High profile publications in biology and biochemistry on rise at UH

04/27/04

Department Chair Dryer comments on record increase in scientific paper citations

HOUSTON, April 27, 2004 Through teamwork and collaboration, the University of Houston's Department of Biology and Biochemistry has produced an environment that has led to a record increase in scientific paper citations.

According to a recent analysis released in early April of the ISI Essential Science IndicatorsSM Web product, UH showed the highest percent increase in total citations in the field of biology and biochemistry, with 360 papers cited a total of 5,316 times.

A research platform that empowers researchers and accelerates discovery, the ISI Web of KnowledgeSM is a product of Essential Science Indicators that provides a resource to enable researchers in conducting ongoing, quantitative analyses of research performance and track trends in science, as well as offer an analytical tool that provides data for ranking scientists, institutions, countries and journals. Users include government policy makers, university and corporate research administrators, analysts, researchers and information specialists in government, academia, industry, publishing, financial services and research foundations.

In an interview with Stuart Dryer, chair of UH's biology and biochemistry department in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, this citation achievement is attributed to the department's faculty recruiting strategies in the past decade and the synergy it creates.

"By recruiting faculty in our areas of strength, our department has built up a critical mass in specific areas, enhancing our contributions to the fields of biology and biochemistry," Dryer said. "Until the early 1990s, the department had been two separate departments biology and biochemistry with distinct cultures and different teaching loads. In merging the two, we recruited new faculty at pretty much all levels, from junior to mid-level to senior faculty, that built a distinct synergy created by finding people who would work well together not just scientifically but even socially. There's an element here of people who are just excited to get to work in the morning, because we like our colleagues."

Dryer additionally asserts that just about everybody who came to UH's biology and biochemistry program got better after they arrived and includes himself in that group. He adds that having faculty increasingly publish papers in journals like Science, Nature and Cell also makes a difference.

While interdisciplinary programs play a large role in UH's general research success, the citation power coming out of biology and biochemistry is almost entirely internal to the department. Operating on a philosophy that advocates teamwork and collaboration, UH professors in this field treasure the fact that they will have good colleagues right next door and that they will be working on similar problems, but perhaps with different techniques. Five of them, for instance, work on different aspects of circadian rhythms.

"Even within Houston, we have tremendous biomedical sciences," Dryer said. "We have three other major institutions within the city actually four if you include Galveston so we have to go after smart science, recruiting people focused on fundamental biological questions and not so much on techniques.

"We're trying to cast as big a net as possible with broad faculty searches. That way, while you may be searching for someone who's working in one particular area, you sometimes pull in someone with that broader net who's totally different but fits in perfectly doing something you never thought to search for. It's also a way to build both science and the diversity of the faculty at UH."

Continuing with the strategy of building to its strengths, UH's Department of Biology and Biochemistry is looking to even more intensely focus on three particular areas in the future. The areas of molecular microbiology and infectious disease, molecular neurobiology and neurogenetics, and theoretical and experimental evolutionary biology will be continually strengthened and expanded to the point where their spheres begin to overlap.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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