July 25, 2014 by David Klein
Three Drexel professors were named by Thomson Reuters as among the most-cited researchers of 2014. The professors, whose fields include extragalactic astronomy, materials engineering and atmospheric particles, were Gordon Richards, Yury Gogotsi and Peter DeCarlo, respectively.
The list, which consisted of 3,215 researchers across 21 fields in both the natural and social sciences, ranked scholars by the popularity of their most highly cited papers. This means only the top one percent in the past 11 years since the last time Reuters put out such a list were included. This is a change since the last list, in which researchers were judged purely by the number of citations they received. According to DeCarlo, this helped younger researchers be on par with their older colleagues in the selection process.
DeCarlo’s research and paper, which have been cited most, were primarily about the measurement of particles in the atmosphere. His work has been used to measure the effects of pollution as it ages in the air. As a doctoral candidate, he helped develop an aerosol mass spectrometer, an instrument that measures airborne particles. He said this is the one of the biggest sources of his citations.
Though the three professors agreed that being on Thomson Reuters’ list would not necessarily translate into obtaining more grant money, they felt it would have a positive influence on their careers.
Gogotsi wrote in an email that being on the list “means that our work over the past decade made a difference and many of our papers were within the top one percent most-cited publications in the field. So, we have done something important that other researchers care about. This is a great feeling and it’s very rewarding.”
He also mentioned that it is beneficial not only to him, but to the University as well. “I already see growing respect from my colleagues. More scientists will pay attention to the work that we do and read our papers. Besides bragging rights, this recognition also provides an additional reason for top-quality graduate and undergraduate students to join Drexel University in general and my Nanomaterials Research Group in particular.”
Gogotsi, who is a distinguished University and trustee chair professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has focused on developing nanomaterials, substances that are anywhere from 1000 to 100,000 times smaller than a human hair. Gogotsi’s research has been adapted for electrical energy storage, water desalination and health care.
Richards, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics is what he calls an “extragalactic astronomer,” meaning his focus as an astronomer is on things outside of our galaxy. According to him, his research is particularly into quasars and black holes.
What Richards was commonly cited for was a project called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which he described as being the astronomical equivalent of the Human Genome Project.
“Basically every one person that was on the original paper for that project is on this list regardless of whatever else they have done. The goal of the project was basically to make a digital map of a quarter of the sky,” Gordon said. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which began in 1994, was an effort to modernize previous mappings of the sky by digitalizing them.
Regarding being on Thomson Reuters’ list, he said ,“It is a nice surprise, it’s not something I normally pay attention to … but it’s nice that your work gets recognized even if it’s part of a bigger thing.”
Richards is now working on a project called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which he described saying, “The goal of SDSS was to make a map of the sky; LSST is making a movie of the sky.”
He explained that while the SDSS took eight years to map the sky, the LSST would do what the SDSS did in three days and continue repeating that for 10 years.
Though Drexel only had three researchers in a list of over 3000, this is no small feat since, according to Gogotsi, the entire country of Russia with its large scientific industry has only 5 percent researchers on the Thomson Reuters List. In the 2001, Drexel had only one researcher on the list, Michel Barsoum from the materials science and engineering department.