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Hendrix Earns High Marks for STEM Doctoral Completion

CONWAY, Ark. (November 12, 2019) — Hendrix College is among the top national institutions in preparing doctoral-level science educators and researchers, according to the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates. 

In the Top 100 U.S. Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of 2007-2016 STEM Doctorate Recipients by Institutional-Yield Ratio, Hendrix ranks #49. 

More impressively, the College is among the top nationally in preparing students, particularly women, for science doctorates. 

According to the NSF data: 

  • Hendrix was #33 in the Top 100 U.S. Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of 2007-2016 Women Biological Sciences Doctorate Recipients by Institutional-Yield Ratio. 

  • Hendrix was #34 in the Top 100 U.S. Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of 2007-2016 Women Life Sciences Doctorate Recipients by Institutional-Yield Ratio. 

  • Hendrix was #42 in the Top 100 U.S. Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of 2007-2016 Women STEM Doctorate Recipients by Institutional-Yield Ratio. 

Encouragement for Graduate School 

“I knew since I was in high school that I wanted to pursue my doctorate, but I believe that Hendrix encouraged and strengthened this desire in me,” said Sarah Glass ’19. “Having one-on-one time with professors in office hours meant that I was able to discuss my professional aspirations and goals. These mentors not only encouraged my pursuits but also wrote recommendation letters for me, enabling me to pursue summer research experiences outside of Arkansas.”  

After graduating from Hendrix in the spring with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, the Maumelle, Arkansas native entered Vanderbilt University’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP). She is a current National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow. 

For her undergraduate research, Glass worked with Hendrix alumnus Dr. John C. Byrd ’87, a Distinguished University Professor at The Ohio State University who hosts Hendrix undergraduate students in his research lab in the summer.   

“Conducting novel research focused on sickle cell disease during my junior year was the most formative experience that I had towards realizing that I could pursue my Ph.D.,” Glass said. “Without this experience, I would not be in the doctoral program that I am in currently.”  

Sarah Gilmour ’19 had a similarly formative experience. Initially unsure whether “scientist was a real job title,” the Arizona native and biochemistry and molecular biology major “fell in love with the lab” after two summer research experiences (one on campus with biology professor Dr. Andrew Schurko, and another with Hendrix alumnus Dr. Kevin Raney ’86). Gilmour is now pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular biology at the Graduate School of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Research Matters 

Access to authentic research experiences both in and out of the classroom is what makes Hendrix so effective in preparing students for a graduate education, said biology professor and Hendrix alumna Dr. Laura MacDonald ’09.   

“A lot of our courses include research components and are designed to help students begin to think like scientists,” she said. “Advanced Cell Biology students read research articles from top journals and learn to analyze them for their strengths and limitations, and a lot of laboratories are starting to incorporate bioinformatics techniques so that we can help support students who want to pursue jobs in the technology sector, which is quickly growing.” 

As a student, MacDonald was a beneficiary of in- and out-of-class research opportunities and faculty encouragement. 

“The summer after my freshman year, I did an Odyssey project at Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife sanctuary. That got me thinking that I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife veterinary medicine and fostered a love for elephants,” MacDonald said. “Because of that, I became interested in [retired chemistry professor] Dr. Tom Goodwin’s research. He offered me a research position shortly thereafter. It was because of faculty like him that I decided that I wanted to become a professor.”    

Underrepresented minority students, including women, in STEM are more likely to pursue an advanced degree if they have a supportive role model and participate in undergraduate research.1  

“Hendrix provides both of these critical variables to all STEM students, particularly with the improved gender balance and diversity within the natural science faculty over the past 15 years,” said Hendrix chemistry professor and alumna Dr. Courtney Hatch ’00, who joined the faculty in 2008. 

“The one thing I hear most often from alumni who have gone on to a Ph.D. program is how prepared they felt for graduate-level courses and research and how grateful they are for the faculty role models they had while at Hendrix. As a graduate of Hendrix myself, I have to agree with them,” she said. “Through a combination of collaborative research opportunities between faculty and students, engaged classroom learning, and one-on-one mentorship, Hendrix has found the perfect recipe for preparing the next generation of research scientists.”   

Gilmour agreed, adding that she feels Hendrix prepared her for the challenges of graduate school, particularly with writing-intensive courses and other support. 

“We had to write grant proposals, which is a very different style and format. You have to be concise and specific,” she said. “Having that experience was a huge help.” 

Addressing Obstacles 

Hendrix also offers many opportunities for students to learn about STEM careers, including programs on how to apply for internships and research opportunities, and how to pay for graduate school, Gilmour said. 

“That’s the biggest thing,” she said. “I was nervous about being in school for six years and paying for it. But those opportunities helped me get on board.” 

Encouraging students to pursue STEM careers also entails listening to student concerns and being open to change, MacDonald said.   

“It’s critically important that we really listen when students share their struggles to better understand how we can help them succeed,” she said. “One thing that I appreciate deeply about being part of this community is the total investment of my colleagues in how they care about students.   

“As a result of students and faculty working together, we’ve been able to work towards change across the sciences, and we’re starting to use instructional approaches that are demonstrated to improve the success of all students in our courses,” she said. “We need to keep creating spaces to hear student voices and actively recognize where we still have work to do.”     

1 Pender et al. The STEM Pipeline: The Role of Summer Research Experience in Minority Students’ Ph.D. Aspirations, Educ Policy Anal Arch. 2010 December 10; 18(30): 1–36. 

About Hendrix College 

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit