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Watson School of Biological Sciences receives top marks from the National Research Council

WSBS 2010 graduation
Chancellor Emeritus Dr. James D. Watson, CSHL President Dr. Bruce Stillman, and WSBS Dean Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor with 2010 WSBS graduates and honorary degree recipients.

CSHL ranks first in citations among 120 doctoral programs in Biology/Integrated Biology/Integrated Biomedical Sciences

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — The Watson School of Biological Sciences (WSBS) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) received the highest of rankings in a comprehensive assessment recently released by the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC’s latest assessment of 5,000 doctoral programs across 62 fields at 212 universities nationwide covers the academic year 2005-2006. In 20 cumulative categories, WSBS ranked between 3rd and 17th in a field of 120 peer programs in Biology/Integrated Biology/Integrated Biomedical Sciences.

“The NRC assessment clearly shows that our innovative program is achieving the highest standards of academic excellence that we set for our faculty and students from the very start of the program 11 years ago,” said WSBS Dean Leemor Joshua-Tor, Ph.D. “We are providing doctoral students with support and tools they need to become leaders not only in the field of biomedical science but also in society.”

CSHL was ranked by the NRC as 1st among 120 peers in the category of citations per publications. This finding confirms other recent independent ratings from Thomson Reuters Essential Scientific Indicators demonstrating that molecular biology and genetics research performed by CSHL scientists has been more influential over the last decade than research performed anywhere else in the world. Over the last 10 years, papers published by CSHL scientists were cited an average of 95 times each, while those of the nearest two peer institutions, MIT and the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, drew averages of 82 and 70 citations, respectively.

According to the NRC report, the innovative WSBS program also ranked high for its success in graduating students in a shorter period of time than most of its peers. The average time to graduate for a WSBS student is 4.6 years, compared with a median time of 5.6 years in other doctoral programs. Although the WSBS program is now only 11 years old, eight of its 45 graduates have already started tenure-track positions—a testament to the program’s success in producing highly qualified and competitive scientific leaders.

In the overall category of “Student Support and Outcomes,” the WSBS ranking ranged from 2nd—16th of the total 120 programs ranked, based on performance regarding full support for 1st year students, completion of degrees, time to completion of degree, and the percentage of students in academic positions. All rankings of programs were reported as ranges.

The NRC’s A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the U.S. assessment is designed to help universities evaluate and improve the quality of their programs and to provide prospective students with information on the nation’s doctoral programs. The assessment includes a report explaining the study committee’s methodology and general findings about doctoral education, along with an Excel spreadsheet containing data on characteristics for each program.  The spreadsheet also includes five sets of illustrative rankings that show how the data can be used to compare programs based on the importance of particular program characteristics to various users. The spreadsheet can be found at

The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are independent, non-profit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter.

The CSHL WSBS Ph.D. program is designed for students with exceptional ability and a deep commitment to their graduate education. Our curriculum is designed to train confident, self-reliant students to become scholars and to acquire the knowledge their research and future careers demand.

This innovative doctoral program includes the following key features:

  • Approximately four years from matriculation to Ph.D.
  • A broad representation of the biological sciences
  • A first year with course work and laboratory rotations in separate phases
  • Emphasis on the principles of scientific reasoning and logic, as well as the importance of ethics and effective communication
  • Extensive mentoring and support

Written by: Dagnia Zeidlickis, Vice President, Communications | | 516-367-8455

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About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit