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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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July 8, 2011

The Sames / Sezen Fraud Case: Holy Cow

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Posted by Derek

C&E News has an extraordinary piece on the long-running Bengü Sezen case at Columbia U. They've obtained two detailed reports from the federal government on the matter, and, well, pretty much all ones worst suspicions are confirmed:

By the time Sezen received a Ph.D. degree in chemistry in 2005, under the supervision of Sames, her fraudulent activity had reached a crescendo, according to the reports. Specifically, the reports detail how Sezen logged into NMR spectrometry equipment under the name of at least one former Sames group member, then merged NMR data and used correction fluid to create fake spectra showing her desired reaction products.

The documents paint a picture of Sezen as a master of deception, a woman very much at ease with manipulating colleagues and supervisors alike to hide her fraudulent activity; a practiced liar who would defend the integrity of her research results in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Columbia has moved to revoke her Ph.D.

. . .the reports echo sources from inside the Sames lab who spoke with C&EN under conditions of anonymity when the case first became public in 2006. These sources described Sezen as Sames’ “golden child,” a brilliant student favored by a mentor who believed that her intellect and laboratory acumen provoked the envy of others in his research group. They said it was hard to avoid the conclusion that Sames retaliated when other members of his group questioned the validity of Sezen’s work.

For more on this, see ChemBark, where the same documents have been obtained (via FOIA requests). Here's Part One, and Part Two. The site has been on this case for a long time now, and that's the place to go for the details - and if you're a chemist, or are interested in what human beings are capable of getting up to, you'll want to read them. Years of faked NMR spectra, faked reaction products, faked logbooks - this is surely one of the longest-running and most thorough frauds in modern organic chemistry history. I await Part Three!

Comments (126) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Dark Side


1. leftscienceawhileago on July 8, 2011 10:20 AM writes...

While we are on Fraud Friday, I would love to know if we will ever find out what happened in the Hellinga case.

The Duke committee that ran the protracted investigation didnt disclose anything to the public; the whole thing may just end up being forgotten in the sands of time. A shame.

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2. Sili on July 8, 2011 10:46 AM writes...

Sadly some people are going to use this as an excuse to smear all women in science, while ignoring LaClair.

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3. Myma on July 8, 2011 11:03 AM writes...

This paragraph in the article is also worth copying here:
"Worse, the reports document the toll on other young scientists who worked with Sezen: “Members of the [redacted] expended considerable time attempting to reproduce Respondent’s results. The Committee found that the wasted time and effort, and the onus of not being able to reproduce the work, had a severe negative impact on the graduate careers of three (3) of those students, two of whom [redacted] were asked to leave the [redacted] and one of whom decided to leave after her second year.”"

Those poor other students, graduate school is stressful enough without having falling into this situation, and then having to or being forced to quit.

I had a professor on my committee who asked me a question for my (first) A exam. He hammered me for a long while about how I didn't know the answer, that the correct answer is such and such, all the while I am quavering at the board with marker in hand. Needless to say I was failed on that attempt. Weeks later after I emotionally calmed down, I look it up, and he was wrong and my initial answer was right. My advisor didn't really care, or at least profess to me that he cared. -Fortunately for me- my second A exam went smoothly and I did eventually go on to get my PhD. But these three students, not so lucky.

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4. Anonymous on July 8, 2011 11:17 AM writes...

Completely agree with #1, Duke needs to release the details of the Hellinga investigation. Since Homme requested the investigation himself (in the pages of Nature), it strange that he hasn't pressured Duke to make the findings public.

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5. Innovorich on July 8, 2011 11:26 AM writes...

#2 - why? No they're not. That's irrelevant!

And now apparently this woman got another PhD in Germany, and is a professor in Turkey?!

As long as academia is dominated and incentivized purely by the need to publish, this will continue to happen.

All the time we see academic labs publishing repeatedly on unrepeatable work - sometimes for decades at a time!

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6. Terry Liu on July 8, 2011 11:47 AM writes...

Female PHD students in chemistry-golden girl and old man

I found the interesting phenomenon here in North America, especially in an old lab with a group more than 10 ppls working there.

Firstly, there is a very old guy who is in charge of every thing in the lab, usually it is a old weird guy, he know all the detail of the lab, the light, the fridge, the fumehood, the pump and where is the nail for the instruments, in short, everything except woman. He is the second boss of the lab, he worked in the lab even before I am born.

Secondly, there is also a young girl, usually a PhD student there, she is smart and cute, at least superficially, she knows all the behaviour of the ppl in the lab, and knows who is later and who is off early everyday, he can do anything in the lab, even he fire a fire in the lab would not bring him any trouble. Unfortunately she takes it for grant to report everyone’s detail. She likes to report all the information to the boss, usually a middle aged man, who pretends to love science. In addition to that, she is the most favourite ppl by boss and they have conversation so often, and someone find that she always offer her leg to the boss for make him happy, but no one in the lab want to disclose it, I guess it is not sex harassment, conventional relation? I don’t know.

Finally, there is a middle aged boss in the office, he opens his door to the hallway everyday, showing that he is quite busy working. He likes to get the email from his golden girl to learn what happened in the lab, as well as spend most of his time thinking about the management of the lab, for instance, distributing projects, to calculate how many developing country students he can hire this year, how to give the most difficult task to these poor labour guys.

This is the rule of golden girl and old man in lab. Is this lucky for scientific research? Or sad for America? I discard America dream, instead, I have a Chinese dream now!

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7. GreedyCynicalSelfInterested on July 8, 2011 12:09 PM writes...

Those three students were lucky. They got fired and now have the opportunity to start their real lives early.

I wish that I had been fired in my second year. I could have started my life 8 years earlier.

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8. Hap on July 8, 2011 12:15 PM writes...

2: if you can get NIH or whoever funded LaClair's hexacyclinol "synthesis" (whatever it is), then maybe it will be resolved, but because it was a total synthesis of the wrong structure, no one's going to get funded to redo it, and the paper will probably never be disproven. (Even then, it might be like quinine, and the lack of reproducibility might not mean it wasn't done.) Without the ability to get actual information on the research, LaClair's synthesis will remain undisprovable. Fortunately, this fraud is eminently provable.

As for women in chemistry, well, it's not like people who thought that women shouldn't be chemists needed actual anecdote, much less evidence, to impugn their efforts.

Sezen's dishonesty deserves all the invective it's getting - she wasted a lot of people's time and effort (and apparently, at least one grad student's career). Generalizing to all women is a stupid mistake, and its stupidity shouldn't obscure her fraud.

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9. Anonymous on July 8, 2011 12:15 PM writes...

Didn't I see this on an episode of "CSI Miami?" But I think the Russian mob was involved in that one...

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10. Hap on July 8, 2011 12:19 PM writes...

Based on the name of the PDF of the FOIA'd documents from C+E News on the Sames/Sezen case, ChemBark may have been the original FOIA requestor.

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11. Algore on July 8, 2011 12:41 PM writes...

Secondly, there is also a young girl, usually a PhD student there, she is smart and "cute"

Cute.. we are talking chemistry here. I have not seen too many cute chemists in my lifetime. There is cute and there is chemisty cute

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12. Old Timer on July 8, 2011 12:52 PM writes...

Algore is exactly the reason there are so few females in STEM fields. Ugh.

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13. Hap on July 8, 2011 1:25 PM writes...

I think C+E N got it independently (as Dr. Lowe said). Sorry.

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14. Ed on July 8, 2011 2:24 PM writes...


After reading your piece and the piece on the Chembark blog my immediate reaction was that a lot of time and energy was wasted on the investigation. Why not just put Sezen in a lab with only the required reagents and have an impartial auditor observe the reactions. If they work, great. If not, then there is no doubt fraud is taking place. Seems like an easier solution.


Happy Friday.

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15. Anonymous on July 8, 2011 2:52 PM writes...

Terry Liu: Completely bizarre notion of life in US labs. (And yes, I'm female.)

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16. Anonymous on July 8, 2011 3:07 PM writes...

I have personally seen the golden child phenomenon in two different companies. The golden child could do no wrong and anyone who commented about the number of choice projects he got or complained about the way he treated his colleagues in public, was instantly persona non grata.

I don't know how much fraud took place but plagiarism? Definitely.

Golden children have a way of eliminating their competition. The guy in charge relies on them to their detriment.

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17. startup on July 8, 2011 3:33 PM writes...

#13 C&N may have gotten them independently, but the file name certainly suggests that it was generated based on ChemBark request, so at the very least he was the first one to file it.

#2 That's just silly.

#0 "Colombia U"? I like it!

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18. student on July 8, 2011 4:07 PM writes...

In related news, J.J. LaClair strikes again--in Angewandte, no less! They still let him publish there--what are these morons thinking!!


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19. @18 on July 8, 2011 4:16 PM writes...

RUFKM?! As if the hexacyclinol imbroglio weren't enough to preclude future publication in ACIE! Who do you have to #### to get published in that journal anyways?

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20. newnickname on July 8, 2011 4:47 PM writes...

"The Committee found that the wasted time and effort, and the onus of not being able to reproduce the work, had a severe negative impact on the graduate careers of three (3) of those students, two of whom [redacted] were asked to leave the [redacted] and one of whom decided to leave after her second year."

They were bahramed (defined and more examples in Note 10(b) of "serendipity" article at wikipedia). (Can't include links in posts.)

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21. Steve on July 8, 2011 5:39 PM writes...

I had my undergraduate organic chemistry students write a peer-critiqued research paper about this whole scandal, and I hope it was an eye-opening experience for them. We used this episode to discuss academic dishonesty and responsible conduct of research. Scientists are really smart people, and eventually a cheater will get caught. A few students jumped on the idea that Sezen and Sames were in a relationship. I'm just waiting for the cheesy TV movie to come out.

By the way, does anyone know for certain how to pronounce Sezen's advisor's (Dali Sames') name? I've always wondered. Is it pronounced "sahmes", "sahmish", "sahmesh"? Am I close? Hopefully this will give someone a giggle.

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22. IwasThereMan on July 8, 2011 7:19 PM writes...

@ Steve: it is pronounced SAHM-esh. I was in Sames' lab at the time when this went down and I have to say the C & E account is brutally accurate and not overstated. I don't want to be cliche, but I will back my old boss by saying he is a good, honest, smart guy who took too much on faith from an extremely clever, deceptive girl who unfortunately put her talents to bad use. We're talking snake-in-the-garden-of-eden deceptive. After experiencing this, i wonder how much of this goes on unnoticed in other places. . . . the real amazing thing about this story is actually how she was discovered, which is to the credit of an extremely bright post-doc who didn't roll over and play dead when he couldn't repeat her results. I can still remember the look on her face when she came back from vacation to see her boxes of NMR's piled up in the hallway, completed ravaged. It's been a while since i've even thought about this. . . thanks for shaking the memory tree Derek and C&E!

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23. Renee on July 8, 2011 7:57 PM writes...

"he is a good, honest, smart guy who took too much on faith..."

Yeah, but wait - he's a professor of chemistry. He's not supposed to take things based on faith. He's supposed to take things based on data. When all this was going on, did he ever once critically look at the work she was doing? Did he ever once wonder why her results for so much better than anyone else's?

And if Sames is so good and honest - has he apologized to the three former graduate students whose careers were ruined by this fraud? Now, that would be the epitome of goodness and honesty.

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24. milkshake on July 8, 2011 8:37 PM writes...

@22 I know Dalibor Sames since we were junior high kids doing chemistry olympiade in Czechoslovakia, and throughout the years I run into him in Prague and here in US repeatedly. I never worked for him or with him. He is very intelligent and ruthlessly ambitious guy but not quite impressive as a methodology guy or an organometallic chemist. He always seemed more interested in self-promotion and career advancement than in having a deep mechanistic understanding or developing a solid practical methodology. My assessment of Sames personal decency and integrity is also very different from your impression... but thats probably because our background and experience differs. But regardless of whether one is smitten by Sames charisma, and no matter how crafty Bengu Sezen has been, Sames did not have to push 3 grad students out of his group unfairly (for not being able to reproduce those fake results). And he should have not slept with a group member while he was her PhD advisor.

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25. Fishy Fish on July 8, 2011 9:13 PM writes...

This reminds me of a similar, but less publicized case happened in Ron Breslow's lab at Columbia Chem Dept in the mid 80's. In that case, this female grad student of his faked the data of catalytic chlorination reaction (artificial enzyme stuff). I was at the department at that time and knew that girl. If my memory serves me correctly, Breslow had almost everybody in his group trying to repeat her results. Columbia, at mean time, gave the student every opportunity to repeat her work anywhere she might choose. She knew that the data were fake. She just left the Dept without getting her Ph.D. I wonder how Breslow feels about the way Sames handles the situation.

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26. IwasThereMan on July 8, 2011 9:45 PM writes...

@24. . . your impression of Dali is not totally inconsistent with mine, ruthlessly ambitious is not inaccurate. I do think he was careless, but not complicit. I didn't think he slept with her, but you may know better about that so i wouldn't argue. Dali used to tell stories about doing chemistry in his mom's basement. . . i wonder if you were there :-)


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27. Fact-driven on July 8, 2011 10:16 PM writes...

I had a similar experience at Harvard. My sneaky formal colleague did a "copy & paste" job to get surprising data. He told me the boss would not happy if the data is not impressive, and I could not say the truth but showed the real result. I was one of the low-evaluated post-doc by the boss. In the end the boss asked other friend to repeat the experiment and my result was proven the fact. Sames cannot be free from the fraud.

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28. Jose on July 8, 2011 11:46 PM writes...

First, it is staggering to me to think how much time and energy that level of fraud must have taken- as much time as the method development itself ?! It isn't unreasonable for Sames to think that so much fakery would very unlikely.....

Second, does anyone really think a dinky letter from the dean is going to repair the massive damage to those three chemists' careers? I can only hope they are all in med school, or have MBAs, or what-have-you....

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29. Anonymous on July 9, 2011 12:15 AM writes...

The comments from this blog entry alone are enough for me to assemble a script that Fox would probably buy and make into a movie. If I collected all the comments from the other blogs, I could probably get to MTV level, just suggest that the cast of Jersey Shore play all the characters.

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30. Anonymous on July 9, 2011 1:15 AM writes...

@22 "honest, smart guy who took too much on faith"

You must be kidding. I've beein doing this for a long time and everywhere I've been in every single instance when the paper is about to be submitted every piece of data is put on the table and checked. It's done for a simple reason - we are not in faith business, we are in data business and the data must unimpeachable. So to me Sames' behavior is not gullibility or simple lack of oversight, I think he failed to do his job as a PI and did so willfully.

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31. Jose on July 9, 2011 3:59 AM writes...

Hey Hap, re: quinine, you've seen this, right? Quite possibly my favorite paper of the past decade or so..... the supp info is nothing short of staggering.

"Rabe Rest in Peace: Confirmation of the Rabe–Kindler Conversion of d-Quinotoxine Into Quinine: Experimental Affirmation of the Woodward–Doering Formal Total Synthesis of Quinine"
Smith and Williams

Angew Int Ed Volume 47, Issue 9, pages 1736–1740, February 15, 2008

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32. GladToMoveToProcess on July 9, 2011 7:16 AM writes...

I had some very counterintuitive results in my post-doc, also at Columbia. These were irrelevant to the main thrust of the research, but my advisor had someone else repeat the experiments before publishing. It hurt my feelings a bit at the time, but was the right thing to do.

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33. Been there on July 9, 2011 8:43 AM writes...

Back when I was in graduate school, I spent a year trying to identify one intermediate in an organometallic reaction. At the time, I got what I thought was considerable pressure to lie about the results and just say what it was. I never was able to prove what it was (I did years later as newer techniques were available) and I was decided the redheaded stepchild because I couldn't. While I wasn't told directly to lie, the hints were still very blatant. However not agreeing was good practice for life in general.

I've since seen similar cases and also the "golden child" affect - both worldwide sadly. I think the person going after the Chinese dream is about to be horrified as it is as bad or worse there.

As to women in chemistry, I didn't think there was still a problem. My last four post docs were women as were half of my graduate students before I escaped academia.

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34. IwasThereMan on July 9, 2011 11:16 AM writes...

@30: That's just not how it's done in a lot of labs, though i agree with your ideals on this one. I run my group as you describe, I learned from Dali's example.

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35. anon the II on July 9, 2011 3:01 PM writes...

When I was in graduate school, I knew a woman working in Efraim Racker's lab at the same time as Mark Spector. She said it was the same thing. "Why can't everyone else be as good as Mark?"


Mark was perpetrating one of the more infamous frauds of the last few decades.


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36. PDF on July 9, 2011 4:43 PM writes...

@ 22. Nice try Dalibor Sames.

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37. pharmadude on July 9, 2011 4:52 PM writes...

Most PIs, especially older ones in my opinion, don't double check data. Many of them, again in my opinion and experience, encourage thier students and post-docs to 'stretch the truth'. 'Come back when the yeild is >90%' they say. Sure enough, a week later the yeild is always a bit higher. I left academia because in both labs I worked I found that all the work done on the project I was on, before I joined, was done completely incorrectly or just outrighted reported incorrectly on purpose. A lot of mistakes are just grad students on a learning curve messing up. But then again one of the postdocs in my lab, with multiple publications, turned out to have just a handful of experiments written up in his lab notebook. How's that possible?

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38. Terry on July 9, 2011 5:22 PM writes...

Oh! It is this Shames, I have reviewed his website when I was trying to find a post doc position, I found there are so many pretty women there in his group, definitely exceed the average gender rate of an organic chemistry lab, I guess he will sleep with one or two of his group members, and also he need some male students to cover his dirty behaviour, so I send my resume, hope he can give me a position to cover the dirty morality thing. I guess I am the right male postdoc, from developing country, not handsome, always easy to be slaved. But , disappointedly, he didn’t reply me. I Guess, it is not easy to be a slave in Columbia these days, even though the master is not a decent man.

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39. Processator on July 9, 2011 5:32 PM writes...

Would DS have gotten tenure without those papers? I don't think so...

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40. luysii on July 9, 2011 8:38 PM writes...

Perhaps the corruption is not stamped out early enough. Here's an example of undergraduate fraud turned in to the powers that be with nothing done about it (at an Ivy league chemistry department, yet).

I wonder how much damage this guy has done as an M. D. (assuming he made it through med school).

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41. Anonymous on July 9, 2011 9:39 PM writes...

And who says scientists are boring?

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42. Hap on July 9, 2011 10:15 PM writes...

31: I saw that - it was nice work. Everybody assumed that it was done, and then assumed that it couldn't have been done, and then Williams and his group did it. I don't think I read the SI, though.

Just because I can't do a reaction doesn't mean it couldn't have been done - and when the substrates are so hard to get, it makes it really hard to prove anything. If there weren't so many questionable parts of LaClair's synthesis and so little data, I don't think anyone would have questioned it, but the difficulty of getting to any of the intermediates makes the questions unanswerable (or unprovably answerable). It's easier to cheat in methodology, but people might notice, and then someone might actually catch you.

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43. Hap on July 9, 2011 10:24 PM writes...

22: Do you know why Sames trusted Sezen's work so much at the beginning? After some good results, I could see why an advisor might trust her work, but at the beginning of one's grad studentry, you generally work with a post-doc or senior grad student (well, he didn't have any of those yet) and other people that would see your work up close. Someone should have seen the funny things with NMR spectra (the lack of an account early might not have mattered - she would maybe have used someone else's), and the other shenanigans. Did no one see them, or did Sames not believe people when they told him that something was wrong? If the latter, why? (Lots of people coming to grad school have good bona fides, but grad school is supposed to be about not taking anyone's word for anything, particularly something that important.)

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44. startup on July 10, 2011 1:11 AM writes...

@38. Sames deserves some serious criticism for his role in this affair, for many reasons. But what he does not deserve is vile personal attacks like yours. I'd say you should be ashamed of yourself, but that would probably fall on deaf ears.

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45. eugene on July 10, 2011 5:57 AM writes...

Hap, LaClair's work was proven as false by Porco. What he synthesized could not have been hexacyclinol. That's all irrelevant because whatever little data LaClair had in his paper is completely fake. The few spectra are completely fake with artificial peaks that have no C13 satellites. Present me with fake data and expect me to believe that the synthesis might have happened? Please...

The spectra are fake.
LaClair is a cheat.
Case closed.
No ifs or buts from Jim on this one. He can threaten to sue me if he wants, but I'm not in the states and I'm not afraid of losing money I don't have, and I don't take threats from liars all that seriously.

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46. IwasThereMan on July 10, 2011 8:59 AM writes...

@ Hap: I see what you're saying. I wasn't there when Bengu started (I was two years behind her), but she was involved in other projects besides the later-retracted ones, i can only imagine that she may have impressed Dali with some actual work in order to earn his good graces. From other personal accounts, i know she was a shameless "golden girl" (I've picked up this nomenclature here) from the beginning and nobody ever liked her. The other unfortunately explanation is that she faked everything from the beginning. I wish you were right that grad school wasn't "about taking anyone's word for anything", but in the handful of labs I've interacted with (half biology, half organic chemistry), this is rarely the case unless the student/postdoc needs help to figure something. Not arguing with you, just reflecting on my own experience (i haven't been in a "hard-core total synthesis lab") Without going tangential, I'll add that our current tenure system is ridiculously counterproductive in this sense; it favors quick-and-easy, don't-ask-don't-tell projects (and subsequent papers). Still in the end it's a matter of personal integrity to take the time and vet students work -- I always do it having learned from this situation, and (not to defend Dali's honor 'cause i know i'll get slapped for it, but. . ) after the Bengu thing, Dali checked everyone's NMRs and made sure that all new reactions submitted for publication had been reproduced by someone on another project team.

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47. PharmaHeretic on July 10, 2011 12:13 PM writes...

Driven off the Road by M.B.A.s,9171,2081930,00.html

The auto industry is actually a terrific proxy for a trend toward short-term, myopically balance-sheet-driven management that has infected American business. In the first half of the 20th century, industrial giants like Ford, General Electric, AT&T and many others were extremely consumer-focused. They spent most of their time and money using new technologies to create the best possible products and services, regardless of development cost. The idea was, if you build it better, the customers will come. And they did.

The pendulum began to swing in the postwar era, when Harvard Business School grad Robert McNamara and his "whiz kids" became famous for using mathematical modeling, game theory and complex statistical analysis for the Army Air Corps, doing things like improving fuel-transport times and scheduling more-efficient bombing raids. McNamara, who later became president of Ford, brought extreme number crunching to the business world, and soon the idea that "if you can measure it, you can manage it" took hold — and no wonder. By the late 1970s, M.B.A.s were flourishing, and engineers were relegated to the geek back rooms.

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48. Bbooooooya on July 10, 2011 3:25 PM writes...

Oddly, the finance industry seems to deal with type of fraud better than science. Had this fraud occurred at a bank, finra rules would also have provided for sanctions against the supervisor and the firm (fines, disbarrment from working ata regulated firm) for failure to supervise It amazes me that sames was not also sanctioned by HHS for his role In Cheating taxpayers: for example, being ineligible for grants for x time.

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49. Iridium on July 11, 2011 2:47 AM writes...

I want to remind people we are not speaking about complicated experiments, multi step synthesis or in-vivo studies.
Most of the results in some fo the papers are ONE-STEP REACTIONS.

EVERY student should be able to reproduce them. If not, the reaction (or the protocol) is not good enough.
You cannot blame 3 other students for not beeing able to.

I agree with Jose, she has probably worked more in faking the results than she could have done to rpoduce real ones =)

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50. GG on July 11, 2011 4:24 AM writes...

To the comments about not taking things on faith. In this case and in the case of Peter Chen, the student in question falsified data. Outright deception of this type is almost impossible to detect unless you stop trusting everyone, and, for example, examine the original .fids from the NMR spectrometer. If this is what you are suggesting, then research is going to get a lot more expensive? Admittedly, when other students started to complain it was time to act in the Sames case. But to dedicate significant resources to fraud detection, based on the actions of a few offenders is a misappropriation of public funds.

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51. anchor on July 11, 2011 6:26 AM writes...

While Dr. Bengu Sezen took the blow and bang all over the body, it seems to me that her compatriot honorable professor Dalibor Sames remains unscathed with his reputation intact. I mean, it felt good to him and went along with her, when she generated these fraudulent claims and for him to keep quiet and ignore his other students, it is shameful. The silence from him is deafening! What are his take in this whole affair? What did he know and when did he know? If he or for that matter Columbia University has any shame left, they will come out in open and square up with all those decent chemists. During my days it was Monika Mehta and Ron Breslau from the same place, if people can recollect their memory. Some of us may not be from the reputable university and we still have lot of honesty left in us and that we can all be proud of.

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52. Secondaire on July 11, 2011 9:15 AM writes...

"And he should have not slept with a group member while he was her PhD advisor."

I've heard this conjecture too - we know about the fraud, but was he *really* sleeping with her? (And the crowd chants "Jerry! Jerry!")

#6, 38: You're either a troll, or your misogyny is showing. For every "golden girl" you describe, there are probably ten hard-working students who are not taken seriously by their advisors simply because they are women.

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53. Hap on July 11, 2011 9:24 AM writes...

46: I wasn't trying to deny what you were saying or your basis. It's just that I think the trust that Sames placed in Sezen's work from the beginning was why people assumed that there might be a relationship between them other than advisor-student (and probably sexism, too). Since the reports seem to deny such a relationship, I figured that there was some other reason.

45: He could have made the structure he said, even if it wasn't hexacyclinol. JJLC's explanations for the problems in his synthesis (or its lack of data, or its logistical difficulties, or that his NMR matches the tabulated and initially errored NMR) aren't credible, but just because everyone thinks he faked it doesn't mean that it's proven that he did.

If someone faked an entire synthesis, with simulated data, and made the correct structure, how could you prove they faked it? I know if you add enough details to make the story credible, you are likely to reveal inconsistencies that hang you, but no one is probably going to repeat it. Without that (or evidence of faking from inside the research group), you're not going to be able to disprove a synthesis.

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54. milkshake on July 11, 2011 10:34 AM writes...

@54: if I remember correctly the "inappropriate relationship" has been alluded to in the Columbia internal investigation, which confirms the gossip coming from Sames group

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55. j on July 11, 2011 10:46 AM writes...

#'s 56 & 57:

I hope you have some evidence besides the poster's stated name. We ought to take sexism charges seriously and not assign thoughts carelessly to people we don't know.

Derek's post is partly about evidence after all.

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56. Hap on July 11, 2011 12:10 PM writes...

It's the Internet - we don't require ID. During one of the "intelligent design" posts, God commented, for example.

A commenter's name might be accurate or it might assumed by a troll or someone looking to slander the real person. You don't really know.

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57. eugene on July 11, 2011 6:14 PM writes...


Obviously, he could have made it, even though two of the steps are apparently close to impossible, his lab was an empty warehouse, and his NMR guy and the Bionic brothers don't exist. The fact that he put fake data in the manuscript and tried to pass it off as real, should get it pulled and have him banned from publishing in Andjewandte ever again. His NMR matched the wrong structure correctly because they were 'FAKE' spectra. There were no 'NMR matches' because there were no NMRs

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58. Terry Liu on July 11, 2011 6:49 PM writes...

Unfortunately this terry liu is not that Liu in OSU. Indeed, I will send all this comments to prof SAMES, like it or not, he should know the comments here and be brave enough to take action to explain the truth to public and give justice to these ppl who have been affected by this affair. Thinking about the students being forced to leave( I got this infor from the posts here), we can tell they don’t have one more chance to get into Columbia again, is that fair for them? Before disclosure of the truth, we internet users have the right to postulate and comment on it.

As to myself I’d like to say it is time to reform the tenure system in North America, for your guy’s good. Indeed, I am not an American, and I loved my country and will return to my country in the future. In my eye, the system here itself has lagged behind time, it is outdated, being abused, and being take advantaged by some shameless professors. The American is down, I can tell it definitely, even in china, same fraud things are not accepted; usually the prof will be banned from applying any kinds of funding in the future due to the fraud.

In the coming post I would like to forward a comment from a Chinese forum, describing the bad behavior from some professors, surely with their name and dirty bad things.

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59. InfMP on July 11, 2011 9:52 PM writes...

When that OSU terry googles his name next time and sees all these posts, it's gonna be hilarious.

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60. Jose on July 12, 2011 6:07 AM writes...

The thing I find most staggering about organic/total synthesis, is that the entire concept of reproducibility is from Bizarro-land.

In essentially every other scientific discipline (excepting, say, CERN) if someone else cannot reproduce your results, it is tantamount to fraud, or at the least, garbage research. The FDA has you submit your SAS code, and re-runs the entire analysis, and boy oh boy, it better match!

Yet somehow, in synthesis, the answer is, "Well, that GREEK GOD is obviously just a better chemist than you are."

What's the 95% CI for the tare weight of a 10 mL rbf??

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61. MTK on July 12, 2011 8:05 AM writes...

My attitude is that it shouldn't happen (obviously), it's sad that it did happen (again obvious), but what's done is done. There's been an investigation, the responsible have been identified, and have been publicly exposed. Do we need to get our pound of flesh here? I'm not sure that's necessary.

The bigger question for me is what, if any, corrective actions were recommended or implemented coming out of this investigation to minimize the chances of something like this happening in the future.

Pride, ambition, and greed. Human foibles that have been documented from Homer through Shakespeare to today. No system or punishments will ever eliminate those motivations or the acts of those who succumb to them.

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62. Hap on July 12, 2011 8:56 AM writes...

Part of the problem here is that most of the processes were hidden. Pride, ambition, and greed may be unavoidable consequences of existence (without ceasing to be human), but institutions can make them more or less desirable. In general, bad things flourish in the dark, and there was lots of dark in the way this affair was handled. You may not be able to keep people from lying with money and security at stake, but more openness might limit its ability to do harm to others.

I think people want a pound of flesh because they feel sympathy for the grad students cashiered for not reproducing a fantasy, and would want such if they had been one of the students (an eye for an eye, and all that). It seems like the grad students unable to reproduce Sezen's work paid a disproportionate price for her lies, while Sames has probably paid (at least somewhat) a less than proportionate price for his part.

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63. Hap on July 12, 2011 9:41 AM writes...

Total synthesis, though, isn't generally reproduced. If the data for a synthesis is internally inconsistent, if you don't have the ability to do the research (no on-site NMR? your university doesn't have the equipment you say you used?), or if there's evidence of fraud from the participants, you can disprove a synthesis, but in lots of cases, no one is going to get independent data on late-stage intermediates, and so how are you going to reproduce it? If the synthesis is short enough or the product is the target of intense investigation, people might intersect others' intermediates, but that doesn't happen reliably. It took a lot of work from a variety of people, for example, to disprove Chaterjee's triquinane synthesis (as described in Hudlicky's book). Most times, that level of work probably won't be achievable (or fundable).

In addition, particularly for late-stage intermediates, you may not run a reaction a whole lot of times - once it works, you probably go on. With methodology, you have to run a reaction enough to know its limitations and to disclose the key operating variables to other people - if it doesn't work, it's because of the person who published and not because of the experimenter (in most cases). With a total synthesis, you may not have the material to discover those variables and so reproducibility may not be expectable. (What that makes total synthesis in terms of science I don't know.)

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64. Rob on July 12, 2011 9:54 AM writes...

As an academic, and one who competes for funding, this royally "pisses me off". Not simply because of the intellectual abuse of fraud, the abuse of graduate students (we are supposed to be training them and building their strengths - not destroying them), but because these "scientific marvels" pollute the whole funding/publishing environment.

Imaging competing for a grant with someone who just makes it up? (or uncritically accepts fraudulent data from their students which is the same thing)

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65. Atom Bankruptcy on July 12, 2011 11:51 AM writes...

@#64 - Rob:

"we are supposed to be training them and building their strengths - not destroying them"

Ha ha ha! Oh, wow. That's hilarious.

If you're a PI that's not willing to chew up your grad students, spit them out, wring them dry of blood, and then mash the leftovers into a fine paste with the heel of your boot, you'll not be making it anywhere worth noting. The attitude at top-level universities is all the same: Graduate students are a commodity to be expended, drained of usefulness, and discarded. Why else would professors keep churning them out where there's no where for those students to go? We have too many Ph.D.s as it is, we don't need the volume of grad students we already have... Unless we want a labor force to bolster the PIs name! Screw where they'll land after that.

Honestly, Sezen did those three grad students a HUGE favor in getting them kicked out. Not only did the get a better future because of it, they got the best years of their life as well.

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66. MTK on July 12, 2011 11:58 AM writes...


I'm not going to argue your point regarding bringing things to light. I also agree that things should be implemented to prevent this from happening, which is why I think recommended corrective actions are the most important thing here.

In terms of punishment, those that have suffered the consequences, including Rob who is competing for grant money and the ex-grad students, certainly have a point, but what purpose would it serve now.

I'm pretty certain Sames would love to be able to turn the clock back at this point also. I'm assuming that it will take quite a bit of time for his career to recover from this, if it ever will.

Would severe punishment act as a deterrent in the future? Maybe. Somehow I doubt it, however. The majority of people don't need that deterrent and those that do won't heed it.

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67. Hap on July 12, 2011 12:30 PM writes...

I don't think it would get anyone a whole lot of satisfaction to pound Sames, but at some level the lack of punishment is a problem in at least two ways.

One, it makes detection of fraud by an advisor in some sense counterproductive - an advisor profits disproportionately from good results but may not lose badly if they aren't real. Punishment should be high enough to deter others - where the costs can be calculated (and whether rational calculation can be expected), it should be more than the benefit of cheating divided by the chance of getting caught. That likely will mean that lots more crappy research will get published, and lots more money that we won't have (since the federal gov't is still funding lots of research) will be wasted on useless people.

The proportionate punishment also depends on the what Sames's role was. Advisors who get hoodwinked shouldn't be subject to the same punishments as advisors who actively perpetrate fraud. Sames's role seems to be in between. Policing your grad students is a waste of time and money, but as You're Pfizered commented, you'd expect an advisor to look at the raw data at some point and not just take one's word for it. Firing grad students is a more affirmative action to sustain a fraud - he wouldn't have known it was a fraud, but it seems like an abuse of his status and it seems like a bad way to answer questions about research. If something other than a standard advisor-advisee relationship was going on, it would also have the same effect. It seems inappropriate to whale on Sames, but tenure at Columbia isn't that much of a punishment.

Two, while it certainly isn't exclusive to academia, when punishment only applies to those not powerful enough to escape it, it seems that you are asking for problems. It will make it hard to get good people into science, and it will make it harder for others to trust what comes out (or easier for those who want to dismiss research to do so without penalty). It also makes openness counterproductive (though high penalties for malfeasance will do that as well) because if you can hide it long enough, you might be able to get powerful enough to escape major judgment (though if it's bad enough, tenure won't help).

I think a compare-and-contrast with Paquette's issues might be interesting - Paquette's problems were less deep-rooted (one post-doc) and while he didn't lose tenure, it cost him a lot of grant money and some of his reputation. Sames has certainly lost more reputation, but little else.

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68. InfMP on July 12, 2011 1:08 PM writes...

By the way, yet ANOTHER Angewandte from Laclair today in addition to the one from last week

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69. Iridium on July 12, 2011 1:11 PM writes...

I think the question is the following (and it does not refer specifically to the Sames case since I do not know much about it):

Does anybody knows, for sure, of cases in which a professor was without any doubt, after investigation found guilty of fraud or data fabrication and, as a result, the professor (not a student) was fired to be replaced by an other person.

Because if the only punishment for fraud is a stain on the reputation.... well... is not much, isn´t it?

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70. MTK on July 12, 2011 1:26 PM writes...

Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but a very public stain on my reputation is far worse than getting fired, IMO.

I can always find a new job. It's very difficult to get my reputation back.

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71. Hap on July 12, 2011 2:35 PM writes...

But if you screw up big time at your job (big enough to hose your reputation), you usually don't have it anymore. Loss of reputation for most people in their field of work also means the loss of the ability to work in that field. (How many ad gigs is Fuzzy Zoeller getting, for example?) The ability to separate the two is a luxury most are not allowed.

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72. bef on July 12, 2011 6:26 PM writes...

@69, Iridium:

Google Michael Washabaugh and Eric Poehlman. I think Poehlman actually did time.

Granted, they are in the distinct minority to the best of my knowledge.

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73. Anonymous on July 12, 2011 8:44 PM writes...

#49 Iridium

Your last comment is dead-on. One of the best arguments I ever heard against the silly "we didn't really go to the Moon" came from Neil Armstrong himself. He pointed out that it would have been much more expensive to fake the Moon landing than it was to do it for real.

Most crimes (and this is one, at least against science) cost more to the instigator in the long run than if they had just done an honest days work.

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74. Hurdler on July 12, 2011 9:23 PM writes...

#65 Atom Bankruptcy

There is no denying that positions in academia and industry are very difficult to obtain, but you can't honestly believe that EVERY advisor doesn't care about their students at all.

Granted I have only brief experience, but where I'm studying now, everybody wants the students and postdocs to excel. Advisors have high expectations but, for the vast majority, they help their students rise to the occasion.

And many do go on to professorships and industrial research positions

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75. Solveig on July 13, 2011 12:26 AM writes...

I'm all for not censoring the internet, but could you please delete Terry # 38? It's absolutely vile, and it's unconscionable for this person to suggest these kinds of things about professional female workers in an academic research lab.

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76. eugene on July 13, 2011 2:11 AM writes...

Uggghhh.... I was thinking really hard of writing a letter to the Andjewandte editor about this Laclair thing. Probably wouldn't get into trouble, but I think if I did it, there might be a slight chance my papers would get scrutinized (rejected) more often in the future. It's one thing getting sued by a liar, but being on bad terms with a journal that you might need if you want to get tenure... is problematic. Though, from now on, I will send to Jackass first despite their own scandals.

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77. eugene on July 13, 2011 2:19 AM writes...

"I'm all for not censoring the internet, but could you please delete Terry # 38? It's absolutely vile, and it's unconscionable for this person to suggest these kinds of things about professional female workers in an academic research lab."

Either you're all 'for not censoring the internet', or you're not. Your first sentence contains a contradiction. I think that you really are for censoring since it's a bit of a power trip, even if seems like it's for a good cause.

Personally, I'd rather not pretend that there aren't a bunch of jerks in chemistry and that it's a "professional work environment" in an academic lab.

Hell, he didn't even say that women are bad chemists and are useless despite working a lot, which is the usual thing said by garden variety sexist coworkers around here during smoke breaks. (and yes, I always argue with my coworkers and tell them they are not correct and bring up examples of lazy, stupid men and smart women, but I'm not about to start a departmental scandal over it)

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78. j on July 13, 2011 2:36 AM writes...

#75: Solveig: People need to see that such bias still exist---sexist douchebags are alive and well. Deleting it only hides the reality.

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79. Solveig on July 13, 2011 9:21 AM writes...

This isn't about protecting sexist douchebags--this is about female grad students and post docs who probably have done absolutely nothing wrong, yet some (other) sexist douchebag is claiming that they must be sleeping with their advisor. I have not seen comments like this on any other blog, and no one's objecting to him saying this. It's absolutely disgusting!!

The poster saying these things about female students is not revealing anything new about the reality for female scientists--we're all aware of the pervasive sexism, thanks.

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80. Curious on July 13, 2011 10:54 AM writes...

The Sezen case is fine and good, but what about more recent issues?

Does anyone know anything about the Douglas retraction from Org. Lett.? I've seen no real discussion of it online, but lab-rumors seem to indicate foul play was involved.

DOI: 10.1021/ol201259g

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81. MTK on July 13, 2011 12:31 PM writes...

Post #38 really is vile. Beyond the sexism is the complete personal attack on the character of someone in an area completely beyond the knowledge of the writer.

And no, I don't think it's censorship if it's removed. Derek has sole responsibility and power of this blog (at least I think so.) This isn't a freedom of speech or press issue. It's an editorial decision. Much like deciding which letters to the editor to print.

If Terry wants to make those comments, he's free to do so in any number of different forums, should it be deleted.

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82. eugene on July 13, 2011 12:54 PM writes...

Okay Solveig, so you're for censoring. Start your own blog then. Or sue Derek if you fail to appeal to his innate sense of equality to beat on his innate sense of censorship. Good luck.

"I have not seen comments like this on any other blog, and no one's objecting to him saying this. It's absolutely disgusting!!"

By the way, I hate to point this out, but this is yet another contradiction since you objected. You even got me to object as well.

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83. Terry Liu on July 13, 2011 1:03 PM writes...

I read all the posts here, what I can postulate is that some of you guys are undoubtedly being brainwashed by the system. In my post 38, I just indicated the bad behaviour of a professor, such behaviour, here or there, popularized in North America, greatly affected the academic research. Anyone with clear brain can make the conclusion, it is not a simple fraud by a single student, actually, a student never dares to do such systemically fraud, there must be sth behind the group.

To delete someone’s word in media is never a good idea, to acquire different ideas will only make you guys smart and well prepared. During my study here, I realized in chemical field, including academy and industry, the most danger thing is not a challenging project nor a poisonous chemical, it is the ppl, who sit themselves in the office with tenure will affect the young generation so much.

For these 3 students being expelled by Shames’ group, I feel lucky for them, they don’t need to spend 5 more years to finish a phd but after that no where to go. In deed the industry for chemical synthesis is dead here, I never heard that a chemist worked peacefully till retirement since my coming to US, be awake, my friends. It is time to rethink the system instead to judge if Mr Shames is good or bad.

It is righteous to pursue success and happiness in America by doting any thing not violation of the law, and such notion is so deep in some ppl’s mind. No wonder students can do sth to cheat, and profs can do anything he thinks good to him and would not bring him troubles.

As in my prior post stated, it is time to reform the tenure system, to some point, I believe, the research group system such as in Japan is better suited for modern academic research. A primary PI will be responsible for several of tenured young profs’ academic, distributing findings, supervising and keeping an eye on junior prof’s behaviour. Such system has been also adopted in China too; with a long time practice it seems it is still effective and efficient.
Only the best profs, proved by time and students from that group, can be PI, other junior prof still need to work on the bench, are labours of the PI. Only the PI can sit there to give a command, others need to stand up and listen. Obviously, it will replace some thousands years post-docs in the system, and increasing numbers of stable job positions in the future.

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84. English Master on July 13, 2011 2:23 PM writes...

@ Terry Liu

You probably need to enroll into some elementary english writting course. Chemistry seems to be a waste for you.

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85. Chemist on July 13, 2011 2:37 PM writes...

@ # 80 Curious

Are you a current Douglas group member? Why don't you elaborate on "those rumors" ?

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86. Anonymous on July 13, 2011 3:13 PM writes...

To English Master
English is just a business language for me,to me the key point is that others can understand my opinion clearly, indeed I never spend too much time to improve it since i will be back to China. In a globe economy, it is not a cost-effective way to study language. Also it is misleading and a trick to try to persuade foreigners to speak English as mother language. Better English, better educated? this notion is passed away! we have discussed it in a previous post , Chinese students have a better education regard to the fundamental education.
The truth is that it is just a business language for foreigners to do business and outsourcing! You can brag your language, while we got the money from the business!

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87. Accountability on July 13, 2011 5:13 PM writes...

I am still waiting for Dalibor Sames comments. You are the leader of that research group and as such, you owe us some explanation about this mess. I can´t understand why he keeps getting funded because he should have some accountability. Regarding the other case of scientific misconduct, La Clair, he is indeed a fraud and there is no doubt about that. What I don´t understand is why Angewandte keeps publishing his lies even today. It is really a shame.

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88. dave w on July 13, 2011 5:23 PM writes...

I guess a "5-year debarment" from US government funded work, and from serving in an advisory capacity to the US Public Health Service" was all they could do to Sezen, but it seems like it's a "null penalty" as far any likely practical effect - tattooing "faker" on her forehead in scarlet lettering would have been more appropriate, but no doubt that's outside the disciplinary repertoire of any of the involved parties.

It seems like Sezen has put the university in an excruciatingly difficult moral position with respect to the other students who were dropped from the graduate program when they looked bad not being able to reproduce Sezen's fictitious syntheses: how do you deal with the fact that you've erroneously "sent someone off the island" after you've already given the prizes for that series of "survivor game" episodes?

I mean, maybe (as #65 suggested) they're happier doing something else after all, but certainly nobody has standing to assume that on their behalf. So assuming that's not the case, what could the school even do? Yes, it could offer to reinstate them - "come back, all is forgiven!" - but it would be a daunting task to have that be more than an empty gesture, to see to it that they were academically "made whole".

For one thing, it's unlikely they would still have access to whatever scholarships or stipends were supporting them, and then there's the question of how do you go back and make room for them in a program of finite size without bumping others who came along after them... but that stuff strikes me as the easy part, compared to the more "academic" questions, the "can't step in the same river twice" issues, involved in enabling them to resume their graduate work in a meaningful manner: the specific research they were doing when they left may no longer be relevant in the context of the current state of the program, and they'll have been out of mental touch with the details of their work: they'd have some backtracking to do before they could just pick up at the same place in the program. (Giving them extra time might make others feel like they were being given the benefit of "special treatment"; not doing so would probably put them at a crippling disadvantage.)

Even aside from that, there's no way to deal with the problem they would face in competing for access to subsequent opportunities, if they're just finishing their PhD work at an age when one is expected to have already begun to establish oneself with a body of independent work... how do you compensate for that?

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89. chiral on July 13, 2011 7:24 PM writes...


I'm not privy to the details of the retraction but the chiral HPLC traces in the SI of that paper are eyebrow-raising to say the least. Every set of racemates have the same retention times.

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90. j on July 13, 2011 10:56 PM writes...

Solveig: Please read the comments. Several people rebutted Terry, contrary to the common wisdom of not feeding the trolls.

And it is a little strange that you have never seen sexist comments on blogs, but claim to live in a world teeming with sexism.

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91. Jose on July 14, 2011 12:40 AM writes...

It is simply astonishing: JJLC 's hexacyclinol was a total and complete fabrication made of nothing more than fairy dust, but it only got so much scrutiny because of the steps with little/precedent, which then led to such scrutiny of the spectra, etc.

The entire facade came down with Porco and Rychnovsky's papers, which is about as iron-clad as possible, and yet the paper remains, and ACIE even accepts new papers from him, * because no-one can disprove JJLC's paper.*

Here's the message kids- just *make up* the synthesis of an obscure natural product, get it published in a top-tier journal, and then it doesn't even matter what happens after that! No one can prove you wrong, and there will be no (direct) fallout! It's a great way to kick off a career.... just make sure your steps have decent precedent and don't do anything too fancy.

The whole enterprise is just such a damn joke; why did I waste 6 years in grad school when I could have been drinking with the Bionic Bros?

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92. Iridium on July 14, 2011 1:13 AM writes...

to 70 (MTK) and 71 (HAP).
I also care most about my reputation...but than I do not fill like to fabricate data in the first place. I agree, if you work in industry reputation and job opportunities go hand in hand.
However, at least in Europe, once you have a permanent position at Uvinersity reputation is not any longer essential. You have a job for the rest of your life.

It is still remarkable that so many retraction are on a 1/2 step reactions. How did they think to get away with it?
I guess Jose is right. They didn´t. They just hoped/think that at the time people will eventually find out....they will already have a "secure" job.

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93. Gregor on July 14, 2011 9:30 AM writes...

Jose is right! LaClair keeps publishing - 2 more angewandte papers this month!!

Shame on you Peter golitz!!!!!

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94. Hap on July 14, 2011 9:54 AM writes...

91: You have to choose one that probably won't be made again, though, (or the incorrect structure) so no one will accidently intersect any of your intermediates and find out that you didn't actually make them. Of course, having no data at all also makes it easier.

For disproof, having the wrong NMR might be sufficient (as commented on in the last hexacyclinol post, which I can't find). I don't know if it disproves it, but I don't know how you could get the correct substance with the wrong NMR.

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95. Ich Dich on July 14, 2011 10:08 AM writes...

@80 and 89

This Venkata Jaganmohan Reddy seems to be auditioning for the role of Bengu, as another publication of him also got retracted... (Tetrahedron (2011), 67(29), 5360)

Both retraction notices state: "Some of the results, the enantiomeric excess values in particular, were not reproducible"

Anyone with more info?

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96. Secondaire on July 14, 2011 10:34 AM writes...

#75: Yes, what #38 said really wasn't very nice. As a woman in science, I've never really experienced outright, malicious sexism, but I too fell victim to the "sleeping with your advisor" rumors in grad school simply because I published several more papers than the rest of my cohort. This kind of BS is everywhere.

That being said (and definitely closing the barn door after the horse is gone), #81 is right - at the end of the day, Derek decides what stays here as this is his private airspace. Ergo, there's no need for any debate about censorship, #82.

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97. Terry Liu on July 14, 2011 12:54 PM writes...

To 96 Secondaire
I do not believe in sexism, I respect women who work relying on their mind, hand and time. what i am describing is the special role of woman in science, especially in chemistry, a dying major. Could you please discuss the reason why you can publish more papers than rest of your group members?
in most time, I know male students can take more pressure than female students, and also they worked hard to try to get the project done.

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98. too much on July 14, 2011 1:20 PM writes...


What a stunningly poor comment. Perhaps 96 published more papers than her peers because she selected/designed more interesting projects, worked longer hours and/or more efficiently, wrote more compelling manuscripts, or similar? Or, perhaps her projects just worked while others didn't? Why would there need to be any suggestion of impropriety to explain this? I could go on, but I'm not sure it's possible for you to understand what's sad/horrifying about your remarks.

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99. Will on July 14, 2011 1:46 PM writes...

It seems at the very least, Columbia should retract (or whatever the term is) Sezen's doctorate. Does anyone know if this is an option?

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100. English Master on July 14, 2011 1:47 PM writes...

@ 97

Apart from your garbage english, you seem to be a mental case..not fit for discourse..

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101. Anonymous on July 14, 2011 2:24 PM writes...

Dear Terry Liu,

Thank you for your input. I took the liberty of forwarding your comments to the Chinese Consulate in D.C. for their perusal as I knew they would be very proud of how you positively reflect your homeland's values and character. I am also sure they will want to reward you personally for your auspicious and judicious use of our Freedom of Speech here in our backward little country. Maybe they'll even let you start your own blog back in China. It's my personal opinion that China needs you back immediately to accelerate their ultimate triumph over us all. I very much hope they concur.

I didn't really know where you were located so I recommended they use Google. Since they are here in the U.S.; their results will not be censored, at least not outside the embassy.

(You might have to look up a word or two since you have informed us all of the superfluous nature of mastering the English language.)

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102. Hap on July 14, 2011 2:34 PM writes...

101: There's no guarantee that you're fragging the correct person - anyone can call themselves anything. It could be him making a fool of himself, or someone else making a fool of him. Without knowing a lot more (the origins of the email, authentication data), it's not really possible to tell if commenter is commenter in real life or just a troll.

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103. SlipperyHollow on July 14, 2011 3:00 PM writes...

I know an inorg chem prof that faked all (or at least almost all) elemental analyses in his papers (80+). The problem is that it is very hard to prove, because everything else looks consistent and other analyses do not allow to estimate the purity. What would you do if you knew what I know?

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104. Fishy Fish on July 14, 2011 4:30 PM writes...

@101 + 102,

The only thing we should take seriously is our data. Me Scusi, but Terry Liu could be a troll from, say, Afghanistan, Somalia, even Cuba, smearing China and Chinese.

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105. Anonymous on July 14, 2011 4:33 PM writes...


What the *!?! is wrong with you? You want to get someone in potential legal trouble just because he is an unpleasant troll? I hope you were joking. Don't fool around with the Chinese government.

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106. Hap on July 14, 2011 4:47 PM writes...

91: Here is the comment, by someone named Bill. I haven't checked it, but if it's correct, then that sort of hangs up the synthesis.

I remembered the comment, but still sort of assumed that something else was needed to disprove the synthesis. I'm not sure that's right, though, and at this point I don't really care that much. The synthesis of (whatever it is) is dead to probably everyone other than JJLC and the Bionic Bros.

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107. Anonymous on July 14, 2011 4:59 PM writes...


Chill. Of course it was a joke. But if the guy is serious, I really wish he would leave my country ASAP. It's annoying to think that my taxes might be financing his future.

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108. Secondaire on July 14, 2011 7:58 PM writes...

#97. You confuse me. You may not personally harbor sexist views (which I find this hard to believe when you make statements like "someone find that she always offer her leg to the boss for make him happy" publicly on the Internet), but how can you deny that sexism exists, if that's really what you're saying? It is like denying that xenophobia and homophobia exist.

How did I get more papers published than my cohort? Exactly what #98 said. Hard work, collegiality, collaboration, and careful writing. Also, most people in my cohort were biologists, and it takes much longer to grow plants and breed mutant mice than it does to synthesize some compounds and test them. I have NEVER engaged in any improper behavior with ANYONE in a position of authority over me, and I resent that I even have to defend this position.

I also resent this "women can't take pressure and generally work slower" attitude. I made it through all the rigors of graduate school. I have a Ph.D. I've gotten grants funded, rebutted reviewers and editors, worked 60-hour weeks, and had a million people jumping down my throat at once.

Good day.

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109. Terry Liu on July 14, 2011 10:56 PM writes...

To 101
Despite of the attack of my comments, I would like to admit that you are a humorous guy. Compared with others, I can tell you know better to handle a troll situation in internet forum.

As to myself, I don’t like Chinese government too, just like republicans don’t like president Obama. The politic in china has a long way to reform, I would not comment on such issue more here, you can find all kinds of comments from mainstream newspapers.

In my post, what I am worried is US’s education system, such system, especially the tenure system for profs is a double blaze knife, which encouraged some talents to work hard to get a tenure to secure their job, on the other hand, it also hurts lots of young scientist through a master–slave situation. What’s the driving force for a tenured prof to work hard to achieve more creativity and innovation? I still didn’t get it after I stay here for a couple of years to observe and research the system.

Sun sink in US but it arise in China, peers on the other side of the earth started to create a new scientific research system, for example, following US, china is the second country files patents in the world.

As to the field drug discovery, China already has more than ten me-too or me-better drugs on the market with their own intellectual property. When FDA is still discussing and hesitate to approve me-too drugs, china already made it. Isn’t that proved the superiority of china’s PI system?

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110. Anonymous on July 14, 2011 11:39 PM writes...

"Sun sink in US but it arise in China, peers on the other side of the earth started to create a new scientific research system, for example, following US, china is the second country files patents in the world."

China's also #1 in publishing irreproducible results.

(So long as we're slinging around broad, offensive generalities, I thought I'd get in on that action)

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111. Anonymous on July 15, 2011 11:05 AM writes...

109 ("Terry"),

Speaking as a chinese, quit the nationalistic talk! Although you made some valid points, overall you're not helping to build a positive image of your country and your compatriots, to say the least! You should be grateful for the opportunities America has afforded you, her many problems notwithstanding. At the risk of further instigating more rhetoric from you, I'll say this-- China is in no position to take the speck out of America's eye in ANY issure, period.

Everybody, just ignore him, please.

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112. Terry on July 15, 2011 5:29 PM writes...

To 111
Regard to patriotism, I have a motto
“Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”
I got free education from china, I do believe it is time to return back to china to support my motherland, at least it can provide more job chance and less glass ceiling for Chinese.

Here it is obviously someone don’t like to hear the critics from a Chinese.
That made me thinks the story form my elementary textbook, the new clothes of the emperor.

No adults dare to speak out the truth, finally when the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"

I found in Mr Sames’ case most of you guys think it is a pure fraud from a female student, so the prof can still keep the position by claiming he know nothing about that student.

Are you all the guys in the emperors new clothes situation and, rather, I am the naïve little boy crying out the truth?

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113. petros on July 16, 2011 8:18 AM writes...

And as a riposte to Terry. What about the fraud committed by (the Chinese Professors) Zhong and Liu?

Only 41 papers retracted

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114. Anonymous on July 16, 2011 10:42 AM writes...

to 113:

Agreed completely. Although its not directly spoken in my group, as soon as someone presents a paper from China in group meeting, the eyes begin to roll. Its a commonly known fact that most graduate students in my institution steer clear of papers from China. Its sort of an inside joke. Why risk it? I don't read any Chinese-published papers anymore due to my own experience with irreproducible results.

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115. Jose on July 16, 2011 11:37 PM writes...

To #113 and #114, agree completely, but to be fair, the same is even more true of Indian papers...

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116. Anonymous on July 16, 2011 11:54 PM writes...

This case is so deja-vu! Many, many years ago when I was finishing my Ph.D. from a top ten university in synthetic organic chemistry I was following on work of a recent Ph.D. student who was quite the golden boy. I could not reproduce his work and was mocked and derided by my advisor for this. Finally,after one of these mocking sessions I walked out of the lab and took a three-day break and when I returned I did a week-long investigation of my predecessor's original notebooks and spectra - every blessed page. It was then that I also found white-outed spectra (also used in the thesis) and "reported" combustion analyses that the analysis vendor later reported to me were not the results they sent. The reported optical activity turned out to be due to contamination from an optically-active reagent! This was obvious from the IR which was hidden in the notebooks. I set up a two-hour presentation to my advisor outlining conclusively that it was all a fabrication complete with the letter from the analysis company. My co-workers witnessed this as well. I then told my advisor that I never wanted to hear the fraud's name again from his lips and that I would find another way to synthesize my target and I would also make the compound reported by the fraudulent Ph.D. as well since he never really had and prove he never had it. And I did it all. When a full paper in JACS on my work was drafted I refused to have it published with my name unless it called attention to the conflict with the previously published work. Thus my publication ends with a paragraph stating the this work calls into question that of X&Y previously reported. We believe the previous work is in error and the present work is correct.

BUT the fraud still has their Ph.D. and is on the faculty of a chemistry department in the Midwest. How many other stories like mine are there - that have never been revealed? My fellow students thought I risked plenty confronting my advisor. But I finished my Ph.D. with great recommendations and went to industry. My advisor never did the right thing. He is a prominent member of the organic chemistry world holding an endowed chair somewhere on the East coast. Oh, by the way, I was the only female in the group.

My heart goes out to the grad students who left the Sames group and whose careers were negatively affected by this fraud. Reading the full report brought back the memory of those horrible three days when I struggled with my confidence in my scientific abilities. I was lucky. Somehow at that critical fork in the road I just knew it was not me! So I chose to go back and prove my ability and also prove why the work was not repeatable. Columbia owes those students something and Sames owes them even more.

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117. Hummm on July 17, 2011 8:51 AM writes...

@116 Jose:

But Indians don't cheat in high impact journals such as Jacs, Angewandte as chinese do. In fact, I hardly see any Indian papers in high impact journals but you can bet majority of papers are from chinese groups these days in JACS etc. who knows how many of those are out n out fraud. I bet many are.

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118. Bbooooooya on July 17, 2011 12:32 PM writes...

For as shocking examples of fraud have a look at chinese stocks: a good number have been total fabrications that have cost U.S. investors billions. Have look at NASDAQ site: over a dozen Chinese stocks that have been halted for 1+ weeks, all frauds.

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119. Abitsuperficial on July 17, 2011 1:43 PM writes...

I know this is a bit superficial, but I would like to see what this Sezen looks like?

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120. Terry Liu on July 17, 2011 8:03 PM writes...

I am from China, and I know clearly the academic environment and industry environment there, our perspectives are very different! Well, compared to 10 years ago I admitted that here are more papers being published by Chinese in high impact factor journal such as JACS and Angew, but, I noticed that most of these papers are from Chinese worked in US, there are small part of papers from china mainland, and these papers, published from chin, are generally from relative rare areas such as nano, biomarker, material and superamolecular.

For these few papers published in organic chemistry area, most of them are in methodology study (ee value, coupling rxn by different metal). There are very few papers regard to total synthesis. That indicated that it is still hard to get funding by doing total synthesis in China. Since China encourages quick and fast publishing papers, the organic synthesis is the hard core of the chemistry, which means, at least in the next ten years, china still needs to find synthetic labour from US. I can predict that more and more white synthetic chemists will take the job in china, doing the same job but earn 1/3 of the salary here.

BTW, if you guys are senior chemists and being laid off recently, wanting to earn some money in china with 1/3 of your salary, I can refer you to some Chinese job hunters to land a job there for you.

Some of you guys said that it is hard to reproduce the results of publications from Chinese, it is obviously prejudice. In China fraud is a very serious issue, once there is a retraction from an important journal, a committee will investigate the research group, and give the penalty, very few profs can take the risk to suffer the penalty of academic fraud.

However, there are around 5000 universities in China, not like here in US, almost all of the 5000 universities have chemistry department and with chemical labs, and I can’t deny some garbage university profs may do fraud to get their research published in order to get promoted or for funding, but I am sure most papers published in JACS and Angew are definitely realizable!

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121. PDF on July 17, 2011 9:14 PM writes...

@ 114. The same here and totally agree. We simply don’t bother reading Chinese paper even as Angewandte and ACS keeps publishing their “total synthesis”.
Please take a look regarding how China became one of the world's leading perpetrators of academic fraud:
This Terry must be delusional.

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122. Paul Mengnjoh on July 18, 2011 6:34 PM writes...

I just read about the recent report on this case in C&EN page 4,of July 11,2011.It is a shame that no one caught this student early in her research before things got so bad.Prof.Sames seems to attract alot of students and is quite productive in his research. I hope he starts keeping a close eye on his students and never let such serious misconduct occur in his group again.Good Luck.

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123. Mark Harder on July 21, 2011 3:49 AM writes...

Blitheringly dumb mistakes by collaborators have had similar effects in my career and those of others I know. Many months of wasted time resulted from incorrect genetic constructs (incorrect species even) and miscounted DNA base pairs. The moral: however tempting it may be to trust the work of "expert" collaborators, especially your senior colleagues, don't. If results can't be reproduced, or something just seems "funny", you need to proceed without judgement to check them. You just may be the one in the right.

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124. Goldy Gopher on July 22, 2011 7:30 AM writes...

@ #80 Curious Re: Douglas retraction
The whispers in the hallway say that Reddy faked essentially all of the data. It's easy to spot in the SI. Lots of duplicate spectra and chromatograms for the different compounds. Lots of sloppy copy-paste and whiteout work. Check out the 13C spectra with different levels of noise in the sp2 region. As someone else pointed out above, the chiral LC data is beyond laughable.

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125. JIm C. on August 22, 2011 1:01 PM writes...

The more things change...
Does anyone still remember the 1986 case of Tereza Imanishi-Kari at MIT, her boss David Baltimore, and the fraudulent paper that was eventually withdrawn from Cell? Or Margot O'Toole, the postdoc who blew the whistle and was hounded out of her job and blacklisted by Baltimore?
Imanishi-Kari kept a loose leaf notebook! Baltimore didn't care. Her results could not be duplicated, and Baltimore didn't care -- at least until he had to withdraw the paper.
I'm not sure what became of Imanishi-Kari. O'Toole's career as an immunologist was stunted. Baltimore came out smelling like a rose, except for those of us who remember what he did.

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126. Monado, FCD on November 3, 2011 12:37 AM writes...

Re moon landing: also, you can use radar to 'ping' the site of the moon landing even now and get an echo back that you don't get from other parts of the moon. Which means they really did leave a lander there.

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