Math & Science at Carleton

The study of science and math at Carleton is about embracing vibrant, electric learning. Our students ask tough questions, research in the field, get their hands dirty, and solve problems. We take pride in their hard work and growth—and we’re pretty proud of our STEM stats, too.

What makes Carleton’s math & science disciplines so strong?

  1. Innovative faculty research

    #1 among liberal arts colleges in faculty National Science Foundation grants
    Over the past four years, Carleton has received 31 grants from the National Science Foundation totaling more than $10.7 million, by far the most among all liberal arts colleges. Funding from the NSF and other prestigious national sponsors has provided leadership and outreach for geoscience and other STEM faculty, supporting faculty research projects as varied as studying the genetics of a rare Minnesota snake, analyzing gravitational waves emanating from black holes and supernovas, and conducting field work on the geology of south-central Alaska

  2. Widespread student research

    40% of students involved in mentored research
    More than 800 Carleton students participated in mentored faculty research during the 2014-2015 academic year. Summer and school year opportunities exist within the biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, physics and astronomy, and psychology departments. Since 2004 the college has supported student research through Interdisciplinary Science and Math Initiatives, based on the belief that research is an integral part of the undergraduate experience.

  3. Well-backed research

    28 continuous years of HHMI funding
    Carleton ranks among the rare liberal arts colleges—one of just four nationwide—to receive funding from the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute in every one of the organization’s competitions. This funding has enabled faculty to develop innovative curriculum and to identify equipment and spaces that will best support the education of future research leaders in science and medicine.

  4. Authentic learning experiences

    100% of students
    All Carleton students are required to complete a comprehensive senior integrative exercise, better known on campus as “comps,” which is tailored to how students will be working in their chosen disciplines and helps students transition from an academic setting to becoming independent learners. The STEM fields, in particular, guide students to design comps projects that echo discipline-specific scenarios they will encounter as professionals; chemistry majors, for example, conduct an in-depth study of a chemist’s research while computer science majors construct projects more akin to creating an entrepreneurial start-up.

  5. Ambitious students

    #1 in geoscience and life science doctorates
    Carleton sent more students on to doctoral programs for geosciences and life sciences from 2003 to 2012, as tracked by the National Science Foundation, than any other liberal arts college. Particularly high numbers of students earn doctorate degrees in other scientific fields, as well: among liberal arts colleges, Carleton is second in students going on to earn physical science doctorates and third in students going on to earn math and computer science doctorates.

    Carleton is also a national leader among all colleges and universities nationwide in producing science PhDs—we rank sixth across all science disciplines and have been in the Top 10 since 1975.

  6. Vibrant, growing fields

    261% increase in computer science graduates in the past four years
    In the past four years, the computer science program at Carleton has skyrocketed in number of students. Faculty positions within the department have grown, too, with seven faculty members in 2014-2015—up from just three in the early 2000s. Neuroscience has also developed as a popular concentration field in the past decade, and recently our Environmental and Technology Studies department added focus areas reflecting contemporary concerns: food and agriculture, conservation and development, landscapes and perception, water resources, and environmental justice.

  7. STEM after Carleton

    Half of all STEM majors launch into STEM careers
    Within each STEM major, the majority of all graduates find work in healthcare, science/lab research, information systems/technology, engineering, or environmental science. Computer science is particularly strong, with 71% of its alumni working in STEM-related fields; chemistry sees 63% of its majors employed in STEM fields. Another 20% of STEM majors continue working in their disciplines as teachers and professors.

    This high portion of STEM careers among Carleton graduates factors highly into its #1 ranking from Brookings (one of just three liberal arts colleges with this distinction); more Carleton graduates typically earn among the highest salaries at mid-career than graduates with similar characteristics from similar schools.

  8. Quantitatively rich classes

    22% of classes carry a quantitative reasoning designation
    Many professors, even in non-STEM fields, thoughtfully work quantitative reasoning into their curriculum; in fact, almost a quarter of Carleton’s regular classes are a part of the school’s Quantitative Inquiry, Reasoning, and Knowledge Initiative. This academic requirement reflects Carleton’s strong liberal arts identity—students are required to take classes across disciplines and have a rigorous learning experience in all fields.

  9. National impact

    A leader in science education
    Carleton is committed to improving science education nationwide and giving students a head start in the STEM fields. Each summer, high school students from across the country spend three weeks on campus immersed in Carleton’s Summer Science Institute, Summer Quantitative Reasoning Institute, and Summer Computer Science Institute, all taught by Carleton faculty members.

    Further, Carleton’s STEM reach extends far beyond campus thanks to the work of the school’s Science Education Resource Center. SERC comprises a team of educators, researchers, and technical specialists who have worked with undergraduate faculty members as well as K-12 curriculum developers and teachers nationwide to create one of the world’s leading collections of pedagogic resources. SERC’s goal is to prepare students to leverage the sciences to address societal challenges such as resource issues and environmental impacts.

  10. Dedication and commitment

    $98.5 million targeted for new science facilities
    Rankings come and go—that’s why Carleton has never been content with resting on its laurels. Even while enjoying our current vibrant scientific community, we are taking steps to ensure future excellence in the STEM disciplines. Plans are being developed for new and renovated science buildings that will encourage more collaboration between students and faculty members as well as between disciplines.