A significant number of recently hired Yale faculty members are in STEM disciplines, in accordance with University President Peter Salovey’s plan to strengthen the fields.
The net growth of 17 ladder faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the past academic year includes 11 in the sciences: four in the biological sciences, four in the physical sciences and three in engineering and applied sciences. This outnumbers the hires in the humanities and the social sciences. But despite recent hiring efforts, the new faculty members agreed that Yale could do more to invest in STEM.
Among the 17 instructional positions added to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, nine were in the sciences, including biology, math and computer science. This, again, outnumbers the addition of positions in English and foreign languages, and the social sciences, which are six and two, respectively.
“Over the next few years, we are making particular efforts in the areas of mathematics, computer science and data science,” Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler said in an email to the News. “We are also building strength in our theoretical, experimental and applied sciences.”
Strengthening the STEM disciplines has been a long-standing goal of the University’s. In a message sent to the University community on Nov. 21 of last year, Salovey elaborated on the importance of the sciences and Yale’s commitment to investing in more faculty members and facilities for the discipline.
New faculty members interviewed said they were on board with this mission.
Dragomir Radev, one of the recent computer science hires, said Yale should build upon its strengths — such as its faculty, prestige and geographical location — to attract students interested in the sciences.
“The students ask really interesting questions and are genuinely interested in all topics of the course,” Radev wrote in an email to the News. “There is a deep interest in computer science, data science, and other STEM fields and demand for courses in these areas will keep growing, just like it has at our peer institutions.”
Molecular, cellular and developmental biology professor Stavroula Hatzios praised Yale for its promotion of interdisciplinary research and the outstanding faculty in the departments of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Microbial Pathogenesis and Chemistry, with whom she frequently interacts. Still, she also said there was room to improve the sciences.
“Certainly, I think there can be more investment in interdisciplinary core facilities, perhaps here on the main campus, which would help bring folks from different groups together to do more collaborative research,” said Hatzios, whose lab is located on West Campus. “Additional funding for [the sciences] could be a huge boon in terms of supporting ongoing research and the ability to pursue especially creative, high-risk sorts of projects that are really going to drive innovation in the next couple years.”
Rajit Manohar, an electrical engineering professor, cited the excellent faculty as one of the factors in his decision to come to Yale from Cornell this year. Still, he said he would like to see Yale on the list of institutions he would recommend to an undergraduate student interested in the sciences to apply to, and that is not always the case right now.
Manohar also stressed the importance of Yale’s ability to attract top students in the sciences to work on research projects, which would only be possible if Yale has a strong reputation in the sciences, as it does in other fields like the arts.
“It has to be clear to everybody that we have outstanding researchers and research programs in many important areas,” he said. “In certain specialized areas, there are plenty of very strong faculty members here in their specific specialization, but I think that needs to be a much broader statement [across the sciences].”
Physics professor Laura Newburgh expressed excitement at the research programs in both the Physics and Astronomy departments, as well as the top-notch facilities at Yale’s Wright Lab on Whitney Avenue that hosts her laboratory.
“What would be fantastic would be to broaden our research and inspire more research interactions between members of the department,” Newburgh said in an email to the News. “In my view, how able we are as a department to share expertise, work on technology and instrumentation development together, and learn from our various analysis and data science challenges will define how able we are to tackle new challenging questions in physics.”
To enable this, Newburgh suggested additional postdoctoral fellows and moving the physics faculty, which is currently spread across five different buildings, to one place.
A new Yale Science Building, which will house two biology departments, part of the Physics Department and common spaces designed to bring together students and faculty from across the sciences, is planned to open in 2019, as part of Yale’s ambitious transformation of Science Hill.
The new Science Building will be located at 260 Whitney Ave., the site of the old Gibbs Laboratory.
Eui Young Kim | firstname.lastname@example.org