UCSB researchers make prestigious list
UCSB researchers have seen their papers rack up thousands of citations, a number that places them in the top 1% of the world’s researchers.
Clarivate Analytics recognizes these scientists and honors them as the most Highly Cited Researchers each year. And 14 UCSB faculty members made the 2020 list.
It uses the Web of Science citation index to find the most popularly cited publications to find researchers that have multiple popular papers. The numbers are analyzed so as to not disadvantage new work.
This year, 6,167 scientists globally were recognized. The News-Press reached out to some of UCSB’s top researchers to hear their reactions to making the list.
“It’s very gratifying. You try to do original work and important work that will change the world hopefully,” said Dr. John Bowers, distinguished professor at UCSB and Director of the Institute for Energy Efficiency. “That’s the goal to do something that has impact and the citations show that.”
His research focuses on pinpointing ways to make energy sources and technology more efficient. He has almost 1,500 publications and has been cited almost 31,000 times.
“I try to inspire creativity and innovation,” he said. “Innovation is usually a group effort. It takes a lot of work by a lot of people.”
He is grateful the university recently expanded its facilities. He thinks it’ll help expand research possibilities and allow for more collaboration.
Dr. Gary Charness, professor of economics at UCSB, has 27 verified peer reviews. He likes to take on unusual experiments.
His most popular paper involved paying students to exercise at a local gym. The study looked at whether they’d keep the habit once the experiment stopped.
“I like testing how people behave and seeing how the result conforms to my expectations and what theory predicts,” he said.
He was honored to be highly cited, but he never expected his work to be so popular.
“I try to write things in a simple and easy-to-understand fashion. And I think you get cited more if you take some unconventional positions,” he said.
Dr. Jonathan Schooler, professor of psychological and brain sciences, also explores concepts that pique his interest.
“Personally, I’m extremely curious. I explore mind wandering and topics I find intrinsically interesting. Part of it is satisfying my own curiosity,” he said.
But there’s also a sense of a higher purpose.
“I like the possibility of helping society, to sharpen their focus, to better their creativity and ultimately better themselves,” he said.
“It is genuinely gratifying to feel like scientists are seeing value in my work and that of my colleagues’ and using it to inform their own research.”
He enjoys working with UCSB students and describes the doctoral and postdoctoral students as outstanding.
“The thing that I’d most like to see is getting them curious and getting them to think about ideas and be captured with ideas, ideally to mind wander about the ideas I expose them to,” he said.
His most popular research is all about mind wandering and other neuroscientific topics.
Dr. Chris G. Van de Walle is the Herbert Kroemer Distinguished Professor in the materials department. He has almost 500 publications and has been cited over 44,000 times.
His most cited paper, “Fundamentals of zinc oxide as a semiconductor,” has gathered almost 2,300 citations alone.
“It’s a great feeling to know our work has an impact. Part of doing research is choosing which problems to work on. My aim is to choose topics that will truly have an impact on science or technology,” he said. “Seeing that the papers get cited confirms that we made the right choices.”
He thinks of research as solving puzzles. His group uses supercomputers to learn about materials.
“Experimental measurements on new materials often produce results that are unexpected and puzzling; by doing calculations we can help solve those puzzles,” he said.
What he learns helps spur ideas for how to use materials. He and his students sometimes invent a solution and patent it. So far, he holds 24 patents.
“We get excellent students and postdoctoral researchers, and they are the ones who do the actual work. I am indebted to all of the students and postdocs I have worked with and continue to work with,” he said.
He said he hopes to inspire enthusiasm in his students and “a feeling of joy when we discover something new.”