Space Wars

Oct 24 2008 Published by under Uncategorized

One of the biggest issues in any department is the amount of space. No matter where you are there are always complaints about people feeling cramped in the space they have. An attractive part of this position was that the department would be moving into a new building before the end of my first year, especially since the building I am currently in is more depressing than "Requiem for a Dream". Well, that process is fully underway and we have begun to carve up space in the new building between ourselves and members of two other departments. As you might expect, everyone wants a space larger than what they currently occupy and new faculty, such as myself, are stuck trying to predict what they will need a few years down the road. When you have been at this for only a couple of months, that is not so easy, nor is it simple to defend your space needs when your lab is not up to capacity. By the time we occupy the new building I will have two graduate students working in the lab, but ideally I would like to have 4-6 students and two post-docs in there once I begin to bring some grants in. The trick is holding onto space that you can grow into before you have the personnel to fill it.

Complicating the matter is the design of the space. At it's conception, the building plan was adapted from some Ivy League school around the concept of shared space. So, each floor has 6 faculty members and 4 lab suites. For people who have run an independent lab for years, this is a major change and has made the process of allocating space a bit more difficult. I am lucky in that I have a colleague moving into the building with whom I share a number of techniques and a similar work-flow plan (i.e. we assign spaces to tasks rather than personal bench spaces). My department has actually been very supportive during the negotiations over who gets what space and I made out fairly well while several of my more senior colleagues are reducing their lab space considerably to make some space for the junior faculty. I was pleasantly surprised by this, because that is NOT how it is happening on some of the other floors being occupied by other departments. 

In fact, one of the other departments has already tried to "suggest" that my colleague and I move to another floor (and occupy half the space we are currently assigned) so that one of their big dogs can take our space. The issue is more that they want to get an enormous ego off their floor and make him someone else's problem, but that isn't the most convincing argument for moving to a smaller space from where I sit. I don't think it has any chance of happening, but I am glad to be in the department I am in and not in one where I would be pressured into that kind of move. 

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