October 14, 2008

Reprimanded Scientist Sues Colleagues For Defamation

Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, a Purdue University scientist is suing two other faculty members for alleged defamation.

Taleyarkhan, a professor of nuclear engineering, was reprimanded over claims he produced nuclear fusion in tabletop experiments.

Now he has filed a complaint in Tippecanoe Superior Court that Lefteri Tsoukalas and Tatjana Jevremovic made false and malicious public statements that led to "a successful campaign to ruin Taleyarkhan and his sonofusion research."

In August, the university denied an appeal by Taleyarkhan and stripped him of his named professorship in nuclear engineering. Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said the university had no comment because it wasn't a party in the lawsuit.

Purdue is not a defendant in the lawsuit but could be added later, Taleyarkhan's attorney, John Lewis, said Monday.

The lawsuit alleges that Tsoukalas, a professor of nuclear engineering, and Jevremovic, an associate professor, made statements accusing Taleyarkhan of research misconduct to reporters from Nature and The New York Times.

In 2002, Taleyarkhan reported that he had made nuclear fusion using a tabletop experiment that collapsed tiny bubbles in a liquid with powerful ultrasound vibrations. Scientists have long sought a simple way to produce fusion in hopes of harnessing it as an energy source.

In a report to Purdue in July, an investigative committee found that Taleyarkhan falsified the research record twice: He arranged for one of his students to appear as co-author of a paper to create the appearance that the student had witnessed the experiment, then announced that the paper was an independent confirmation.

He was allowed to remain a faculty member but forbidden to serve as a major professor for graduate students for at least three years.

Taleyarkhan is seeking unspecified damages for defamation, harassment and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.