UCLA Department of Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences ties for first in USNRC Rankings
In its most recent study in September, 2010 the National Research Council (NRC) released the Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs, a comprehensive study in which the Department of Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences at UCLA (AOS) was tied for 1st place alongside Colorado State University.
Whether you are looking at solely peer-assessment or the comprehensive data analysis, the Department of Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences UCLA consistently scored in the top 5, especially in key categories such as research activity.
In its most recent study in September, 2010 the National Research Council (NRC) released the Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs, a comprehensive study in which the Department of Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences at UCLA (AOS) was tied for 1st place alongside Colorado State University. The full assessment consists of a wide collection of quantitative data obtained over the years of 2000-2006, in addition to the information gathered through a series questionnaires administered to institutions, programs, and faculty regarding the strength of 20 different characteristics for over 5000 programs in 62 fields at 212 institutions.
The NRC report is unique in the sense that it incorporates two different methods of evaluation, attempting to reduce the amount of bias when making the rankings. The final absolute rankings incorporate both evaluations, thus providing the most accurate, unbiased program ranking list available. The first method is a simple peer review assessment in which faculty from other departments rank other schools based on their perceived program strength in various categories. The second method attempts to remove the potential of bias in the rankings and is instead based on purely statistical information regarding certain features in all departments (citations per faculty, or amount of citations per publication, for instance), where the relative importance (weight) of each category is first determined through the questionnaires given to faculty everywhere.
Whether you are looking at solely peer-assessment or the comprehensive data analysis, the Department of Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences UCLA consistently scored in the top 5, especially in key categories such as research activity and percentage of faculty with grants (100%). It should also be of interest that both the Marine Science Department at UCSB and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UCSD were ranked at 3 and 4, respectively, scoring extremely high in many categories as well, adding further acclaim and recognition to the UC system at large (UC Santa Cruz was not far behind either, ranked at 13).
There are many impressive figures that make it clear as to why AOS at UCLA was ranked first amongst the 48 other notable programs across the nation. For starters, the medium-to-small AOS department, consisting of 29 full-time professors, adjunct and associate professors and lecturers, were found to have 2.71 publications per faculty member, and averaging 2.67 average citations per publication over the years 2000-2006. There are only two other schools that exceed UCLA in these categories: Colorado State University and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who were found to have slightly more publications and citations per faculty member, (2.93 and 3.3 for Colorado, and 2.76 and 1.99 for Michigan). There were only three other schools (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Penn State, and Ohio State) that were found to have close to 2.5 publications per faculty, suggesting that UCLA, Colorado State, and Michigan are ranked at the top by a substantial margin and perhaps exist in an exclusive cohort based on these measures. The most distinguishing figure by far, though, is the number of awards per faculty member at UCLA, where faculty boasts on average 1.87 awards per member. No other school even breaks 1.0 per faculty member, including MIT (.83), the Scripps Institute at UCSD (.78), Colorado State University (.71), Princeton University (.65), and UCSB (.46). In addition to all this, UCLA is the only university that has given 100% of its faculty research grants of any kind.
Since its inception in 1940 under the leadership of the late Professor Jacob Bjerknes, originator of the polar-front theory of cyclones, the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA (AOS) has been at the forefront of atmospheric research and education, establishing its four main areas of research: (1) climate and weather, (2) atmospheric chemistry and air pollution, (3) oceanography, and (4) space physics. A broad curriculum is offered in dynamic and synoptic meteorology, atmospheric chemistry and physics, and upper atmosphere and space physics, for both graduate students and undergraduate students majoring in Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences, making it amongst the most diverse and well-rounded academic programs in the country.
Climate and weather research at UCLA is distinguished by its focus on the theoretical underpinnings and observational tools necessary to understand all aspects of our atmosphere and oceans. The UCLA researchers here are world leaders in many areas, including theories of climate and weather dynamics, the development and application of numerical models of the atmosphere and oceans, and techniques to convert remotely-sensed data into useful climate and weather information. Among some of the most coveted UCLA professors engaged in this research area are Yongkang Xue, Michael Ghil, David Neelin, Roberto C. Mechoso and Alex Hall.
The AOS department has a longstanding tradition of experimental and theoretical research in atmospheric chemistry and physics. In fact, the department actually built a 9 story high precipitation shaft used by Hans Pruppacher to study the growth of water drops as they pass through the air. Today the Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry program consists of six nationally and internationally recognized faculty members who work together with a number of researchers and graduate students, including professor Emeritus Kuo Nan Liou and professor Suzanne Paulson.
The rapidly growing faculty in ocean sciences at AOS organizes their research based on a large palette of questions ranging from the role of the ocean in the physical climate system to its role in the global carbon cycle. A strong emphasis is also given to the study of the coastal environment and its interaction with the open seas and the land. Much of their research is highly interdisciplinary and involves a substantial number of faculty members from other departments and institutes.
The highly esteemed space physics research groups (headed by Larry Lyons and Richard Thorne) together aim at understanding how energy is carried by the solar wind is transferred into the magnetosphere, dispersed through the system, and eventually deposited in the atmosphere. The program utilizes satellite and ground-based data, together with theoretical analysis and modeling, and involves extensive collaboration with the national and international space science community. There is strong participation in National Science Foundation and NASA programs and the National Space Weather program. Additionally, the program is enriched by related activities in other UCLA departments.
Over the past 40 years, UCLA researchers have made historic contributions to our understanding of the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, teleconnections between weather regimes all over the globe, and the development of techniques to simulate weather and climate. This strong tradition of excellence continues today, and will so into the future. Whether studying the dynamics of a giant tornado, the coming and going of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, or the changing climate of the modern era and the next century, the Department of Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences at UCLA will continue to be a leader in problem solving for society. It is through a continued focus on excellence, in addition to the outside recognition from sources like NRC promoting AOS as a leading program in atmosphere and ocean research, that our program has become so well-endowed with talented researchers, faculty and, of course, our students. We are honored by this recognition and are excited to take on the challenge as being a leader in future research and development of our scientific understanding of the oceans and atmosphere.
Published: Tuesday, November 09, 2010