Best Places to Work in Academia: U.S. Rankings
No. 1 US: Fox Chase Cancer Center
Courtesy of Paul Cohen
At the Fox Chase Cancer Center, which ranked first in the United States in the "Best Places" survey, research is a team sport. "We all have a common mission and a common goal," says Erica Golemis, a principal investigator in the basic science division. "This is the most cooperative, interactive place."
Fox Chase in Philadelphia is one of the National Cancer Institutes' 39 designated comprehensive cancer centers. Here, researchers are divided among three scientific divisions: basic, medical, and population. Within each, investigators are organized into working groups based on their research interests and expertise. "There's not a lot of bureaucracy. There's the president, the directors, and the working group heads, and that's it," says Mary Ann Sells, director of grants and contracts and former head of the cell culture facility. "There's no politics involved."
The nonprofit research institute earned high marks in infrastructure and research resources. With more than 1,900 employees and an annual budget of $130 million (US), Fox Chase is the fourth-largest facility in the country dedicated to cancer care. "It's large enough to keep all the bases covered, but small enough so that everyone matters," Golemis says. "It really is the collegial ideal."
Location helps, too: "We're 20 minutes from downtown, and 10 minutes from really great suburbs," she says. "It doesn't even feel like you're in Philadelphia." Along with an onsite daycare facility, Fox Chase provides a staff that prepares all grant applications, which means scientists can do science, rather than spend their time seeking financing.
But like any institution, Fox Chase requires extensive funding. "We need more money," Golemis says, adding that the center's endowment is less than $100 million.
Research funding also comes from grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society. Securing money is, says Sells, "the real challenge we face."
No. 2 US: Purdue University
Courtesy of Purdue University
With the rest of the United States in an economic slump, Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind., is planning to hire 300 new faculty members over the next five years and build a $126 million (US) research facility. Known as Discovery Park, it will house five research centers including the Birck Nanotechnology Center and the Bindley Bioscience Center.
The Park, partly funded by a $26 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, is the brainchild of new leadership that has come to Purdue within the past five years, says Charles Rutledge, interim vice provost for research and the park's executive director. With the new leadership came a new strategic plan. "If we want to be preeminent among our peers, we need more facilities and faculty," Rutledge says. "We were able to reallocate and find some resources to fund these projects."
The researchers there approve: In this "Best Places" survey, Purdue ranked as the second best place to work overall and first in fairness in salary decisions within the United States. "Purdue strives to maintain a healthy balance and places tremendous value on research and teaching," says Jo Davisson, medicinal chemist and molecular pharmacologist and codirector of the Bindley Bioscience Center.
Rutledge says that expertise in fundamental science and engineering, a management team with business vision, and a strong informatics team give research at Purdue its strength. "With Discovery Park, we've been able to bring scholars in engineering and ... basic sciences together," Rutledge says. "[This] will allow students to work side by side with top biologists, chemists, or ... engineers." Davisson agrees: "The spirit of collaboration here opens entirely new doors. You can do research far beyond your own capabilities."
--Maria W. Anderson