Facilities & Support

Facilities & Support
Image by ezola CC BY-SA 2.0

We’ve talked before about the effect of office space on getting work done, motivation, and having somewhere to tinker. But what about the facilities and staff support element of getting your job done? By facilities, I mean both the equipment you need to do the job (microscopes, CNC mills, 3-D printer, furnaces, or what not) and the space in which you do the work.

In an academic environment, there’s often a dedicated staff member to help with training and maintenance on the bigger , shared pieces of equipment, like electron microscopes. My university has some fantastic facilities and support in this respect. I can’t say enough about how wonderful these staff members have been. The equipment I have access to is cutting edge, and well-maintained.  However, the spaces themselves are a different story.

My group’s optical lab suffered a major loss last week when a faulty valve in the ceiling dumped water in the worst possible place, destroying the main spectrometer. This was a week after they finally started repairing the disconnected HVAC system, which was never hooked up after renovations. The ceilings in the major hallways are missing many tiles due to water damage. Our major recruitment season begins soon, and I can’t help but wonder how this will influence student’s decision-making.

If you’re an academic, how important were facilities in picking your current position? Industry folks, were facilities part of your decision or negotiation?


Facilities were very important for my current position. Since I’m building a group, I need sufficient startup funds to build sizable infrastructure to support many concurrent projects. So for me, it wasn’t necessarily the existing infrastructure but rather would the Uni fund enough and give me sufficient space to build a successful group.

With that said, at the PhD level, I should have paid attention to more than I did. I walked into a group that didn’t have much expertise in the area that I was working and had essentially no infrastructure. That’s not something I would recommend for anyone.

I passed up a position at a bigger, fancier school with equipment I’m still drooling over, to come to a less prestigious school with very limited equipment available, because the department here actually made an effort to recruit me, and seemed to have their act together when I came to interview. I knew what I was getting in to, and have to drive to get the equipment I need, but it works.

The thing that does drive me crazy though, is that my school can’t manage to put working clocks in the labs and classrooms.

Comments are closed.