Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Office of One's Own

In a comment last week, someone stated that grad students are "4 to an office", as if this is a general fact. Is it? Maybe it is common, even if you count cubicle farms with low partitions, but many departments seem to have at least some (or many) private(ish) office for grad students, with doors and maybe even a window (!).

I know I have written about offices before.. apparently, I have devoted at least 15 posts to the topic of "faculty office", and I recall a few mentions of grad offices before as well (such as the fascinating topic of whether professors ever venture into the grad office zone). And yet, I don't think I have ever probed the question of grad office-sharing. The topic came up indirectly in a recent post on background noise and distractions when a student is on the phone trying to have a professional conversation, such as in a phone interview; hence the comment about "4 to an office".

When I was in grad school, I had a different grad office every year, each one better than the one before. I graduated from a make-shift cubicle (some bookcases arranged around a desk) to shared offices to a private office (no window, occasional dead rodents behind the walls, but I loved my little office-cave). Even when I shared an office, I never had more than one office-mate in my immediate vicinity (i.e., two desks in a small room with a door), although in the overall "office space" there were maybe 15 of us (and we all shared one phone). I was quite content with these offices, and always felt that I had a good place to work, even if none of these offices could be described as aesthetically pleasing spaces. 

Despite years of private offices as a postdoc and professor, I occasionally get to relive the shared-office experience during sabbaticals and other extended visits to other universities. For my first sabbatical, for example, I shared an office with a very polite and mostly quiet person who, I eventually realized, was being slowly driven mad by the fact that I had different ideas about office lighting, door position, and various situations involving the windows. In my view, when I was alone in the office, I could have the lights, door, windows arranged in whatever way I wanted, and then when my office-mate appeared, we could find a compromise, but this person wanted everything to be a certain way even when they were not there, and certainly everything had to be back the way it should be when they showed up at the office in the morning or after some time away during the day. This became kind of stressful.

These had not been issues when I had a shared office as a grad student, and only partly because we had no windows; I was lucky to share an office with compatible people, all of whom are still good friends of mine. An incompatible office-mate can really affect your ability to work in 'your' office, including how you feel about going to the office and spending time there. If you have more than one office-mate, the chances increase (exponentially?) that one (or more) will be annoying, or worse.

And yet, I think it is a good thing to have an office plan that facilitates interaction, so that grad students aren't just toiling away in isolation in private offices, at least not for the first few years of grad school. The informal discussions that I had with my office-mates in my general office area were some of the most interesting and significant intellectual experiences I had in grad school, leading in one case to a paper that I wrote with another grad student.

So, '4 to an office' certainly doesn't sound pleasant, but it might not be entirely dire. Many research labs have grad students desks scattered around in and near them, so no one has their own office with walls and window, but everyone has their own space to work. It might be difficult to work at times, but there are also lots of good interactions as well. Another possible arrangement to foster interactions is to have private or semi-private offices arranged around a central area where people can gather (quietly).

Questions of the day: How many grads to an office (range or typical) at your department? Is this scheme (whatever it is) seen as good/bad/indifferent?



72 comments:

Anonymous said...

We are very tight on space. And are 6-8 in an office. Both grad students and postdocs (mixed). Private offices are for a lucky few professors. The obvious disadvantage is that it's impossible to concentrate since there is always somebody talking. So if I need to focus I will do that at home.

Anonymous said...

I have 9 graduate students in my group (at Harvard). They all share one office, no partitions. After many months of begging the administration, I was at least able to get my each of my 2 postdocs desks in alternative 4-person offices.

muddled grad student said...

Our department doesn't have separate offices for each or even a handful of grad students, they are all cubicle farms at best and open concept desks at worst. This goes for the post docs as well. Usually since several PI's share a lab or group of labs the offices will accommodate around 30 or so students/post docs. In the rare case where a PI has his own lab it may be 5-10 people. There are a few shared offices set aside for people who do non-lab work and are the only student/staff of a PI and hence don't belong anywhere. I believe they hold 4 - 6. I have been in the first 2 cases and I must say I like prefer the huge offices. People know that with that many people if everyone is very noisy (eg by talking loudly on the phone etc) then nothing will get done so naturally tend towards being respectful of each other. Also the socialization is there and having a lot of diverse people working on different projects but in a similar overall area means you can talk to people, get help, advise and so on.

Cheryl said...

Where I did my Phd, it all depended on your group. Some grads had offices to themselves, some shared with another grad in their group. In my group, PI had his own office, 1 postdoc and tech shared an office, and i shared an office with anywhere from 2-4 other people (another grad, undergrad assistants, tech who didnt have internet in his office). It was a rather small and cramped office, but for the most part did not bother me since I had my own personal space. Once I started writing the distractions became too much and another PI let me move in to an empty office in her space.

Where I did my Masters, all first years were in one room, we each had our own desk, but no dividers of any sort. After first year, you shared office with your group mates.

Now at Postdoc Institute, grads and postdocs share offices (mixed) approx 2 per office.

jms said...

We're six to an office! But the offices are designed to fit six to an office, large and roomy, and I *love* the interaction of having someone right next to me to ask for help/suggestions/ideas when I'm working through something tricky.

Anonymous said...

cubicles for newbies, but nice cubicles

Then you can move up to better offices as you gain seniority, ultimately having a 1-2 person office unless you are in a lab where the PI wants you to have a desk in the lab.

Anonymous said...

At my institute (physics department/Europe), we have shared offices for PhD students and postdocs. It's mostly 3 people per room, plus a few small rooms (2 people) and bigger ones (4 people). Personally, I like the 3-people rooms best - there's always someone there to discuss ideas, and you are likely not to be totally alone when there's some conference that you don't attend but some of colleagues do.
Since a lot of people stay at our institute for a few months after their PhD (I think this is unusual in the US, but here it's quite common), we don't have separate postdoc offices, you just "grow into" being a postdoc and stay in your old office until you leave.

Anonymous said...

As a graduate student and even a postdoc, I only ever had a cubicle, in a shared space with 8-16 cubes. Some of these have been fairly nice (windows, good quality furniture, away from traffic). Others were not. My postdoc cube was the worst of the bunch - interior room with no natural light, no control of overhead fluorescents, break area with printers and fridge directly behind me. Even for my first 'real' job (staff scientist, research institution), I will have a shared office. This, as far as I can tell, is completely (and unfortunately) the norm in biomedical sciences. In some of the more crowded labs, you get 3 feet of linear desk space in an open lab.

studyzone said...

In my graduate program (life sciences), there are no offices for grad students or postdocs - desks are next to benches. There is absolutely no privacy - if you want quiet time, you have to search for an empty conference room, find a nook in the library, or work from home. As a postdoc, I share an office with 2 other postdocs from my lab, and 2 grad students from another lab (overflow space, since there aren't enough desks in their lab). So, again, no privacy (although we have been able to work it out that whenever one of us has a phone interview, everyone else will work in the lab).

Anonymous said...

the office situation somehow seems worse in the biosciences

Anonymous said...

During my undergrad summer research I have always shared an office (obviously - no-one would give an undergrad an office to themselves!). I loved having other students around to bounce ideas off, or even just to chat too during the day and have a laugh with. One of the reasons I didn't choose a particular grad school was because their PhD students seemed to have individual offices and there was no interaction... i'm sure thats what you want as a Prof. but as a student I think having the social aspect there is really important, especially in the first few years.

Anonymous said...

Humanities side here:

At wealthy school for PhD, no office whatsoever for any of the humanities graduate students but individual offices for the professors. One computer lab available with a few computers for all of the humanities grad students.

At postdoc, a two-person shared office. If we were both there, we could just barely squeeze in a student.

Adjucting work has varied between five to a very large office, each with individual desks and plenty of space for student consultations, to no office at all.

anna said...

I share a small office with 5.other grad students. Generally I enjoy they work environment, as people respect each other. It's quiet, everybody works (good against procrastination) and we often go for lunch or coffee together. But I was also in offices with lots of distraction (people speaking on phone a lot, chatting all the time etc.). In my current office, however, there are no separations at all and I sit face-to-face with one colleague, which is sometimes irritating. Since I am about to return from maternity leave soon, I miss my privacy as I do not know where and how I should use my breast pump in peace...

Cherish said...

MS institution was generally 2-4 people (although there were short episodes when no one else was inhabiting the office and I got it to myself). PhD institution, there were 7 people in my office. (And all the places I applied/interviewed seemed to have a similar arrangement.)

My experience is that having office mates does nasty things to my productivity. I remember one episode where one of my office mates was having an emotional breakdown because her dad had just had a heart attack, and basically, I didn't get anything done for about 3 days because I was trying to console her and talk her through it. I know a lot of people who say they have to go elsewhere to get anything done because they can't get anything done in their office.

So glad I have my own space now. With windows, even.

FSGrad said...

3-5, which I like. Sans windows, which I don't. Also the heat in the building only seems to be adjustable in the faculty offices.

Anonymous said...

When I was in grad school, there were 3-4 grad students per office. Most of the time it worked out ok, but I had one very chatty office mate that sometimes made it difficult to get work done. There was also a stretch of time in which another office mate was having an affair with another grad student (both of them happened to be in my lab), and I would frequently walk in on them making out on the couch in the office. Talk about uncomfortable...

Liz said...

In my building, grad staudents and postdocs all have desk space within the lab (drives me nut because it means I can't drink coffee at my desk). Since we have an open concept lab, there are roughly 30 desks in the lab space, arranged in groups of 4. So absolutely no privacy.

Anonymous said...

I'm a post doc and I have a pathetic office situation. I have a desk in a large office with no windows shared with multiple (7+) graduate students at my university. This used to be fine because I spent most of my time at a nearby national lab and had a good office (with a window!) there. However, now at the national lab they have shunted our group into a hallway. The way they originally "planned" it I would have had to share a desk in a hallway with a graduate students packed so tight we would have been tripping over each other - I was more than a little indignant and we got at least sufficient space. However, we still have people from neighboring offices coming in and gawking at us and some other incredibly intrusive, disrespectful behavior by our "colleagues." By virtue of my "high" status as a post doc I'm allowed to sit in the (small windowless) office of a big important guy when he's not there, which is about 90% of the time. However, when he is there and I have to sit in the hallway (and don't have all of my stuff with me), I have difficulty doing my job. I sit in front of a computer all day (so I spend a lot of time at my desk) and I have to spend an average of more than one hour per day in phone meetings. I have no real place where I can have conversations that need to be private - like talking with a co-organizer of a conference about whom we should invite to speak. It's incredibly disruptive and ever since I ceased to have an office, my productivity has clearly gone down. I've never had a private office and I never expected a marvelous office, but this is really, really bad.

Geeka said...

My lab was the only one w/ a grad student office in grad school. This was because of a dirty/clean room situation. There was just enough room for 3 desks, which meant that we had to share depending on students.

Since I left, the department had mandated that no grad student should have an office, but could have a desk in the lab (hello! can't eat in a lab!). There's some common space with lockers, but other than that, nothing.

Anonymous said...

I was a TA for two years and the TA office was a large, shared office. My first year this was fine, but then my second year the new grad students were so annoying. They would have jerky, sexist conversations that I had to listen to because of the shared space. Lame!

As an RA we were 3-4 to an office.

Anonymous said...

At my European university all grad students and up have their own offices. With windows :) Master students and student assistants get to share windowless offices.

I've also stayed at other institutes where I had to share offices, and I really think this is so much better. There is still a lot of interaction both between students and senior staff at the lunch and coffee areas, which are both quite nice.

It's soon time for me to graduate, and move to another place. And I hate that my office situation likely will become much worse...

Anonymous said...

Is anyone in a brand new shiny building that has grad offices specifically designed in a certain way instead of an old building (like the ones I have mostly been in) that stick people wherever there is room? I wonder sometimes about new buildings that might have been designed with grad offices as part of the plan. Are they stuffed with cubicles or something better?

Lauren said...

Our very large lab has desks in the lab for everyone: grad students, postdocs, and research professors. Only my advisor has an office. It's horrible trying to study or write. I recently took my quals and had to flee to the library on most days because otherwise I was answering the phone, opening the door, or listening to conversations happening right behind me.

Anonymous said...

We had 6 cubicles in our grad student office and they were always full. My grad student colleagues and I were very close friends (and still are) and so sometimes the room got rowdy and it was hard to work there, but most of the time it was a great, collaborative environment. You could just shout out a question or an idea and someone would respond. The last 2 years of grad school, I was moved into an office with our postdoc, which was also really ehlpful because that's when i was doing the bulk of my writing and thinking, but I still 'hung out' in the grad office and younger students came to mine all the time for interaction. I think the community aspect of large offices is really beneficial when you are in that stage of your career.

Anonymous said...

Wow, people's comments sound pretty horrible. In my department, master students don't get office space but phd students do get a desk in an office with 2 to 3 people. You move to a "better"/bigger office (and to the desk next to the window) as you gain seniority. Some postdocs share their office and some don't. All offices have windows though. I get SAD as it is and honestly can't imagine working all day in a room without a window - is that even legal?

recent MS grad said...

I was in a 5-person office for my first year of grad school (and all my officemates were first years, so that was actually really fun)... then they tried to give me an office that was actually a windowless extension of my advisor's office, which obviously would have been terrible, so I just worked in our lab (a computer lab... we did modeling mostly) which is what my advisor had tried to get me to do my whole first year anyway (he was pretty hands-on). there are definitely some offices now that are 6-person even when they're only "supposed" to be 5, and there's kind of a scramble for desks... we had a huge incoming class 2 years ago so things are really crowded!

but yeah, I don't think I would have liked an office to myself, I would have been lonely... only advantage would have been not having to deal with anyone else's annoying students from the class they were TAing (of course MY students were never annoying :)) I have my own office now in my first job and it's nice but yeah, a little lonely!

Anonymous said...

as a grad student: 8 to an office
as a post-doc: 6 to an office
as a PI, we have one office, so it's currently 3/office but will grow as the lab does.

within the offices we make makeship partitions with file cabinets/bookshelves. I have never heard or seen a place where people had less than 5/office (biomedical engineering)

Anonymous said...

Grad students in my social science department got a desk in a shared office (5-8 grad students) but only if they were teaching or TA'ing. No office space for adjuncts, though, so teaching once I got a PhD was harder than when I was a grad student in the same department. The office space available wasn't in an ADA-compliant building, which meant we officially had to hold office hours elsewhere - but were given no other space for that. The building was also infested with black mold from leaks, which made the acoustic ceiling tiles fall onto our desks on a regular basis. That was at Big State School.

At Small State School and at Medium Private School, I had my own office as an adjunct prof. With a window!

Anonymous said...

I worked in a large, shared student office for most of my PhD, and while I liked my officemates and became good friends with the, I found the shared office to be a horrible experience overall -- it decreased my productivity and contributed to my feeling stressed and irritable a lot of the time. This was made worse by the fact that during the time I spent there, several of my officemates managed to get moved to other, quieter spaces, but for whatever reason, my repeated requests to move were unsuccessful and occasionally provoked hostility by certain members of the lab. Some people tried to "prove" to me that the open office was better, because it resulted in more communication and socialization. Well, it did -- but mostly of the sort that interfered with getting anything done.

In case you haven't seen it, there was an article in the NYT recently about how open-plan offices are harmful to the productivity and mental health of creative workers, especially introverts:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?pagewanted=all

Anonymous said...

I made one of the "4 to an office" comments last week, in answering why grad students don't enjoy Spring break as much as professors. Simply, they don't notice the peace and quiet because even though the halls might be quieter, they're still surrounded by people all day.

The ten grad students in my lab are in the same room. PhDs have makeshift offices using file cabinets as partitions, two to an office. Master's students have cubicle-type desks (but no dividers) all facing the wall. Undergraduates share an open desk in the middle of the room. It's not a bad thing, unless someone's cooking a smelly lunch in the microwave. Generally everyone keeps their headphones on when working, and side conversations are academic and productive.

antia said...

When I was in grad school, I once overheard a senior administrator in charge of distributing space stating in front of a little windowless office: We can fit 2 people or 4 students ...

Funny Researcher said...

I had a small office with windows/doors and everything, and I shared it with one other grad student. But occasionally, we had to share it with a visitor as well, but I loved it.

In my postdoc, we have a large lab, with no door or cubicles. So it is all shared, but we do have private space for working.

I loved my grad experience more than the postdoc in terms of office space. I liked the privacy and bursts of awesome ideas that came to me in that setting.

Biology student said...

I my department, I don't know of any grad student who has his/her own office. Most of us are in offices with 3-10 people (the larger offices having cubicle-type arrangements). I recently moved to a new office space, which has several offices with doors, each containing 3-4 students or post docs. There are large dry erase boards in each office and in the common space/kitchen area shared by all. Before moving into this office space, I had not realized how something as simple (and cheap) as a bunch of white boards could create a very positive working environment. In part because of the availability of white boards and in part because of the general congenial culture, the grad students and post docs in this space regularly chat about data, experimental design, analysis, etc., while illustrating points on white boards. Passerbys will often join in the conversations, offering useful advice. This one little thing (white boards) has helped foster a very positive working atmosphere. I'm surprised at how much I love this shared grad student office space.

Lisa C. said...

at my phd institution (earth sci dept) we had cubicles for the first year (4 ppl) but in an office that was separate (no windows). those of us who hated it were then moved up & out to a semi-private office (2 ppl) with a window. my advisor then moved me again so that my physical office was closer to his in my last 2 yrs but again it was a lovely 2 person office & i shared it with my lab mate who i call my "science best friend." for me sharing an office is fine, its more about who is in there with me. at one point i shared with a habitual gamer who would play all day long. that was maddening!

Anonymous said...

We have a "bullpen" sort of cubicle space for all the students. Somewhere on the order of 50 students in one big room. It seems to work well though.

Anonymous said...

I am a graduate student sharing a rather larger-than-usual office with three other graduate students. It is true that we don't have much room, and as soon as someone (advisor, fellow graduate student) comes to work, it can become quite overcrowded. But the truth is, the team leader just made arrangements so we could move to two offices, and we are sad about being no longer the four of us. So I guess space is not everything, it depends a lot on who you are sharing your office with.

Anonymous said...

Private office?? Wow! As a grad student in the stone age I had a desk at the end of my bench, and that continues for both my grad students and postdocs today. I think that would be true for most folks in the Biomedical sciences here--EEOB Biology folks in non lab-based groups often have a desk in a shared office--4-10 folks

Mark P

Anonymous said...

Midwest R1, Ecology: 4 to an office, you keep it your whole grad career. (No "moving up" to better offices with seniority.) Some are windowless. Mine has a big window. It's in a new building (from the 1990's) to answer one of the Anons, and there was no obvious design for grad student offices. In general, it's just a medium-sized room, with two desks placed against one wall and two against the other wall. No partitions.

I'm also visiting a Southern R1, Ecology: looks like 4-to-a-room is pretty common here, too.

I enjoy having officemates to an extent -- it's nice to break up the day with an occasional chat. But it's difficult when one is pressed for time and an officemate wants to chat. I work about 3 days from home so I can be more productive and 2 days in the office, so I don't go looney from isolation. The worst parts are 1) TA hours, where there's a conversation going for an hour right next to you; and 2) important calls/Skype meetings. I don't like to bother my officemates, but it's often hard to find a private space to conduct important meetings and interviews (and to pump!). I wish this were addressed more.

Anonymous said...

I think others have made this point several times over, but I believe it so strongly that it's worth repeating: the effect of crowded offices on productivity can more than offset any gains from collaboration. These negative effects might be concentrated in a few individuals who don't work well in noisy environments.

When I really needed to get work done as a grad student or a postdoc, I worked from home (easier than packing a day's worth of food to eat at the library). But this means I wasn't around for my PI's spontaneous meetings, which was how he liked to operate (I guess that's nice and convenient when you have a private office to retreat to!). One of my officemates had to be on the phone several hours a day for work, and I would run out of stupid tasks to do in those periods. It was awful.

Margaret said...

@Anna: Ask around! I used my own office to pump if my male officemates were not there (and put a sign on the door, so they wouldn't come in) -- my female officemate was also a mom, so she and I didn't care if I pumped. When my office was unusable, I'd ask a friendly female committee member who was just down the hall if I could use her room (while she was also there working). She's a mom, too, and very understanding. You might also ask around to see if your university has nursing rooms; some do. At my field site's lab building, the conference room was almost always vacant, so I pumped in there and put a sign on the door. (When it was unavailable, I asked to use the office of someone who wasn't there that day, or else used the office of a female staff person -- who I'm friendly with and who's also a mom.) For the record, while visiting at another university, I've pumped in a room with both male and female officemates in the room. ("We're all biologists; lactation is a normal mammal thing.") If you turn towards the wall while you pump, no one can see anything. (I've also pumped in airport lounges, on an airplane, facing the wall ... you do what you have to do.) But I did check with all my officemates to make sure they were comfortable with my pumping. I'm sure you can find an ally somewhere. (Even my old male advisor was willing to *give up* his office for twenty minutes so I could pump once.) Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Just moved into a new building for both physical and biological sciences and the grad student offices are designed for 6. The offices are quite large with windows, but far from private.

Anonymous said...

In my current graduate lab, we only have desks in the lab space itself, so no one has a private or even semi-private office. My PI's office in in the lab (though it is separate and he does have a door). Unfortunately, my desk is right by his office so that I am often distracted by his frequent and noisy visitors. We will be soon be moving into a new building, but this will also not have private offices- instead, there is a large, twelve desk conglomerate out in what is basically a hallway.

Maybe the lack of offices is due to working in a biology lab, where you are expected to be doing more bench work than desk work.

Anonymous said...

Our whole institue is open plan unless you are a PI or career fellow. That means over 20 people in an open plan section. Being honours project time, we currently have undergrad students as well who are sharing desks. So it can be fun (especially on fridays) but noisy and not always great for working in!

Anonymous said...

My first post-doc, I only had a typing desk in a windowless lab space. But it wasn't as bad as the other post-doc, who carried his shit around in a cardboard box because there was no other desk space. Once somebody left, he got a desk that was part of a lab bench. The second post-doc, I was stuffed into a windowless room with 5 other people. In the long run, it's just not worth it to fight for space where none exists. I didn't have time to think about windows, desk space, etc, with all the work there was to do. Writing was done at home.

Anonymous said...

When I was a grad student, I shared a single large room (with lots of windows) with 8 other grad students. Now, my students have space in one of my labs. I also sit in there most of the time (though I have a private office I use for phone calls and meetings) so there are a total of 4-5 people in a large open space. Each person has their own desk, computer, bookshelf, and a drawer or two. We have a second lab as well that is only used part of the year so if students need quiet space, that's an option. When a post-doc in my lab was doing phone interviews, she used my office (with permission/scheduling). There are also several department computer labs they can use to do group work for courses etc. I find that I don't like sitting in a room by myself much of the time and can identify problems coming for students much earlier if I'm working in the same space with them. They are quicker to ask questions and I'm more easily able to identify how they spend their time and their general state of mind without having to ask. They also get to see how a professor really spends their time, how I analyze data, etc. so I can model some things instead of just talking about them.

mOOm said...

Grads are 2 to 3 in an office here at Go8 uni. So are some post-docs. When I was a grad student I was in an large office with about 20 desks. Mine desk was by a window with a fantastic view of downtown Boston. That is now the department seminar room.

Anonymous said...

In our building, most offices had 4 grad students/postdocs. The smaller offices had 2 each, and the large corner offices had 6 each. It was not really a hardship.

My husband, who worked in another department, had an immense top floor office to himself, just by a quirk of building design and the small number of students in the research group.

PhocuseD said...

For the grad students, there are 16 cubicle-style desks in each room. I haven't had much of a problem with this set-up, as people are generally very considerate of others, keeping their conversations to a minimum. If someone needed to make a research-related conference call or phone interview, there are spaces available for that purpose that can be reserved.

Anonymous said...

In reply to Anon 7:31 - I was at a university when they opened a shiny new building with dedicated space for grad students. It was one big, windowless room with about 10 desks with hutches, arranged along the wall so everyone was facing the wall. First thing I did was ask if everyone else agreed that we should put the desks perpendicular to the wall in pairs, back-to-back. It made better use of the space, but was still unpleasant. I wasn't sad to leave.

At another place, I shared a very large room with big windows mostly with one other PhD student, sometimes the odd undergrad. The fridge and microwave were there, so our supervisor came through often. Lots of spontaneous conversations, it was a good setup. One undergraduate leg-jiggler, but he was only there a few months so he didn't get strangled!

Myrosia said...

Our department does 6-10 students per office and 2-5 postdocs. I actually find that it is worse for postdocs in many respects. Students mostly seem to work on individual projects and go to their advisors' private office for meetings. Postdocs tend to work on collaborative projects, and an office with even 4 people who happen to work on different projects tends to get an awful lot of foot traffic and noise. I tried to make this argument to the department, but with only very moderate success - so far we managed to keep it to 3 people, but they keep telling us that adding a 4rth person is imminent.

queenrandom said...

Private office for a .... postdoc? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *wipes tear away*

I have been in offices/cube farms with 2 grad students+postdocs up to 8. I have seen cube farms with 12+. I am currently in a building that has no offices for anyone below the rank of assistant professor. Everyone else has a desk next to their bench in the lab. This is the third building of this nature that I have worked in (out of a total of 6 buildings).

Old Biddy said...

There was a combination of shared office space (4-6 people in a large office) and desks in the labs (smallish 2-3 person labs). I had the latter and liked my lab cave. As a post-doc all the desks were in a large lab. In industry (start-up company that went public) there were cubes and shared offices (2-3 people per office). After 20+ years of shared office space it is very nice to have my own office.
The student offices here are typically shared by 4-6 students/postdocs and are located next to the labs.
I've gotten along with all my officemates, with the exception of Mr Creepy, who tended to invade everyone's personal space and make people very uncomfortable. I switched offices as fast as I could.

Anonymous said...

I had a nice private office as a postdoc (physical sciences). All the postdocs did. I had one of the smaller offices, but I had a great view out the windows.

Anonymous said...

In grad school I shared an office with 3 other students in my group, but we spent a lot of time in the lab anyway so the office was a great place to get work done.

Now, as a postdoc in another institution, I am in an office with 11 other people. Most of them are grad students, mostly from other groups (the grad students I work with in my group are in a different office). My officemates seem nice, but there is not much camraderie in the office aside from a group of four Italians who mostly speak to each other in Italian. And I wish if I were going to be crammed in with so many people, that they would at least be people from my group so that I could keep up on their activities and have convenient work discussions. It feels a bit like my office is a set of library study desks.

Emma said...

We have 10 grad students to an office, which is absolutely unbearable. The masters students chat and muck around all day, while the senior PhD students have to use earplugs if we want to concentrate.

Peanut said...

Always have been crammed into space, but it hasn't really been an issue. We've all gotten along well. Set up has allowed us to dive deep when needed, ask questions of each other when we get stuck, and to generally catch up with each other.

So, master's program: 6/space. PhD program 9/space.

sarcozona said...

In my department, grad offices are 4 to 9 students per office. And they're so small you can always touch at least 3 other students from your desk. Though most offices get at least some natural light, it's really hard for me to get work done in a room with 8 other people - even if they aren't talking, 8 people generate a lot of distractions!

David S said...

In my PhD department it was 3-6 grad students per office.

For my postdoc there are 3 people in my office.

At least the offices had a door and a window.

I once knew of a postdoc with her own office. It is not normal to have that.

Anonymous said...

In my grad program most offices were ~3, but my office had 5. It was possible to get an office with fewer people (even your own office) if your advisor had space or if you begged the person in charge of such things to find you a quiet space while you were getting ready to defend, but that was the exception not the norm. As a postdoc now I share an office. We have one large office with 6 grad students and one smaller office that has 1-2 grad students (yes, right now the two postdocs are sharing an office while a grad student has the same size office to herself...)

Anonymous said...

I share an office with 3 other grad students.

We never have problems, although when they do come up, we all sit down and talk about how to solve them. We are lucky. I have seen really ugly fights in offices of four - to the point that they had alternating schedules to avoid each other.

We have regular skype meetings (or interviews) between various collaborators. Everyone else makes sure not to disturb the person on the phone and (better yet) makes sure that no-one else disturbs them from the outside.

Anonymous said...

4-6, social science department, allocated only to those of us that teach.

Anonymous said...

Our grad students redesigned one of our grad offices to get rid of cubicles, opening it up to get more interaction. It is now the most popular of the grad offices (students are allowed to use any desk, but tend to stake out one).

Anonymous said...

I didn't notice that anyone brought up this point yet: the requirements of office space should really depend on the type of work. For someone who will spend most of their workday in the office more privacy might be crucial, while for a student who mostly spends time in a separate lab space it would be less important. This would also explain why shared offices are more common in the biosciences - I would assume time spent as a desk would be less compared to some other fields.

Anonymous said...

Postdoc, we started with two of us in a two person office which worked well and was great, now there are three of us in it, back to back (seriously!). Now that I am writing, it is really difficult, and there are some issues with one other that make it not a good place to write,or be, although we are all civil to each other.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently a grad student who shares an office with several other grad students. I hate it. There's no privacy, and there are far too many distractions. But there's no other available space, so it's what I'm stuck with.

Female post-doc said...

My experience is that non-faculty have shared space with 2 - 16 people. In grad school, the post-docs had their own shared office.

My difficulty with shared offices and now having my desk in the lab as a post-doc is that it is EXTREMELY difficult to find private time and space to take care of personal things, like making a doctor's appointment. Productivity is DEFINITELY lower for me when I have more people around with whom I could talk. I try to make time to go "hide" and write/analyze in a coffee shop where no one will talk to me.

HennaHonu said...

I'm currently a grad student in who shares an office with all the other techs, grad students, and undergrad workers (usually ~11 people). I hate it. There is rarely ever a science-related discussion that will have any value. There is constant chatting, phones going off or being talked on, music playing, printing, walking around, bumping desks, etc. I get very little done in my office and have never seen any value in it. We are on a satellite campus; the main campus has much better facilities with 3-4 students each in a spacious office. Post-docs and technicians also share, but generally 2-3 per office.
Sadly my advisor is set on seeing us around regularly, so I can't stay home and be more productive as much as I'd like. He also routinely comes into our office to chat with lab members.

Anonymous said...

Grad student in a foreign language:
12-15 students in long narrow cubicle room with windows down one side. Students with seniority got the cubicles with the windows. There were a couple of cubicles big enough to be shared by 2. Since we were almost all teaching basic language courses, individual oral exams (required by syllabus) were dicey and eventually I started holding mine in various common areas of the library or other academic buildings so as not to bother others. Oh, and the space was broiling hot both summer and winter due to unregulated heating in the winter and no a/c plus a dozen or so computers that had to be kept on 24 hours a day plus a wall of windows facing Southwest. I probably walked uphill to campus both ways, too.

Anonymous said...

Engineering grad student in a small country state. Own cubicle, 2 rows of 8 cubicles (16 in total) in a big, rectangular office. Both 'long' sides of office are windows... which opens to two indoor corridors. No natural light, no view. We, the grad students in the 'aquarium' office, IS the view for anyone walking down the corridor. Cubicles are set in such a way that anyone walking past sees what you're working on on your computer screen.

jb said...

The places I've been (for grad school and postdoc) had work benches on both sides and 2 desks at the end of the room. Each room is divided to to aisle, so usually 4 to a lab. I've been lucky in that we got one hood each. I've heard of larger depts where students even have to share hood space. That would have been a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

In our department, the advanced students have the best set-up: there are 6-8 sharing one office. Though, once you hit your sixth year, there isn't office space for you (and so you are left out in the cold). The middle students all share one office, probably around 15-20 students. Then, the younger students also share one larger office.

All of the offices have shared desks with two built-in cubbies for storage.

I must admit, however, after scrolling through the comments, I am a bit jealous.

Anonymous said...

Basement cubicle farms for all students, postdocs and research associates. No private space and only 3 meeting rooms for 70-80 people. New grad students hang around for up to 4 months waiting for someone to graduate and make space. Meanwhile, they sit at the "day use desks", which consist of standard desks partitioned into two.

Postdocs/RAs with very influential advisers get the cubicles close to skylights or the light well. Faculty get private offices, but the three most junior ones sit right next to the kitchen. One of them is my adviser, and we have to close to door sometimes because of the noise.

Overall, we put up with it and get along just fine. I've seen a few sets of noise-cancelling headphones around though.

But don't get me started on the month when we replaced an MRI scanner and the workmen had to cut through a foot of concrete...