Sunday, September 09, 2007

Nobel Laureate Inks Marketing Deal with Penn State

Here are some facts you won't find blasted from Penn State's propaganda portal. No one has ever won a Nobel Prize while serving on the Penn State faculty. No one who has served on the Penn State faculty has won a Nobel Prize after leaving Penn State. Penn State has never hired a faculty member with a Nobel Prize. No one with an advanced degree from Penn State has ever won a Nobel Prize. Here is an additional fact which Penn State will tout: one alumnus, with a B.S., went on to win a Nobel Prize. Paul Berg, a 1948 graduate, won the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry"for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant-DNA." But given the that Penn State pops out undergrads like McDonald's serves up hamburgers, the odds are in favor of more than one of them having won the prize by now.

Should you not believe me about any of this, go do a Google search of the Nobel Foundation's web site on "Pennsylvania State University". Here's what you get.(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

That's it one hit. If you search on "Penn State" you will get two additional hits. One hit gives a link to a laureate whose father graduated from Penn State and the other gives a link to a laureate whose wife attended Penn State.The point of this is, as will be no surprise to anyone who has spent time at University Park, that Penn State is not an intellectual hotbed.

By comparison, Berkeley has been the home to fifteen Nobel Prize winners; the most recent winner won in 2006. In the Big Ten, Purdue Indiana, and NorthWestern have each had one winner on their faculties, while Illinois has had three of its faculty win the prize. One of whom, John Bardeen, won it twice for physics.

It was with this background in mind that I was startled and delighted see a headline in the Harrisburg Patriot News (sorry the link is now dead) that said that Penn State had hired a Nobel Laureate. Such a hire could transform a department and would indicate that the person hired thought that he could find fruitful collaborations at the University. But of course, this being Penn State nothing is as it initially seems. It is all smoke and mirrors. This hire turned out to be no different. It was little more than a marketing ploy. Here is how Adam Smeltz at the CDT reported the story.
For what appears to be the first time, a Nobel Prize winner has accepted an appointment at Penn State.

Barry J. Marshall , a co-recipient of the 2005 prize in physiology, will join the university this spring as the Francis R. and Helen M. Pentz professor of science, university President Graham Spanier said Wednesday. He called Marshall "one of the brilliant researchers in the world."

The initial appointment is three years, though the relationship is expected to last beyond that. His work here should extend his pioneering research into bacterial infections, the university reported.

"This is a fabulous human being as well as a great researcher," Spanier said. "We're just delighted with this."

Marshall, a senior research fellow at the University of Western Australia, said he will spend at least two weeks a year at Penn State. Here, he will work with the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, veterinary and biomedical sciences and microbiology and immunology.

He also will be involved in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, according to a news release.

That's it. This guy has promised to spend two weeks a year at Penn State spread out over three department in three different colleges at two different locations and at the Huck Institute. This should have little to no intellectual impact on Penn State.

And it hardly appears that Dr. Marshall came to Penn State willingly and enthusiastically.

Recently, Marshall said, Spanier and a vice chancellor at the University of Western Australia "cooked up this idea" of the appointment in Pennsylvania.
That sounds an awful lot like Spanier got the guy's boss to pressure him into accepting Penn State's offer. I wonder how much money they had to offer him to get him to come here. Whatever it is, I hope they charge to Old Main's marketing budget

To whom is this marketing campaign being pitched? No academic will buy into the notion that Penn State has recruited a Nobel Prize winner for its faculty. That's just ludicrous No, it is all about fooling the rubes with the headlines like the one I saw in the Patriot News. Or take a look at this screen capture of the CDT story on Spanier's new contract.

Maybe Spanier managed to fooled the rubes on the BOT. On second thought, don't bill the marketing department for Marshall's salary; let Spanier personally pay it.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good article.
I was a prospective grad student at university park recently. Half of the faculty are full of Sh*t!. Especially a russian dude called F**cking Krasilnikov. Awful guy! i wonder why the department with a "nobel laurette" would have such a guy