Despite Binghamton University suffering from an $11 million deficit this academic year due to COVID-19, eight new assistant professors were hired in the Watson College of Engineering and Applied Sciences during the fall semester.

One of the new professors, Xudong Liang, is in the mechanical engineering department. Two of the new professors, Hoda Naghibijouybari and Sujoy Sikdar, were hired in the computer science department. Five professors, including Zeynep Ertem, Yu “Chelsea” Jin, Zimo Wang, Hyunsoo Yoon and Yingge “Gary” Zhou, are in the systems science and industrial engineering department. Additionally, two senior-level faculty will be joining two different departments in Watson College in fall 2021. According to Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari, dean and distinguished professor of Watson College and director of the Watson Institute for Systems Excellence, there are still more staff positions to fill.

Srihari said hiring new professors was necessary due to the fact that student enrollment has increased, and Watson College wants to maintain a beneficial student to faculty ratio.

“We also want to do our best to ensure our departments have the resources they require to best serve our students,” Srihari said. “For positions in [Watson College], we get applications from around the country from the best and brightest in their field of study. We are delighted that these eight individuals chose to continue their careers in engineering and computer science teaching and research at [BU] and the Watson [College].”

One of the new professors, Zhou, received his Ph.D. at Texas Tech Institute in the department of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering this past year. He said one of the major reasons he chose to work at BU was due to the University’s prestigious engineering departments.

“[BU] was one of [the] top-ranking universities in my job search and has one of the most renowned industrial engineering departments in the country,” Zhou said. “Plus, I’m happy to try somewhere else that has totally different climates and geographical environment compared to where I did my Ph.D. study — West Texas has more high heat days and desert plains.”

Despite travel restrictions due to COVID-19, Zhou described his move from Texas to New York as being easier than expected.

“I drove from Texas all the way to Binghamton in three days to minimize stays in hotels that could be potential exposure to [COVID-19] since I have two cats, and I don’t want them to be scared by the flights,” Zhou said. “Plus, one of them is 20 pounds, which is overweight for [a] carry-on. In April, I enrolled in a waiting list [for] an apartment in [the] Binghamton area and successfully moved in late July without any trouble. Neighboring people [have] been nice and friendly.”

Students had varying opinions on the recent hirings. Addison Phoenix, an undeclared freshman, said she wondered where the funds for the new faculty members were coming from.

“The school lost a lot of money because of [COVID-19], so where is this money coming from?” Phoenix said. “I get that there may be more students coming in, and they need to accommodate them, but [BU] lost over $10 million. Did they take it out of the budget of something else?”

On the other hand, Sophia Romero, an undeclared freshman, had a more positive outlook on welcoming the new faculty members.

“I think that it’s really good that they hired new professors,” Romero said. “Maybe they’ll be able to make the classes a little smaller, which could be helpful for both students and professors.”

Srihari expressed his excitement for the future of Watson College and the new faculty members they plan on hiring.

“We look forward to welcoming more new faculty and staff to the Watson family in the future to provide the best possible academic experience to our undergraduate and graduate students,” Srihari said.