Executive Summary of the 1998-99 Long Range Plan

 

 

     In this summary we present a brief history of previous Priorities Committee recommendations and the ensuing success in the implementation of these recommendations. Although it is clear that the recommendations have been used effectively in guiding the department in its hiring of faculty and use of resources, the pace of hiring and our ability to retain the resources from retirements has been significantly less than anticipated. In spite of this, there has been progress and a number of excellent young faculty members have been hired. These appointments have occurred in the areas identified as the highest priority by previous Priorities committees, and this high priority list originally created in 1994, updated in 1996, again needs updating. Given the need for identifying new high priority areas for hiring of faculty, the 1998-99 Priorities Committee has spent the year reviewing the current research balance within the department, and examining possible future appointments either in current areas of research or in new areas. Based on these considerations we have produced a recommended hiring plan which will permit the department to maintain or improve its high national ranking. As part of this review we have also examined the departmental budget and infrastructure to assess the need for additional support. This support is crucial for maintaining a strong department. Finally given the enormous changes in the administration (Department Chair, Dean, Provost and President), this is clearly an excellent time to update our Departmental Long Range plan and to discuss it with the administrators who have the ability to aid us in its implementation.

 

Historical Perspective

 

     The Physics Department first initiated long range planning with faculty participation in approximately 1990, and the result of that effort was a report referred to as the Dragt Report. In 1992 the Faculty of the Physics Department created the Priorities Committee, an elected committee which is to provide long range planning for the department on a continuing basis. This committee produced its first long range plan in 1994, an extensive report which was presented to and accepted by the full faculty. In 1996 the Priorities Committee updated this plan, based on new appointments and possible changes in direction within physics. Again the plan was accepted by the faculty at a faculty meeting. Our committee is currently continuing this process.

      The purpose of our long range planning has always been to improve our national standing as a physics department with a goal of reaching the top ten of university physics departments. The key element to the long range planning has been the hiring scenario, since the basis of excellent departments is excellent faculty. The previous two Priorities Committee long range plans have recognized and accepted the administration’s stated desire to reduce the size of our department. We have done so in the belief that with prudent planning and hiring we can maintain and possibly improve our national ranking. From the beginning the Priorities Committees have each year continued to examine seriously the future of our department and the future of the field of physics. Because of this, the first Priorities Committee developed a new architecture for the department which attempts to look beyond the parochial interests of the current faculty, so as to be able to move into new and exciting areas of research.

      In the 1994 plan the Priorities Committee identified expected retirements and recommended a future makeup of the department in terms of the new architecture. The hiring scenario assumed a three for four replacement of retiring faculty as a procedure for gradually reducing the size of the department over a period of time. Even with the reduction, the expected retirements indicated the need for adding one to two new faculty members each year. In the long range plan the recommended hiring was based on a priority structure, with five areas of research assigned the highest priority. We are pleased to note that the Department adopted the plan and that an excellent young faculty member has been hired in each of the high priority areas - although at a slower pace than recommended.

      In 1996 the plan was updated and after discussions with the administration we agreed to reduce the faculty replacement request down to a two for three replacement. However, the plan placed added emphasis on the need for maintaining 100% of the salary funds to address serious resource needs within the department - faculty salaries, startup costs for new faculty, and added infrastructure. Such resources are absolutely essential in attracting outstanding new faculty to the department and in providing support so that these faculty members can produce the high quality research expected. We note that the same statement applies to current faculty whose research put our department well into the top 20 physics departments. The 1996 long range plan contained a detailed plan not only for hiring on a priority basis, but also for utilizing the additional resources for startup, salary, and infrastructure. Since this update we have hired several new faculty members, and the high priority list has shrunk to two. The most disappointing outcome, measured against the last long range plan has been the Department’s inability to retain anything close to the 100% of salary funds as proposed. This has greatly exacerbated the department’s financial situation, which in turn has hindered our ability to carry out the proposed hiring plan.

     A new element in the process of long range planning has been the University’s competitions for enhancement funding based on new initiatives – the Flagship Initiatives. This competition provides the opportunity for us to obtain the additional resources necessary to enter new areas of research. To date we have successfully competed in two such Flagship Initiatives (non-linear dynamics and nanoelectronics), although neither were funded at the requested level. Given the shortage of resources, we must continue to develop very attractive proposals for enhancement as part of the priority setting process.

     To summarize the history of the Department of Physics long range planning, we present in Table 1, the history of retirements, resignations, and appointments, since the first long range plan in 1994. Since 1994, there have been 17 retirements or resignations, and assuming a 2 for 3 replacement and accounting for partial appointments, we would have expected to maintain 10.7 lines. In this time period we have realized 9 appointments, occupying 7.6 lines. In addition Dr. Goldenbaum’s return from assignment in the Dean’s office took up the resources equivalent to one hire. However, because the non-linear dynamics appointment is part of a Flagship Initiative it clearly should not be included in the count. (The purpose of taking positions from Physics and other departments is to provide positions for these Initiatives, and so they should be considered as additions to the department.) Thus our reckoning suggests that the Department can add four new faculty members without additional retirements.

 

1999 Department of Physics Long Range Plan

 

     Given the expected availability of two to three lines for next year, the 1998-99 Priorities Committee has again considered the long range future of the department and the hiring priorities of the department. We held a series of meetings throughout the academic year and obtained input from our colleagues as to future directions. In addition each member of the committee is active in research and in the physics community, and constantly has his colleagues’ assessments of the future not only in his research area, but also in promising new directions. Another important consideration, given the increased emphasis on interdisciplinary research, is the opportunities within the University and within the surrounding area.

     In our deliberations we have revised the recommended structure of the department approximately 10 years into the future. In this exercise we have identified retirements by assuming a conservative estimate of 67 years for the retirement age. (The average retirement age of the 23 faculty members who have retired since 1987 is 65.) In this fashion we were able to assess the expected strength of the currently represented research efforts in the year 2009. This assessment led us to recommend either addition of faculty to maintain the strength, or in some cases to permit the size of the group to shrink, based on our expectations of future trends. Having done this we were then able to assign priorities to certain areas of research, and to generate a list of high priority appointments, a number subject to caveats associated with future retirements or losses.

     By necessity in these deliberations we were forced to reexamine the financial health of the department, and our ability to make the recommended appointments. It is clear that the financial health of the department is not good at present. For many years high priority items in the annual budget request to the administration have been requests for increased operating funds, infrastructure support, and salaries. These requests have met with at best limited success. Only in the area of faculty salaries has their been some improvement. The other aspects have not faired well. The specific needs have taken many forms, and we discuss the three major components here.

              First, the A21 initiative added a $240K burden to the department, a department that already had financial difficulties. Two-thirds of the required funding was provided by the administration. However, DRIF funds, which could be used for direct research support and new research initiatives, are used to cover the remaining A21 costs.

              A second major new drain on the resources of the department was the increase in graduate student stipends of the 57 Teaching Assistants by $2,375 at a cost of $135,375. Taking this step was an absolute necessity. Our stipends were well below those of our peers, and we were losing good prospective students because of our low stipend. This increase coupled to the fact that our Teaching Assistant pool only supports 37 Teaching Assistants has resulted in a shortfall of $252,512 in our state funded TA support. Additionally, we are supporting 10 Fellows at a cost of $140,000 for which we receive partial support in the form of a $50,000 Block Grant from the Graduate School. The balance of $90,000 is supported from departmental funds. The combined Teaching Assistant and Fellow shortfall is $342,500 which must be covered from other budget categories. Although a simplistic approach would be to reduce the graduate program, we believe that this would not be a wise move. First, the department needs all of the Teaching Assistants to cover the recitation and laboratory classes. Second, the department has a high level of research funding, and our research groups are capable of supporting all of the current advanced level graduate students. Our graduates have had no difficulty finding good jobs, and our output of a number of excellent Ph.D. students is an important reason for our high ranking as a physics department.

              As a final item we considered the infrastructure, and in particular we considered departmental personnel who provide support for the teaching and research efforts. In our 1996 Priorities Committee Report one recommendation was to increase the computer support, both in terms of hardware (faculty workstation program) and personnel support. Such infrastructure is absolutely essential in all aspects of our departmental program - research, teaching, and administration. We are pleased to note that the department administration has responded very positively and currently there are two additional computer persons compared to 1996. In addition a number of new PCs have been added. This has been very beneficial to the operation, but unfortunately most of the resources have been carved out of the stagnant Department budget, at the cost to other areas and to the DRIF funds. We also note that the departmental shops, mechanical and electronics, suffer from a lack of departmental support. It is the existence of first-rate shops which separate the major research institutions from the pretenders.

     The department financial situation has created a major problem in the implementation of our long-range plan. As noted above currently the department should have 4 open positions. However, even with permission to hire from the administration, it is not clear that the department has the resources to carry out more than one appointment, in addition to those for which flagship funds have been allocated. The budget contains large deficits in the areas of Graduate Teaching Assistant support and Labor, as noted above. These have eaten all of the available departmental resources, including the DRIF funds. Thus not only are salary monies hard to find, within two years there will be no support available for new faculty start up funds, nor for matching funds of research initiatives. This is potentially a disastrous situation, and will have a very negative impact on our ability to hire outstanding young faculty. It is crucial that this problem be solved now, before proceeding with a long range hiring plan. We point out that if the department had been able to retain 100% of the salary of retiring faculty, as requested in the 1996 long-range plan, we would not have this major problem.

 

Department of Physics - 2009

 

     Following previous Priorities Committees we have continued to use the architecture devised in the 1994 Long Range Plan. Assuming an average retirement age of 67, we listed the current faculty who would likely remain in 2009 by physics research category. To plan for the future we had to make an assumption about the replacement of retired faculty members. It is our belief that the reduction program of 2 for 3 has continued for a sufficiently long time, and that soon the department should be permitted to replace each retirement. Continued shrinkage must eventually reduce the overall quality of the Department, and therefore damage our national ranking. In spite of this we have used conservative numbers and assumed that the 26 additional projected retirements between now and the year 2009 will be replaced by 20 new faculty members. With the two most recent appointments discussed above, we have thus assumed an asymptotic departmental size of a minimum of 68. (This is a head count of faculty associated with physics. In terms of full-time equivalents there would be about 60 FTE and 8 FTE in other departments through joint appointments.) Note that with 24 new appointments over the next decade we should be appointing at least two new faculty members each year.

     Using the total number of 68, we considered each physics research area, including physics related research areas. First, we made an educated guess as to the future faculty needs of the research areas currently represented in our department. We made an attempt to assess the strength needed to maintain a viable, high quality research program. In our recommendations some groups will shrink and others grow, due in large part to our perception of the future. We then considered possible new directions in which we attempted to build on strengths in the Department or University, or in the metropolitan area. In this fashion we arrived at the departmental composition in the year 2009 distributed over the six broad categories of our architecture. The numbers are presented in Table 2. Below we discuss briefly each of the categories, and our rationale for the recommendation.

 

Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Particle Physics. In our long range planning we view this as an area which should grow overall, due to recent significant progress in both experiment and theory and the resulting growth of interest in these areas. Historically, we have had a strong program, both theoretical and experimental, in Gravity/General Relativity research. Unfortunately, given the emphasis of experimental gravity research on LIGO, the interests of current experimental faculty, and our estimate of the commitment needed to be a significant player in LIGO, we recommend that our experimental Gravity effort not be augmented with additional faculty. This is in contrast to the 1996 Priorities Committee who placed high priority on the hiring of an experimentalist in General Relativity. We would however propose that we continue the theoretical effort, and augment it with the addition of faculty with interests in theoretical cosmology and/or astrophysics. An experimentalist with interests in cosmology and connections to NASA would also be of interest, as mentioned below. In this same broad category we include astrophysics and cosmic ray physics. The Department has had a small, high quality experimental program in Cosmic Ray physics (2 faculty members) for a number of years. Currently the group is involved in two major experiments, one studying neutrinos (SuperKamiokande) and one measuring cosmic rays (Milagro). Both are excellent experiments, and we can imagine continuing and even augmenting research efforts of these types.

 

Condensed Matter and Statistical Physics. This is the largest research area of physics, in part because there is not only the possibility for interesting basic research, but also there are numerous commercial applications and possibilities of cross disciplinary physics. This is a large and strong research effort in the department currently with 12 experimental and 8 theoretical faculty associated with the physics department, and 6 of these 20 faculty holding joint appointments. We recommend that strength in this area at least be maintained. We note that attempts to hire a theorist in 1997-99 have been unsuccessful. A Flagship initiative in the area of nanoelectronics has been approved at the level of $100K, which will provide base funds for a junior experimental appointment, plus some resources to help the department provide cost-sharing for the MRSEC. Given the age profile of the current faculty, we foresee a need for about one appointment per year in this area over the next decade. Note that research in “soft” condensed matter physics has become more prominent recently. A future appointment in such an area may well be included under our category of “non-traditional” physics.

 

Particle and Nuclear Physics. Currently this area consists of theorists and experimentalists in particle and nuclear physics. Particle physics continues to be one of the premier intellectual fields in physics, and the department has hired a number of young faculty members in experimental particle physics. Our current groups are well-positioned in forefront research. With the construction of LHC in CERN this field will remain active for a number of years. The nuclear physics research at Maryland is transforming to an emphasis on the study of the strong interaction and the QCD structure of fundamental particles. This promises to be intellectually challenging research for a number of years. In addition the field has placed much more emphasis on neutrino physics, and we see this as providing possible new directions. We note that the department’s overall commitment in this area will undergo a reduction of roughly 15%

 

Space Physics and Plasma Physics. The primary research effort in space physics has been experimental with three faculty members who have excelled in research in measuring the atomic composition of space, particularly that of the solar wind. With the close proximity of NASA we would recommend that the department maintain a strong experimental research program coupled to NASA, but moving into other areas with more cosmological emphasis. The plasma physics program, both experimental and theoretical, has been strong in the past. However, funding patterns have changed, and the program has been reduced in size. We have not replaced the three experimental faculty members who have retired or left. We anticipate no new appointments in this area, although our hires in nonlinear dynamics are expected to maintain a strong connection with IPR. Nonlinear dynamics or applied physics programs with plasma applications may lead to appointments. The theoretical plasma physics program is strong. Although it has undergone a reduction in effort, as some of its members have moved into other areas, the department can maintain a strong position in this subfield with existing faculty commitments.

 

Non-traditional Physics. The Priorities Committees have used this category as a “catch all” to represent new areas of research currently not represented in the department. As our hirings in this category increase, it will be incumbent of a future Priorities Committee to redo the architecture to reflect the faculty’s research interests. Our growth from one faculty member several years ago to 3 currently and eventually to 9 in another decade reflect our strong desire to move into new areas. Although moving into new areas is desirable, we believe that these numbers reflect the maximum that one could hope to achieve over 10 years. Firstly, initiating a new area of research can be very expensive, and it would be difficult to do so at a rate higher than every two to three years. Secondly, we do not want to jeopardize an active and successful research program simply in the desire to have something “new”. Currently in this category we have placed the faculty carrying out research in non-linear dynamics and chaos. The recent flagship hirings in this area (Roy in Physics and Levermore in Math) have used most of the Flagship resources. The department has about 80% of the salary funds needed to hire a junior experimentalist. However, start-up costs would have to be negotiated with the expectation of substantial assistance from campus. We do not foresee an immediate need for additional faculty in non-linear dynamics beyond those proposed in the Flagship initiative, unless the emphasis is coupled to one of the other research categories listed above. Therefore our list of additional appointments in non-traditional physics reflects our recommendation to initiate some new areas of research. Some of the possible areas of interest to the committee are atomic physics (particularly if a connection can be made to Phillips at NIST), biophysics (if there is a strong initiative to strengthen the biology program on campus and to increase the interactions with NIH), and research areas referred to as “soft” condensed matter physics (which could be biophysics). Other possibilities exist and future Priorities Committees will have to examine them on a case by case basis.

 

Education Innovation. This is an area which has rather recently evolved into a true research program. Although the Department has had a joint appointment with Education for many years (John Layman who recently retired), the transition of Dr. Redish into this area has given significant impetus to the research program. Dr. Redish has brought significant recognition and funding to the department, and has now established a Ph.D. program in physics education. We have now replaced Dr. Layman with a new joint appointment, Dr. David Hammer, and we expect the physics education research effort to grow. We believe that this is an important effort that should be continued in the department. However, we do not anticipate any appointments directly into this area, but rather are confident that a few faculty members currently focussed on other research areas will at some future time have some, or even all, of their research in education innovation.

 

Highest Priority Recommendations

 

     When considering our highest priority recommendations there are two types of considerations. Our tendency is to focus on the appointment of new faculty members who will improve our department and thus our ranking amongst physics departments. However, as discussed above, the financial situation in the department is such that we need enhancement funds from the University to attract the very strongest candidates. The recent hiring of Dr. Roy is an example where considerable help was needed to assemble a start-up package worth $1M. Recruitments that rely mainly on departmental resources may be restricted to junior appointments with modest salaries and start-up packages. Therefore as our very highest priority, we must recommend solving the financial problems of the Department of Physics. We would hope that this could be done in part by the administration providing additional operating funds and TA stipends to the department. Restoration of the full resources associated with recent retirements and the ability to keep the full salary of new retirements would reduce our financial problems to a manageable level so that DRIF funds would be available for startup and resources would be available to provide attractive salaries. The Priorities Committee believes that this recommendation is essential and if need be, we would recommend that one, or even two, of the current open positions be sacrificed, if we are able to apply the full salary resources of the positions to the financial problems discussed above.

     Once the financial situation is relieved, the department can focus on the appointment of new faculty. Our vision of the overall makeup of the Department of Physics a decade in the future is given above. On the shorter term of two to three years we must identify specific areas of research and initiate searches for new faculty members in those areas. In this section we present several high priority appointments for the currently available positions. In addition we list a few appointments that we believe will be of high priority subject to certain conditions.

 

Flagship Initiatives. We are committed to carrying out our commitments to the two currently approved Flagship initiatives. As mentioned previously we have most of the salary required for the appointment of a junior faculty member in the area of non-linear dynamics, but will need assistance in providing an attractive startup package. We expect a search to be carried out during the next academic year.

    We would also expect to initiate a search for a new faculty member in the area of nanoelectronics this fall. It is expected that members from MRSEC and the Department of Electrical Engineering will participate in this search, and that the appointment could well take the form of a joint appointment with some other academic unit.

 

Condensed Matter Theory. For the past two years we have unsuccessfully tried to hire a condensed matter theorist. We have made offers to three outstanding candidates, but without success. Our need in this area has grown more acute with the passage of time, and we consider this appointment to be a very high priority. We recommend that the Department continue to search for an outstanding appointment candidate.

 

Cosmology. There is currently high interest in the field of cosmology, an area minimally represented in our department. We believe that this is an excellent research area for the department to consider proposing a Flagship Initiative. The additional resources possible with a Flagship Initiative would permit us move more rapidly into this exciting new area. Even if an initiative is not forthcoming, we would recommend that the department begin to move into this research area with the appointment of a young theorist. A new faculty member in cosmology would still benefit from interactions with current members of the particle physics and gravitational groups, and would increase our interactions with NASA as well as the Astronomy Department.

 

Condensed Matter Experiment. As discussed above this is a major and important research area in our department, and we must maintain its strength. We have already expressed our support for the Flagship Initiative in nanoelectronics above. In addition to this, given the ages of the current faculty in this research area, we place a high priority on the replacement of current faculty members when they retire.

 

Theoretical Quarks, Hadrons, and Nuclei. This has been an active well-funded area of research for many years, and the faculty have been very successful in moving from research which concentrated on nuclei to research with a more fundamental emphasis on the strong interaction or QCD. With the current strong research of the younger faculty we foresee maintaining this effort. Based on our assumptions concerning retirement ages, we expect retirements from this research effort in the relatively near future. With retirements we would give high priority to an appointment in this area. In particular we support the proposal of the group to search for a candidate with an emphasis on computing for lattice QCD. We believe that such a person would have beneficial interactions with faculty in other research areas.

 

Experimental Nuclear Physics. The nuclear physics group at Maryland has had a long history of quality research and is well-funded. The current group consists of five faculty members with an emphasis on research on the underlying structure of nucleons and nucleon resonances. There is also a related effort in neutrino physics. We believe that this research effort should be continued, but at a somewhat reduced level in terms of faculty positions. In spite of our recommended reduction, given the age distribution of the current faculty, we foresee the need for a high priority appointment upon the retirement of current faculty members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 1. Faculty retirements, resignations and appointments since 1994.

 

Year

Retirements

Resignations

Hirings

 

1994

Griem

Lee, Wang

 

 

1995

Bardasis,Richard

 

Ramesh*, Sullivan

 

1996

 

 

Ji, Luty

 

1997

Chang, DeSilva, Gluckstern, MacDonald, Kacser

Lynn

Lathrop

 

1998

Currie, Layman, Sucher, Woo

Skiff

Hammer, Roberts

 

1999

Glick

 

Becker, Roy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Joint with Materials Engineering; supported by a ½ line in the Superconductivity Center

 

 

 

 

Table 2. Department of Physics architecture and faculty composition in 2009.

 

Research Category

Research subareas

Residual Faculty

Th.     Exp.

Total

Faculty

2009

 

Faculty

Appts.

Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Gravitation

G.R. Theory, G.R. Exp., Cosmology, Cosmic Rays,

3         2

    8

     3

Condensed Matter and Statistical Physics

C.M. Theory and Exp., Supercon. Ctr., Statistical Mechanics

7         4

   20

     9

Particle and Nuclear Physics

High Energy Exp., Nuclear Exp.

Particle Theory, QCD

9         6

   19

     4

Space Physics and Plasma Physics

Plasma Exp. and Theory, Space Plasma, Space Exp.

4         4

   10

     2

Non-traditional Physics

 

Chaos, Dynamics, Atomic, Biophysics,

1         2

     9

     6

Educational Innovation

 

           2

     2*

     0

   TOTAL

 

24      20

   68

    24

 

* The lack of change reflects the fact that we do not propose hiring in to this area, but rather assume that the number will increase due to changes of interests in faculty members in other categories.