When astronomer Bruce Partridge left Princeton University to join the faculty at Haverford College, a small liberal arts college in southeastern Pennsylvania, his colleagues thought he was crazy. But 22 years later, Partridge says it was the best decision he ever made.

"Sure, there's times when I wish I was in the fast lane," says Partridge, now Haverford's provost. "But I'm more fulfilled personally in this setting. I've been able to maintain a research career that made me happy, it's a pleasure to give really bright kids their first taste of science, and I enjoy participating in the life of a small institution."

Partridge's sentiments are echoed by other first-rate scientists who have traded in the rough-and-tumble world of the major research institutions for what they say are more satisfying careers at "science-active" liberal arts colleges. The term refers to schools at which research is an integral component of the...

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