Science & Engineering Profile

“Before I came to Reed, I wasn’t sure how a liberal arts school would be able to provide the strong foundation in science that I wanted. Somehow, the image of me surrounded by test tubes in a lab seemed irreconcilable with the classic ideal of Reedies huddled around a conference table immersed in the Iliad.
To my surprise, halfway through my sophomore year at Reed, I found myself surrounded by countless research opportunities and a dedicated scientific community.” 

— Avery Van Duzer ’18


• Student body: 1,410

• Percentage of students from outside the Pacific Northwest: 87%

• Student-faculty ratio: 10:1

• Average class size: 15

• The College offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in 26 departmental majors, 13 interdisciplinary areas, and dual-degree (3-2) programs in Engineering, Computer Science, Forestry, and Visual Arts.

• Among liberal arts colleges, Reed ranks fourth in the nation in production of future PhDs in all disciplines. Among all institutions of higher learning, it ranks third in the nation in life sciences and third in the nation in social sciences (Higher Education Data Consortium, 2010).

• Graduate schools most frequently attended by Reed alumni for Law, Medicine, Business, and other graduate study include the Universities of Chicago, California, Oregon, and Washington; Yale; Harvard; Stanford; Cornell; MIT; and Johns Hopkins.

• Reed has produced the second-highest number of Rhodes Scholars from a small college (32).


Sample Reed Theses

• “A Tale of Two Proteins: Towards Cloning, Expression, and Purification of the bHLHZip domains of MondoA and M1x”

• “Action of Cytoskeletal Crosslinking Proteins in Nuclear Positioning and Migration”

• “Keep Talkin’ Happy Talk: Civil Rights on Broadway in the Late 1940s”

• “Intersections of Global Capitalism and Indigeneity: Problems of International Environmental and Social Justice”

• “Roots and Wings: Reconstructing the Past in Two American Danza Azteca Groups”

• “Suspending the Plot of the Real: Narratives of Collective Action in Chicana/o Literature and History”

• “Maintaining a Terrifying Reality: Dialogue, Language, and Ethics in the Book of Job”

• “Islam on the Inside: An Ethnographic Case Study of Muslims in an Oregon Prison”

• “Language Revitalization and Its Sociocultural Context: Chinook Jargon”

• “Non-kinship Social Bonds in Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus Orca)” 

• “The Dynamics of a Nonlinear Time-Delayed Electronic System”

Reed College is located 10 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon, a vibrant metropolis of waterfalls, bridges, and parks of every size. 

For more than a century, the
College has been a haven for a diverse group
 of scholars who wrestle
with big ideas and explore ways to apply
those ideas to the
world around them. Learning is cherished
at Reed;
it isn’t outside
the norm to talk about

your passions and discoveries. If you’re ready to look beyond the superficial, seek the truth, and discover unlimited possibilities, you’re ready for Reed.

With a student-faculty ratio of 10:1 and all classes taught by professors rather than teaching assistants, undergraduate education at Reed comes first. The conference method of learning brings together small groups of students to discuss great ideas, read primary texts by leading thinkers, and form opinions and defend them with skill and nuance. Guided by a thoughtfully constructed sequence of topics and architecture of ideas, students map an academic course that culminates in the senior thesis. They work alongside their professors, with whom they share a deep enthusiasm for scholarship, inquiry, and academic excellence.

Asking questions is a social activity for Reedies. You’ll overhear heated debates about Plato in the Sports Center and get caught up in string theory in the Quad. Whoever you are (even if you’re still deciding who that is), you’ll find that the Honor Principle supports differences and creates respect within the Reed community. Reed is a humanizing place of infinite subsets that offer you the opportunity to be yourself across all your interests. You’ll find your tribe in the classroom, exploring Reed Canyon, or hiking in the Cascade Mountains. 

Four years of college can seem like a long time and paradoxically like no time at all, but your time at Reed will leave an imprint on you that will extend throughout your life; once a Reedie, always a Reedie. Exposure to the primary disciplines of human knowledge prepares graduates to go on to fascinating professions in science, art, medicine, global politics, education, and the environment. Reed ranks among the top undergraduate institutions in the nation in the percentage of graduates going on to earn PhDs in Physics (ranked #3) and the life sciences (ranked #2).
   Distinguished alumni
include Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger ’91; neuroscientist Kenneth Koe ’45, inventor of Zoloft; environmental chemist and mountaineer Arlene Blum ’66; attorney William Hohengarten ’84, whose arguments persuaded the US Supreme Court to strike down Texas laws against sodomy; beat poet Gary Snyder ’51; best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich ’63; and geneticist Pamela Ronald ’82, who developed a strain of drought-resistant rice. (Notable dropouts include Steve Jobs.) 

The sciences at Reed
From field work and lab work to conferences and independent research, Reed’s science programs foster a rigorous academic environment of active learning and close collaboration with professors.

Reedie-driven inquiry, such as the independent research done during the senior thesis, often contributes to scientific literature. Of the more than 200 articles published by Reed’s science faculty in the last decade, well over 50% were coauthored by students.  

Science majors are prepared for a variety of career paths, including in research and academia—by percentage of graduates, Reed sends the third-most students to PhD programs of any institution of higher education in the nation.  

Spotlight: science outside of the classroom
Two Physics majors, Anya Demko ’14 and Allie Morgan ’14, used their scientific knowhow to create a temporary musical installation. Anya
and Allie built a series of lasers and phototransistors on a spiral staircase on campus, turning the steps into a giant, twisting keyboard spanning two octaves on a C Major scale. Each time your foot landed on a tread, it interrupted a laser beam, triggering a musical tone. Anya wrote her thesis on the dynamics of an inverted pendulum, and Allie wrote her thesis on relativistic strings and Ehrenfest’s Paradox.

What have Reed science majors gone on to do?

James Coddington ’74, Biology
Chief Conservator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Katherine DeLand ’95, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Chief of Staff of WHO’s Ebola Response

Kevin Shokat ’86, Chemistry
Professor and Chair of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at UC San Francisco, Chemistry Professor at UC Berkeley

Elizabeth Robinson ’82, Physics