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November 30, 2010

Bengu Sezen Cited For Research Misconduct

Former Columbia chemistry graduate student falsified, fabricated, and plagiarized research data, government finds

William G. Schulz

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The federal Office of Research Integrity has leveled 21 findings of research misconduct against former Columbia University chemistry graduate student Bengu Sezen. The ORI findings essentially validate what Columbia had already determined in its own investigation (C&EN, April 10, 2006, page 62).

The ORI notice in the Nov. 29 Federal Register states that Sezen falsified, fabricated, and plagiarized research data in three papers and her doctoral thesis. Some six papers that Sezen had co-authored with Columbia associate professor of chemistry Dalibor Sames have been withdrawn by Sames because Sezen's results could not be replicated (C&EN Online, June 19, 2006).

"The University is in the process of requesting the trustees to formally revoke Ms. Sezen's Ph.D," a Columbia spokesman said in a statement. Sames declined to speak to C&EN.

The case stretches back to 2005 when Columbia awarded Sezen her Ph.D. in chemistry. Working in the laboratory of Dalibor Sames, she claimed to have developed a method for selectively activating C-H bonds, a technique commonly used to functionalize hydrocarbons. Many of the papers Sezen and Sames co-authored on the work were subsequently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Immediately after the papers' publication, however, other researchers in Sames' lab and elsewhere reported problems reproducing the work. Ultimately, Sames retracted six papers and Columbia launched an investigation of Sezen.

Through it all, Sezen has maintained that her work is valid and that other researchers have been able to reproduce her experimental results when they followed her exact methods. She objected when Sames retracted the papers they had co-authored, and she has insisted that none of her results were faked. She went on to earn another Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Attempts to reach Sezen for comment about this latest development have not been successful. She is no longer listed as a researcher at Heidelberg and her current whereabouts are unknown.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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