UW-Madison chemistry professor leaves for Minnesota amid budget cuts

A pair of UW-Madison chemistry teachers who specifically chose the university to pursue their passion are packing up and heading to the University of Minnesota. Several reasons were cited for the move, including Minnesota's high-ranking nationwide chemical engineering program, which is just above Wisconsin's, but they also blamed budget cuts.

Mahesh Mahanthappa is a tenured, 39-year-old professor, who said Minnesota had been pulling him in since last fall and the offer was just too good to refuse. But the Wisconsin State Journal added state lawmaker's attitudes toward faculty aren't the nicest, plus the dismal financial outlook for the UW System.

The Wisconsin Legislature is considering cutting $250 million from the education budget for what could be the largest budget cuts in UW System history. Madison's 1960s chemistry building could see a $108 million upgrade in the coming years, but that's still up to the Legislature, Mahanthappa said. Mahanthappa said his department has some of the lowest faculty salaries on average, and Wisconsin in general ranks low among the Big Ten.

Gary Jackson is a Ph.D. student who came to Madison to work in Mahanthappa's lab, and he'll follow him to Minnesota along with two other junior researchers to continue their work in plastics. Mahanthappa's departure will bring $600,000 a year in outside annual research grants to Minnesota.

Gov. Scott Walker initially announced $300 million in higher education cuts in February, $150 million to be slashed each year for 2 years, however, state lawmakers also proposed to end faculty tenure in state law. Wisconsin had been the only state in the U.S. where it was in law instead of university policy.

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