The year I started at MyU was the year the administration also decided to increase the number of undergrads.
MyU is a tech school, so all students are required to take chemistry, physics, and calculus–generally in their freshman year. Needless to say, a 25% increase in the number of incoming freshmen impacted the chemistry, physics, and math departments pretty heavily.
The following year (with even more freshmen expected), the chem department significantly increased the number of grad students they admitted so they’d have enough TAs to handle chem labs. At the end of the year, they realized they had a significant problem–it was hard to find labs willing to take in all of the students. Of course, this was all happening about the time that a number of professors were retiring.
During my third year they hired two tenure-track professors and one teaching professor. They also hired another tenure-track professor jointly with another department. My fourth year they hired another teaching professor.
This last year, my fifth year, they hired yet another teaching professor and one more tenure-track professor to start this coming fall. The new TT prof is our former postdoc, PatchyGenius.
It’s been interesting having PatchyGenius as the incoming prof because I’ve gotten a glimpse into the politics of hiring a professor in a growing department. The real problem is that while the department is growing, the space allotted to it is not. So where will PatchyGenius go?
One of our professors, Dr. Catalyst, is transitioning into retirement. He still teaches half of the year, so he still needs an office. Last year the department moved him from his big office downstairs to a smaller one near my lab. Now, it appears, he is vacating his smaller office for PatchyGenius–but where will the administration put Dr. Catalyst now? (He teaches organic and, as a result, has the best-attended office hours I have ever seen.) In any case, PatchyGenius will be set for an office. (Or so we assume; we’ve seen Dr. Catalyst moving his stuff but no one has officially told PG that the vacant office will be his.)
But now he needs lab space. And spare lab space is something we do not have. There were rumors that he would share a lab space with one of the new hires of my third year; unfortunately, the folks who currently share her lab space belong to a different department in the same building, and it isn’t kosher to take over lab space that isn’t allocated to chemistry. Then there were rumors that the Hand-Waver lab would be sharing a different lab space with PatchyGenius, which would have necessitated shuffling two other lab groups to new areas. I think I’ve heard a total of four different possible lab rearrangements, none of which have been approved yet.
So Patchy Genius has officially started as a TT prof–the beginning of the school year is less than two weeks away–but still has no idea where he will be working. He’s still crammed in the post-doc office with five other people. In the mean time, Dr. HW has kindly allotted him his old counter space in our lab–where he’d worked the last two years–to run a few small experiments. Midnight, the undergrad who did research with him before, will be returning as his grad student.
It’s getting a bit crazy here.