Yale Daily News

Months after the University Science Strategy Committee offered concrete recommendations for enhancing Yale’s sciences, the mathematics, statistics and data science, and computer science departments will expand the size of their faculty in the coming years.

Within the next few years, the mathematics department hopes to grow to 20 faculty members, adding four spots to their usual 16; the statistics and data science department will add approximately four or five by this time next year; and the computer science department, which has traditionally had at most 20 faculty members, will grow to at least 25. In interviews with the News, officers of each of the departments outlined a variety of challenges in recruiting these new hires. These difficulties include fewer opportunities for spouses in the New Haven area relative to larger cities like Boston and New York, competition for hires with departments at other universities and the lack of the cutting-edge scientific communities that exist in places like the California Bay Area and Seattle.

Still, representatives from each of the departments were confident in their abilities to recruit top-rate faculty. According to Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler, “long-term planning is underway to figure out how best to house our growing community.”

“Yale has always had one of the world’s great mathematics departments,” Gendler said. “We transformed out department of Statistics into S&DS… We made the commitment to excellence in that growing area of knowledge, which is now our top science priority. And when we announced in 2015 our commitment to expand computer science, we did so because we recognized that this was a vibrant intellectual area on which must 21st century knowledge would depend.”

The University Science Strategy Committee Report listed all three disciplines as priorities, with “Data Science and its Mathematical Foundations” designated as a top priority and computer science listed as one of five “additional priority ideas.” The provost’s committee called for an expansion “by at least a dozen the number of faculty in Data Science, machine learning, and mathematical modeling and foundations across the University.” The report noted that these faculty appointments should primarily be within the FAS departments of Statistics and Data Science or Mathematics, as opposed to within other schools across the University. The report said that the University “would support additional investment in computer science expansion if additional resources were available.”

Yair Minsky, chair of the mathematics department, said that he is “very optimistic” about his department’s future in spite of the University’s reputation as a humanities-focused school.

“There is a lot of great science at Yale, but that it is true that Yale’s traditional strength is more in the Humanities,” Minsky said in an email to the News. “This certainly has an overall effect… But, overall, we do quite well compared to the rest of the field. Our aspiration, of course, is to get to the very top.”

The decision to expand these particular departments is based on a variety of criteria, including increased undergraduate demand and the desire to expand postdoctoral study. According to Minsky, all of the University’s peer institutions have larger mathematics departments than Yale, making “it hard to compete.” Dan Spielman, chair of statistics and data science, and Zhong Shao, chair of computer science, said that the growth of their departments would accommodate increased demand for courses within their respective fields.

Dragomir Radev, a professor of computer science, added that Yale’s recruiting strategy has fallen behind that of peers for several years, citing the large number of external donations that Harvard University and the University of Washington have received to hire new faculty members.

“In the meantime, the number of computer science majors and the number of student contact hours at Yale have each increased by a factor of at least five,” Radev said.

All three departments noted that the increase in faculty numbers would likely cause overcrowding. Minsky said the mathematics department would likely require more offices and has begun discussing using additional resources on Hillhouse Avenue and Science Hill. Shao told the News that the current computer science building located in Arthur K. Watson Hall “is not sufficient to accommodate the new faculty members.” He added that peer institutions have constructed multiple computer science buildings to accommodate the growing field.

But according to Spielman, the larger faculty may still not be able to accommodate an increased number of graduate students.

“Even though our department is increasing in number of faculty, we do not know if we will be able to admit more graduate students or hire more administrative staff,” Spielman said. “Surprisingly, the graduate students and administrative staff are allocated independently of the faculty.”

The University Science Strategy Committee released its report in the summer of 2018.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu .