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NSF Digs into 2009 Data on Science and Engineering Graduate Students

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In a new InfoBrief report, the National Science Foundation's Center for Science and Engineering Statistics says that during the two decades between 1989 and 2009, "the number of minority US citizens and permanent residents enrolled in graduate science and engineering programs more than doubled, growing from approximately 37,700 in 1989 to 92,700 in 2009." However, citing additional data gleaned from its 2009 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, NSF adds that "despite these substantial gains, black and Hispanic US citizens and permanent residents remain underrepresented within the S&E [science and engineering] graduate student population when compared with the adult US citizen population."

Elsewhere in the InfoBrief, NSF notes that from 2008 to 2009, the fastest growing graduate science and engineering programs were in the fields of "civil engineering, mechanical engineering, economics, biomedical engineering, political science, aerospace engineering, and agricultural sciences," all of which grew by at least 7 percent. Considering the growth of graduate science and engineering disciplines between 2000 and 2009, however, NSF says that "biomedical engineering easily outpaced all other … fields, increasing by approximately 145 percent."

In discussing its 2009 survey data on postdocs who work at US academic institutions, the NSF says that of the 57,805 total postdocs reported for that year, more than 70 percent were employed in science and engineering fields. Of those, 83 percent worked in science fields, it adds, though "from 2000 to 2009, the growth of engineering postdocs (approximately 95 percent) substantially outpaced that of science postdocs (approximately 30 percent)." In all science and engineering fields combined, "the number of female postdocs increased by approximately 60 percent" during the last decade, NSF says.

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