Many ex-profs blame flight on poor state Legislature funding

By Joe Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Editor's note: This is the second article in the two-part series on the UA "Brain Drain" problem.

Many professors who have left the UA for other universities say a lack of support from the state Legislature prompted their decision.

Dubbed "brain drain," the loss of talented faculty members to private institutions has become a serious problem at the UA, said President Peter Likins.

A several-year delay in the new addition to the Old Chemistry building prompted four leading UA scientists to leave last year for the Georgia Institute of Technology. The addition broke ground a few months ago.

Seth Marder, a chemistry professor who left the UA last year, said the delays in the addition made it difficult for professors to do their jobs. Optical sciences professor Bernard Kippelen and chemistry professors Jean-Luc Bredás and Joe Perry also left with Marder for Georgia Tech.

"We felt the research space was inadequate," Marder said. "Our effectiveness was undermined."

Marder said lack of space at the Old Chemistry Building forced Marder and Perry to work out of lab space at UA Science and Technology Park. The park is approximately 25 minutes from the main campus.

"I didn't set foot on campus for four years," Marder said.

Marder said he did not leave for a higher salary, but because of the lack of support for higher education in the state Legislature.

"This means the UA would be always be playing catch-up with people and universities who are really building a first-class higher education system." Marder said.

Marder said Georgia Tech is building a 25,000-square-foot chemistry building that will give ample room for his research.

Bernard Kippelen also said the lack of legislative support was obvious.

He said the Georgia state Legislature was much more supportive of higher education than the Arizona state Legislature. Kippelen left the UA when Marder and his colleagues left last year.

Kippelen said the difference between the two universities is noticeable.

"The resources at Georgia Tech are better than the ones offered at the UA. " Kippelen said.

Kippelen said despite his colleagues having to leave campus to do their research, UA administrators were debating whether to build the addition to the Old Chemistry building.

"At the time we left, the building (addition) wasn't even being considered," Kippelen said.

Soroosh Sorooshian, a former UA hydrology professor, said leaving the UA was a difficult choice to make, one that took two years to make. He said he decided to leave the UA for University of California-Irvine to pursue research he could not perform at the UA. Sorooshian left the UA in 2003.

Sorooshian said the University of California-Irvine offered he and his team of 14 researchers, including three UA faculty, great incentives to leave the UA.

"They gave us a package deal. They were willing to put up resources we required," Sorooshian said. "It was a new opportunity to get back to research."

Sorooshian said the lack of support at the state Legislature was a factor in making his decision.

"It is very frustrating. We work hard to build a reputation (in hydrology) and year after year we see cuts in our budget," Sorooshian said. "Legislators have never appreciated what we are doing."

Sorooshian, the former head of the hydrology department, said despite the high ranking of the hydrology department, he was forced to do more with fewer and fewer resources.

"Every year, we (the UA) would face another budget cut," Sorooshian said.