Which undergraduate college produces the most students receiving Ph.D.s from U.S. universities?
Harvard? Stanford? MIT? Nope.
The answer is Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.
The college in second place? Peking University in Beijing.
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The United States now ranks 10th in the number of people ages 25 to 34 who have a postsecondary degree. More than a third of the students in U.S. graduate schools — and more than half in some fields — are not U.S. citizens.
Although some foreign students will stay in this country and contribute to our economy, many more will return to their home countries to develop new products and build technology-based companies that will boost their local economies and compete directly with U.S. companies.
This trend is becoming more depressing as more and more U.S. students shun science and technology as too hard and underappreciated by parents, peers and other role models in their lives.
I believe that American students want to solve the problems facing our planet, including how to reduce global warming, harness renewable energy and improve health. But it is crucial that our country tap into this interest and harness a new enthusiasm for learning science like we experienced at the beginning of the Space Age.
Science not only has influenced our quality of life for decades, it has created jobs and has the ability to help pull America out of this recession and contribute to long-term economic growth. A recent study prepared by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice for the Biotechnology Industry Organization says, "the biosciences are already shaping up to be a key engine of economic growth in the United States."
This is good news. But it becomes great news if we can get — and keep — more American kids excited about science.
One way we can support science education in Kansas — and recognize young scientists — is to support the International BioGENEius Challenge.
Selected as one of only 10 states by the Biotechnology Institute, Kansas will send its three best science students to compete against their peers from across the country. Six winners from local competitions in Kansas City and Wichita will be selected to present their research to the Kansas BioGENEius judges. The judges then will narrow the field, and three winners will present their projects at the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge next spring in Washington, D.C.
Previous BioGENEius finalists have presented their research to President Obama. This is the kind of recognition and attention we should give our budding young scientists.
Students interested in participating in the BioGENEius Challenge should register by March 18 for the Kansas State Science and Engineering Fair to be held April 1-2 at Exploration Place in Wichita. More information can be found on the Kansas Bio website at www.kansasbio.org/education/education.htm.
Virtually every major environmental, energy, agricultural and health problem that we face today can be addressed through the application of new biotechnologies. If we don't act now to engage our young people, we not only will shortchange a new generation of scientists, we will miss an opportunity to improve the quality of life for our citizens and the economic future of America.