Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: University


Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Abundant research has demonstrated gender bias in many demographic groups, but has yet to experimentally investigate whether science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in academic science. In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student-who was randomly assigned either a male or female name-for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student. Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent. We also assessed faculty participants' preexisting subtle bias against women using a standard instrument and found that preexisting subtle bias against women played a moderating role, such that subtle bias against women was associated with less support for the female student, but was unrelated to reactions to the male student. These results suggest that interventions addressing faculty gender bias might advance the goal of increasing the participation of women in science.

Concepts: Scientific method, Female, Gender, University, Gender role, Experiment, Woman, Bias


National randomized experiments and validation studies were conducted on 873 tenure-track faculty (439 male, 434 female) from biology, engineering, economics, and psychology at 371 universities/colleges from 50 US states and the District of Columbia. In the main experiment, 363 faculty members evaluated narrative summaries describing hypothetical female and male applicants for tenure-track assistant professorships who shared the same lifestyle (e.g., single without children, married with children). Applicants' profiles were systematically varied to disguise identically rated scholarship; profiles were counterbalanced by gender across faculty to enable between-faculty comparisons of hiring preferences for identically qualified women versus men. Results revealed a 2:1 preference for women by faculty of both genders across both math-intensive and non-math-intensive fields, with the single exception of male economists, who showed no gender preference. Results were replicated using weighted analyses to control for national sample characteristics. In follow-up experiments, 144 faculty evaluated competing applicants with differing lifestyles (e.g., divorced mother vs. married father), and 204 faculty compared same-gender candidates with children, but differing in whether they took 1-y-parental leaves in graduate school. Women preferred divorced mothers to married fathers; men preferred mothers who took leaves to mothers who did not. In two validation studies, 35 engineering faculty provided rankings using full curricula vitae instead of narratives, and 127 faculty rated one applicant rather than choosing from a mixed-gender group; the same preference for women was shown by faculty of both genders. These results suggest it is a propitious time for women launching careers in academic science. Messages to the contrary may discourage women from applying for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) tenure-track assistant professorships.

Concepts: Male, Female, Gender, University, Academia, Preference, Professor, Tenure


This interactive feature presents the case of an 18-year-old woman with a history of anorexia and depression who was found near her college campus in an unresponsive state. Test your diagnostic and therapeutic skills at

Concepts: Hospital, University, Campus, Universities and colleges, Satellite campus


It is now standard practice, at Universities around the world, for academics to place pictures of themselves on a personal profile page maintained as part of their University’s web-site. Here we investigated what these pictures reveal about the way academics see themselves. Since there is an asymmetry in the degree to which emotional information is conveyed by the face, with the left side being more expressive than the right, we hypothesised that academics in the sciences would seek to pose as non-emotional rationalists and put their right cheek forward, while academics in the arts would express their emotionality and pose with the left cheek forward. We sourced 5829 pictures of academics from their University websites and found that, consistent with the hypotheses, there was a significant difference in the direction of face posing between science academics and English academics with English academics showing a more leftward orientation. Academics in the Fine Arts and Performing Arts however, did not show the expected left cheek forward bias. We also analysed profile pictures of psychology academics and found a greater bias toward presenting the left check compared to science academics which makes psychologists appear more like arts academics than scientists. These findings indicate that the personal website pictures of academics mirror the cultural perceptions of emotional expressiveness across disciplines.

Concepts: Psychology, Left-wing politics, University, Music, Art


Bicycle theft is a serious problem in many countries, and there is a lack of evidence concerning effective prevention strategies. Displaying images of ‘watching eyes’ has been shown to make people behave in more socially desirable ways in a number of settings, but it is not yet clear if this effect can be exploited for purposes of crime prevention. We report the results of a simple intervention on a university campus where signs featuring watching eyes and a related verbal message were displayed above bicycle racks.

Concepts: University, Crime, Campus, Theft, Robbery


An in-class computer-based system, that included daily online testing, was introduced to two large university classes. We examined subsequent improvements in academic performance and reductions in the achievement gaps between lower- and upper-middle class students in academic performance. Students (Nā€Š=ā€Š901) brought laptop computers to classes and took daily quizzes that provided immediate and personalized feedback. Student performance was compared with the same data for traditional classes taught previously by the same instructors (Nā€Š=ā€Š935). Exam performance was approximately half a letter grade above previous semesters, based on comparisons of identical questions asked from earlier years. Students in the experimental classes performed better in other classes, both in the semester they took the course and in subsequent semester classes. The new system resulted in a 50% reduction in the achievement gap as measured by grades among students of different social classes. These findings suggest that frequent consequential quizzing should be used routinely in large lecture courses to improve performance in class and in other concurrent and subsequent courses.

Concepts: Better, Improve, University, Academia, High school, Social class, Educational assessment and evaluation, University of Cambridge


Despite the old adage not to ‘judge a book by its cover’, facial cues often guide first impressions and these first impressions guide our decisions. Literature suggests there are valid facial cues that assist us in assessing someone’s health or intelligence, but such cues are overshadowed by an ‘attractiveness halo’ whereby desirable attributions are preferentially ascribed to attractive people. The impact of the attractiveness halo effect on perceptions of academic performance in the classroom is concerning as this has shown to influence students' future performance. We investigated the limiting effects of the attractiveness halo on perceptions of actual academic performance in faces of 100 university students. Given the ambiguity and various perspectives on the definition of intelligence and the growing consensus on the importance of conscientiousness over intelligence in predicting actual academic performance, we also investigated whether perceived conscientiousness was a more accurate predictor of academic performance than perceived intelligence. Perceived conscientiousness was found to be a better predictor of actual academic performance when compared to perceived intelligence and perceived academic performance, and accuracy was improved when controlling for the influence of attractiveness on judgments. These findings emphasize the misleading effect of attractiveness on the accuracy of first impressions of competence, which can have serious consequences in areas such as education and hiring. The findings also have implications for future research investigating impression accuracy based on facial stimuli.

Concepts: Educational psychology, University, Physical attractiveness, Halo effect


You finished your PhD, have been a postdoc for a while, and you start wondering, “What’s next?” Suppose you come to the conclusion that you want to stay in academia, and move up the ladder to become a principal investigator (PI). How does one reach this goal given that academia is one of the most competitive environments out there? And suppose you do manage to snatch your dream position, how do you make sure you hit the ground running? Here we report on the workshop “P2P - From Postdoc To Principal Investigator” that we organized at ISMB 2012 in Long Beach, California. The workshop addressed some of the challenges that many postdocs and newly appointed PIs are facing. Three experienced PIs, Florian Markowetz (Group Leader, Cambridge Research Institute, Cancer Research UK), Gary Bader (Associate Professor, The Donnelly Centre, University of Toronto), and Philip Bourne (Professor, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California San Diego), provided insight into the transition from a trainee to PI and shared advice on how to make the best out it.

Concepts: University, California, Professor, Tenure, Doctorate, Rector, Academic administration, 2006 singles


Most American colleges and universities offer gateway biology courses to meet the needs of three undergraduate audiences: biology and related science majors, many of whom will become biomedical researchers; premedical students meeting medical school requirements and preparing for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT); and students completing general education (GE) graduation requirements. Biology textbooks for these three audiences present a topic scope and sequence that correlates with the topic scope and importance ratings of the biology content specifications for the MCAT regardless of the intended audience. Texts for “nonmajors,” GE courses appear derived directly from their publisher’s majors text. Topic scope and sequence of GE texts reflect those of “their” majors text and, indirectly, the MCAT. MCAT term density of GE texts equals or exceeds that of their corresponding majors text. Most American universities require a GE curriculum to promote a core level of academic understanding among their graduates. This includes civic scientific literacy, recognized as an essential competence for the development of public policies in an increasingly scientific and technological world. Deriving GE biology and related science texts from majors texts designed to meet very different learning objectives may defeat the scientific literacy goals of most schools' GE curricula.

Concepts: Medicine, Education, University, Anatomy, Medical school, College, Curriculum, Association of American Medical Colleges


BACKGROUND: Preparing medical students for the takeover or the start-up of a medical practice is an important challenge in Germany today. Therefore, this paper presents a computer-aided serious game (eMedOffice) developed and currently in use at the RWTH Aachen University Medical School. The game is part of the attempt to teach medical students the organizational and conceptual basics of the medical practice of a general practitioner in a problem-based learning environment. This paper introduces methods and concepts used to develop the serious game and describes the results of an evaluation of the game’s application in curricular courses at the Medical School. RESULTS: Results of the conducted evaluation gave evidence of a positive learning effect of the serious game. Educational supervisors observed strong collaboration among the players inspired by the competitive gaming aspects. In addition, an increase in willingness to learn and the exploration of new self-invented ideas were observed and valuable proposals for further prospective enhancements were elicited. A statistical analysis of the results of an evaluation provided a clear indication of the positive learning effect of the game. A usability questionnaire survey revealed a very good overall score of 4.07 (5=best, 1=worst). CONCLUSIONS: We consider web-based, collaborative serious games to be a promising means of improving medical education. The insights gained by the implementation of eMedOffice will promote the future development of more effective serious games for integration into curricular courses of the RWTH Aachen University Medical School.

Concepts: Education, University, RWTH Aachen University, RWTH Aachen, Aachen