It is interesting to study the top three winners and losers in fractional change in perceived
quality as a function of the composition of their faculties in the decade before the NRC study,
during the NRC study (nominally 1987-92), and in the years following. We tabulate below the fractional
NRC relative change in quality of these six departments to compare with the changes underway in
their physics program. In each of the time periods the physics faculty composition is given by
total faculty, Superatomic faculty, and Subatomic faculty in that order. The remainder constitutes
Astronomy faculty in a joint department.
The actual cause of the significant changes in perceived quality of these six Universities is, of course, subject to interpretation.
Significant declines in superatomic faculty are apparent in each of the six faculties
except for Rockefeller which has traditionally not participated in condensed matter
In the cases of the three most rapidly improving departments in relative perceived
quality there has been a significant growth in subatomic faculty although in the case
of UT Arlington this growth did not actually take place until after the period of the
NRC ranking. One can debate whether the respondents in the NRC survey, knowing of
the progressive leadership on that campus, anticipated the
major changes about to take place in that department. UT Arlington was to be the
nearest university to the Superconducting Supercollider and Old Dominion University is
the nearest university to the newly commissioned Jefferson Laboratory. The University
of Alabama was also known to be seriously considering the establishment of an Institute
for High Energy Physics to be named after her illustrious alumnus Robert J. Van de Graaff.
In the case of the departments most rapidly declining in relative perceived quality, one
can note a precipitous loss of faculty, although again in the case of Rockefeller
University the actual drop in faculty size did not take place until after the
of the NRC rankings. It is also possible that Rockefeller was penalized for having a
faculty too unbalanced toward subatomic physics. Rockefeller is the only highly ranked
University with no participation in superatomic physics although there are many low
ranked departments with no participation in subatomic physics.