These subject-specific rankings — which are not of academic majors, departments or specific schools at universities, such as business or medical schools — are based on academic research performance in those subjects. U.S. News used various bibliometric measures, including publications and citations, as well as indicators for global and regional reputation in each specific subject.
“UMass food science obtained their number two ranking with one-fifth the number of faculty as the number one-ranked South China University of China,” notes Eric Decker, a pioneering lipid chemistry researcher who has received lifetime achievement awards in his field and was recently head of the department. “I think we can confidently say that on a per-faculty basis, UMass Food Science is number one in the world.”
The department, which has the oldest academic food science program in the United States, features internationally recognized faculty members and attracts innovative students and post-doctoral researchers who have made significant contributions to the field.
The department is a global leader in research on nutraceuticals, functional foods, food nanotechnology, food safety, the gut microbiome and healthy lipids, and is developing new programs on sensory science, genomics, plant-based foods, alternative proteins and sustainability.
Several departments in the College of Natural Sciences contribute to the research being done in agriculture, with the Stockbridge School of Agriculture being central to that mission.
“The ranking of the University of Massachusetts Amherst as number five globally reflects an overall commitment to excellence in research on sustainable food production,” says Dan Cooley, associate director of Stockbridge and professor of plant pathology. “While the Stockbridge School of Agriculture is often the public face of agriculture at UMass, it’s important to realize that several other departments at UMass contribute to this level of excellence. It’s an overall effort, particularly in the College of Natural Sciences, tackling the existential challenges of food production in the face of pollution and climate change that give us this ranking.”
As an example of UMass Amherst’s commitment to agriculture research, Baoshan Xing, Stockbridge director, professor of environmental and soil chemistry and adjunct professor in the chemistry department, and his students recently won a 2020 Best Environmental Science Article Award from the science journal Environmental Science & Technology for their work on the negative impact plastic waste can have on plants, agriculture and the environment.
Since its establishment 158 years ago, agriculture has been at the core of the educational mission of UMass Amherst. Over time, the Stockbridge School has evolved to meet society’s needs for sustainable food and landscapes, expanding from a set of two-year associates degree programs to a modern department of plant and soil sciences, encompassing associates, bachelors and graduate degrees, with opportunities to work in world-class research labs.
In addition, other UMass programs also earned distinctive rankings in their subject area. Among the top 100 programs ranked globally, space science is 75th and polymer science is 80th