Getting a Jump on Graduate Research

Recent Ph.D. Recipient Credits Graduate School Success to Her Liberal Arts Education

April 25, 2014

Margaret Fleetwood '04

By Nicole Acton '16 

As a senior at Knox, Margaret Fleetwood '04 undertook an Honors project in biology. Though she expected to devote a lot of time and a lot of effort to the project, she didn't expect for her effort to set her apart from her classmates in graduate school. But it did.

"My graduate program really appreciated that I had done a self-driven research project and written it up," says Fleetwood. "It gave me a huge jump on my peers with regard to the graduate research skill set."

Fleetwood, who received her Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 2012, credits her well-rounded liberal arts education with much of her success. "The liberal arts kids are the good writers," she says. "Just ask anyone!"

At Knox, she developed not only strong writing skills, but also experience with research and constructing an argument.

"I think the best thing that comes out of a Knox education is the ability to synthesize a bunch of information into a coherent whole," says Fleetwood. "The ability to not get distracted by seemingly contradictory information and continue to formulate a thesis was incredibly important during my tenure as a student."

The strong foundation that Fleetwood talks about has helped many Knox alumni in their pursuit of doctorate degrees. According to a national survey based on information gathered by the National Science Foundation, Knox College is a national leader in preparing students for graduate school and advanced degrees. These rankings place Knox in the top 4% of liberal arts colleges in the proportion of graduates who went on to earn doctorates in business, and in the top 10% for graduates who have earned doctorates in mathematics, computer science and the physical sciences.

"In addition to a rigorous graduate-level curriculum, the Ph.D. requires cutting-edge research, creative problem-solving and the ability to defend your work before other scholars in the field. Knox has a remarkable track record of laying the foundation for these skills through our educational program, and contributing to our graduates' success in business and the professions," President Teresa Amott said. 

Overall, Knox is in the top fifth of its comparison group of baccalaureate arts and sciences colleges in many fields -- business, mathematics and computer science, the physical sciences, life sciences, humanities and social sciences.

Highlights of Knox's rankings include:

Academic Field
Top Percent
Schools in
Ranking Group
Mathematics & Computer Science
Physical Sciences
Life Sciences
Social Sciences

The data and rankings, released in late 2012, were compiled by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium and are based on the National Science Foundation's Survey of Earned Doctorates for the decade of 2001-2010.

"The rankings show that Knox graduates have played a major role in U.S. higher education," said Amott. "The Ph.D degree is the highest, most advanced degree in these critical fields. Knox graduates who have attained that degree are at the forefront of the expansion of human knowledge, contributing to the world's intellectual capital."

As only one example of these successful and innovative Knox graduates, Margaret Fleetwood is now an associate project manager of UChicagoTech, the University of Chicago's Center for Technology Development & Ventures, where she focuses on the transformation of UChicago discoveries into innovative products and services.