Science 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?

Innovative Faculty Research

Top ten among liberal arts colleges in faculty National Science Foundation grants

Over the past six years, Carleton has received 37 grants from the National Science Foundation, totaling more than $6.3 million. Funding from the NSF and other prestigious national sponsors supports research, leadership, pedagogy, and outreach for Carleton’s STEM faculty, supporting projects as varied as studying the genetics of a rare Minnesota snake, analyzing gravitational waves emanating from black holes and supernovas, and conducting fieldwork on the geology of south-central Alaska.

Widespread Student Research

46% of students involved in mentored research

All this research isn’t being done behind closed doors, separate from students. In fact, the opportunity to do research as an undergraduate student is one reason Naseem Dillman-Hasso ’20 applied to Carleton. “I felt like Carleton would allow me to actually work closely with a professor and would be academically challenging without an extremely high-stress environment,” he says. He began working in psychology professor Julia Strand’s lab his first year on campus, published an academic paper he co-authored with her his sophomore year, and says he plans to continue in her lab until he graduates. Along with Dillman-Hasso, more than 900 Carleton students across all scientific disciplines typically participate in mentored faculty research throughout the academic year and summer.

Well-backed Research

28 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 seven of the organization’s eight 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.

Authentic Learning Experiences

100% of students.

All Carleton students are required to complete a comprehensive senior integrative exercise, better known on campus as “comps.” Comps 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.

Ambitious Students

1st among U.S. liberal arts colleges in producing PhDs per capita across all science disciplines.

From 1966 through 2016 Carleton sent more students on to doctoral programs in physical science, earth science, chemistry, life science, and geoscience than any other U.S. liberal arts college (as tracked by the National Science Foundation’s most recent data). Our math and computer science students set their sights high, as well: Carleton ranks third among U.S. liberal arts colleges in producing math and computer science doctorates.

Vibrant, Growing Fields

71% increase in computer science graduates in the past five years.

In the past five years, the computer science program at Carleton has skyrocketed in the number of students participating, from 34 in 2014–2015 to 58 in 2018–2019. Faculty positions within the department have grown, too, with 11 current faculty members—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 studies department added focus areas reflecting contemporary concerns: food and agriculture, conservation and development, landscapes and perception, water resources, environmental justice, and energy and climate.

STEM after Carleton

62% 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 78% of its alumni working in STEM-related fields; chemistry sees 65% of its majors employed in STEM fields. Another 19% 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.

Quantitatively Rich Classes

23% of classes carry a quantitative reasoning designation.

Many professors, even in non-STEM fields, thoughtfully work quantitative reasoning encounters into their curriculum; in fact, almost a quarter of Carleton’s regular classes emphasize this type of analytical thinking. Carleton’s academic QRE requirement reflects the school’s strong liberal arts identity — students utilize these skills in classes across disciplines to learn how and where quantitative reasoning will apply in their chosen careers.

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 college professors.

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.

Dedication and Commitment

$80 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 ensuring future excellence in the STEM disciplines by raising $60 million to construct new and renovate current science facilities and endowing an additional $20 million to maintain and protect these buildings. Our vision is an integrated Science Complex that will encourage more collaboration between students and faculty members as well as between disciplines.