientist is a welcome validation of the way WVU researchers work together to advance the institutional mission of making lives better through research and innovation. This cooperative atmosphere is no accident. One of the goals of the University’s recently adopted Strategic Framework for the Future is: “Excel in research, creative activity and innovation in all disciplines.”

One of the three objectives of the goal is to “encourage interdisciplinary activity in research, scholarship and creativity.” WVU strengths, according to the survey, were “tenure and promotion”and “teaching and mentoring.” WVU, which was not in the rankings last year, ranked ahead of such institutions as Rice University, Cornell University, UCLA, University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University and the National Cancer Institute.

The J. David Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco led the list, followed by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. The Scientist has conducted “best places to work” surveys since 2003, one for postdoctoral researchers in all sectors, one for all life scientists working in industry and one for all life scientists working in academia. These surveys aim to find what aspects of the workplace are most important for job satisfaction and which institutions measure up to those standards.

Throughout the year, The Scientist publishes overviews of these surveys’ results, highlighting the top-ranking institutions. The Scientist is a highly regarded publication with readership all over the world. The publication’s on-line version had more than a million users as of September 2010. Its e-mail/newsletter subscribers numbered more than 107,000 science professionals. More than 40 percent of the readers of The Scientist.com are from academic institutions.

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