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College of Chemistry maintains elite position in new NRC rankings

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September 28, 2010

The National Research Council has finally published its long-awaited rankings of doctorate programs in the United States, and the college’s departments of chemistry and chemical and biomolecular engineering retain their highly-ranked positions.

Entitled “A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States,” the report uses complex statistical techniques that have left many observers scratching their heads.

The results of the ranking process are broadly similar to the last set of NRC rankings published in 1995, and to the rankings published by U.S. News &World Report magazine.

According to the new study, the ranking of Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry was statistically estimated to range from first to second. Harvard’s chemistry department ranking spanned the range from second to ninth. A broader span indicates more divergence of opinion on the quality of a particular program.

Among the ranked programs at Berkeley, the Department of Chemistry stands out because no other program had a first-place ranking in combination with such a tight consensus. (

Other highly-ranked chemistry programs included Caltech and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The ranking of Berkeley’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering spanned the relatively narrow range from second to fifth, again indicating a tight consensus that the program was among the best. Other highly-ranked programs included Caltech, MIT, and a newcomer, UC Santa Barbara.

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