Further details have now emerged from the Office of Research Integrity and are put together by Chemical and Engineering News which “show a massive and sustained effort by Sezen over the course of more than a decade to dope experiments, manipulate and falsify NMR and elemental analysis research data, and create fictitious people and organizations to vouch for the reproducibility of her results.”
A Master of Fraud (MFr) and it strikes me that she could probably have achieved great things if she had spent half as much creativity in real research as she did in duping her peers. Fraud by correction fluid in the age of photo-shopping seems particularly ingenious!!
No doubt there are extenuating circumstances but for this deception to have continued for a decade does not do any credit to her supervisor Prof. Dalibor Sames. Whether Sames has been subjected to any sanctions by the University is not clear. His role has been the subject of many posts and one “inside story” is available here.
The total number of papers retracted by Sames seems to be eight with Sezen involved in 6 of them.
Bizarre new details of the Bengü Sezen/Columbia University chemistry research fraud case are revealed in two lengthy reports obtained by C&EN this week from the Department of Health & Human Services. The documents—an investigative report from Columbia and HHS’s subsequent oversight findings—show a massive and sustained effort by Sezen over the course of more than a decade to dope experiments, manipulate and falsify NMR and elemental analysis research data, and create fictitious people and organizations to vouch for the reproducibility of her results. Sezen was found guilty of 21 counts of research misconduct by the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI), which is housed at HHS, in late 2010 (C&EN, Dec. 6, 2010, page 10). A notice in the Nov. 29, 2010, Federal Register states that Sezen falsified, fabricated, and plagiarized research data in three papers and in her doctoral thesis. Some six papers that Sezen had coauthored with Columbia chemistry professor Dalibor Sames have been withdrawn by Sames because Sezen’s results could not be replicated. The ORI findings back Columbia’s own investigation.
The Sezen case began in 2000 when the young graduate student arrived in the Columbia chemistry department. “By 2002, concerns about the reproducibility of Respondent’s [Sezen’s] research were raised both by members of the [redacted] and by scientists outside” Columbia, according to the documents, obtained by C&EN through a Freedom of Information Act request. The redacted portions of the documents are meant to protect the identities of people who spoke to the misconduct investigators.
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. ……
…… After leaving Columbia, Sezen went on to receive another Ph.D. in molecular biology at Germany’s Heidelberg University. At some point during the Columbia investigation, however, Sezen vanished, though some reports place her at Turkey’s Yeditepe University. Her legacy of betrayal, observers say, remains one of the worst cases of scientific fraud ever to happen in the chemistry community.