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Fake credentials in nanomed leader

Experts in nanomedicine are questioning the credentials of a researcher who has portrayed himself as an expert in the fledgling field, even starting a professional society and procuring a post as editor of the journal __Nanomedicine.__ Indeed, an investigation of his credentials reveals that he claimed to hold a directorship of a non-existent program, co-authored only two original papers in nanomedicine (one of which, a co-author says, he contributed to only editorially), and was accused of mi

By | June 25, 2009

Experts in nanomedicine are questioning the credentials of a researcher who has portrayed himself as an expert in the fledgling field, even starting a professional society and procuring a post as editor of the journal __Nanomedicine.__ Indeed, an investigation of his credentials reveals that he claimed to hold a directorship of a non-existent program, co-authored only two original papers in nanomedicine (one of which, a co-author says, he contributed to only editorially), and was accused of mismanaging the professional society to the point that some board members resigned and began a new professional group.
Image: Wikimedia
"I think that this individual is a good example of a field that is poorly- or under-regulated," Summer Johnson, executive editor of __The American Journal of Bioethics,__ told __The Scientist.__ "Everyone trusted the fact that he appeared to have high quality credentials." Chiming Wei, president and founder of an organization called the American Academy of Nanomedicine (AANM), has the equivalent of a PhD from a Japanese institution and is a researcher in cardiothoracic surgery, but is not currently affiliated with any university. He started the group in 2005, when he was an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. The linkurl:AANM's website;http://www.aananomed.org/mem_board.php lists Wei as Director of the Cardiothoracic-Renal Nanomedicine Program at Johns Hopkins, but according to the university, there is no such program. The Johns Hopkins press office was "unable to find evidence that this program exists," a university spokesperson wrote in an email. Johns Hopkins created a virtual program called the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) to support scientists working in nanomedicine in May 2006, but Wei "was not director of anything with INBT, [he was] just one of many faculty members" affiliated with the institute, Mary Spiro from Johns Hopkins' media relations department wrote in an email. "I have confirmed that, to the best of our knowledge, Wei did not apply for any grants through INBT nor did he conduct research with any of our other affiliated faculty members." Wei explained that the Cardiothoracic-Renal Nanomedicine Program was a name that he gave to his research laboratory at Johns Hopkins. He agreed that "it was not a program" at the university, but did not explain why he used that title on the webpage. Wei continued to list this directorship and his affiliation with Johns Hopkins on announcements of the AANM's 2008 annual meeting in Washington, DC, despite having left the university by June, 2007. Wei conceded that this was an error, but that title linkurl:still appeared;http://www.aananomed.org/mem_board.php on the AANM website at the time this article was posted. There are other discrepancies in Wei's stated affiliations. In a bio on the Johns Hopkins website (which was removed after __The Scientist__ requested clarification of Wei's affiliation with the university in mid-May), Wei listed three appointments with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minn.: postdoc, assistant professor and consultant. The Mayo Clinic had no record of Wei having been a postdoc or an assistant professor there, but confirmed he was a consultant, holding positions as a research associate and visiting clinician, between 1989 and 1996. Wei has published some academic papers about nanomedicine and nanoscience, but among the articles on PubMed, only two are original research articles. Furthermore, some of his coauthors, including those on one of the original research papers, say he did not contribute intellectually to the research. A PubMed search for "Wei, Chiming" retrieves 29 articles, 16 of which mention nanoscience or nanomedicine. (Wei provided __The Scientist__ with a list of more than 150 publications in his name. Based on the titles, however, none except the 16 that also appear in PubMed are related to nanomedicine. __The Scientist__ verified that at least 21 were conference abstracts rather than papers.) Most of the nanomedicine articles were published in __Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine__ -- a journal that Wei proposed to Elsevier and subsequently co-edited, according to an Elsevier spokesperson. Just two of the 29 are primary research articles in nanomedicine. Some of his coauthors charge that Wei put his name on nanomedicine articles to which he did not contribute enough to warrant a co-authorship. According to a former AANM board member who agreed to speak with __The Scientist__ on condition of anonymity, Wei added his own name to the list of authors on a review published in __Nanomedicine__ despite making "no intellectual contributions" to the work. "I don't even cite them any more," said the researcher, who was first author on the review, referring to that article and another which he coauthored with Wei and a third scientist. "We really don't want to be associated with his name," he added. Wei, however, denied that that he had ever put his name on a manuscript without the permission of an author. One of the two primary research articles, on which Wei is the second of three authors, describes a nanoscale drug delivery pump. According to the study's principal investigator, T.C. Yih at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., Wei's participation in the study was "only editorial" -- Yih invited Wei to be an author after Wei provided comments on the manuscript. Wei agrees he contributed only "ideas" to the work. An Elsevier spokesperson said the publisher never checked Wei's publication record in nanomedicine before giving him the job of editing a nanomedicine journal. "Based on the discussions we didn't feel a need to read through [Wei's] papers, as he was quite knowledgeable on the subject," the Elsevier spokesperson added. Wei said he has worked on two nanomedicine research projects -- one at the University of Maryland and another at Johns Hopkins -- but never published his results. He wanted to start a nanomedicine journal to introduce physicians like himself to clinically relevant nanoscience, he explained. Wei acknowledged that he does not have expertise in chemistry or material sciences, but said his contribution was to help expose clinicians to the field who "don't know so many medical applications for nanomaterials." Indeed, "expertise" in nanomedicine can be a matter of definition, according to a senior expert in nanomedicine at a US university who requested anonymity. Nanomedicine applies not only to engineers and material scientists who develop the technology, but also to clinicians who apply it, he said, adding that since there are many cancer drugs already on the market with nanoscale properties, he would consider many oncologists nanomedicine experts. Some people get annoyed at this broad definition, he said, but "I don't think [the field] should need a passport." On review of Wei's PubMed publication record, however, he said, "I was hoping there would be some clear evidence to make me say that he was an expert. I didn't see that." Even so, he noted, there are many factors besides a publication record that might define a scientist's role or importance in a field; some researchers, for example, are more important for their organizational or administrative roles than for their primary research. "It may appear that he is not a presence in the field, but that is not sufficient to discredit him," he said. While Wei's contribution to the field may be a matter of interpretation, he also used colleagues' names without their permission on AANM documents and printed materials and ascribed roles to them within the organization which they say they did not have. On a 2007 AANM tax return, Wei listed the name of linkurl:Mauro Ferrari,;http://www.bme.utexas.edu/faculty/ferrari.cfm who is the director of the division of nanomedicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The 2007 tax return, filed in January, 2009, lists Ferrari as one of several "directors" of the organization. "I don't know anything about this," said Ferrari. He said he had agreed to act as an honorary scientific advisor for the AANM, but never attended any board meetings. "I was not a director," he said. In a linkurl:flyer;http://www.the-scientist.com/supplementary/pdf/ianm_flyer.pdf publicizing the First World Congress of the International Academy of Nanomedicine, which was organized by Wei and took place on June 12-13, 2009, in Sanya, Hainan, China, at least one researcher listed as a "co-secretary general" wasn't in fact involved in the meeting. "The name was put on the flyer without my knowledge," said Harry Sauberman, the chair of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society of IEEE, a professional society of engineers which was also listed as a co-organizer of the meeting. Sauberman said that he had talked to Wei about organizing meetings in Washington, DC, in the future, but neither he nor IEEE played any role in this year's conference. In April, Johnson wrote a linkurl:blog entry;http://www.nanotech-now.com/columns/?article=297 on bioethics.net, the blog of the __The American Journal of Bioethics,__ citing accusations the AANM board made against Wei the previous September, at the group's annual meeting, held in Washington, DC. At that meeting, several members of the AANM board had confronted Wei, questioning his credentials and accusing him of failing to register the organization as a nonprofit and routing member dues to his personal bank account. In fact, the AANM was registered as a non-profit from the year 2005, according to the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs in Washington, DC. However, its non-profit status was revoked in September, 2008, because Wei had failed to file its two-year report, which lists the names of current officers in charge of a non-profit company. As a result, the organization's tax-exempt status with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was also revoked. Both non-profit status and tax-exempt status have since been reinstated, and Wei provided __The Scientist__ with a letter from the IRS confirming tax exempt status starting in 2005. Wei also denied accusations of financial irregularity. He said the organization has a separate bank account and that he had had to cover close to $55,000 in meeting expenses out of pocket. While he paid for the 2005 conference with the help of sponsorship from Elsevier and Pfizer, he explained, those funds were unavailable in 2006, and AANM membership dues were not enough to cover the expenses. (The AANM's 2007 tax return, obtained by __The Scientist,__ claims that sum as a "loan from officers.") The controversy over Wei's management of the organization, whether or not it was true, compelled linkurl:Lajos Balogh;http://www.roswellpark.org/Research/Research_Staff/Balogh_Lajos_PhD of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, the new editor of __Nanomedicine__, to leave the AANM, where he was a board member. "I certainly did not want to be associated with an organization that is financially suspicious," he said. After the 2008 confrontation, many AANM board members resigned and started a new professional group called the linkurl:American Society of Nanomedicine.;http://www.amsocnanomed.org/ Wei said that he was not given the opportunity to explain or correct the accounting problems that board members raised, having only learned about them at the September 2008 meeting. "I worked hard to try to help and develop this area of research. I never tried to hurt or make troubles in this area," said Wei in an email. "I hope every one understand this." Wei is currently the president of the American Nanomedicine Institute, a for-profit company he started in 2007 that focuses on research and development of both environmental and medical nanotechnology applications, he said. But some members of the nanomedicine community dismiss Wei's good intentions. "He managed to establish a journal with a very respectable publisher. Many of us participated" in the journal and the Academy, said a nanomedicine expert who requested anonymity. "The major problem is that it's damaged the reputation of this field."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:$Billions of fraud in HHS programs;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54751/
[16th June 2008]*linkurl:Does fraud mean career death?;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54921/
[ 7th August 2008]*linkurl:Flagging fraud;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55287/
[ 17th December 2008]
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Comments

Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

June 25, 2009

This sort of thing is common in new fields. And yet, there is a demand for "experts" even when the field is brand new. People step forward to become the "experts", but they are no more "experts" than my auntie Millie. \n\nIf nano-medicine is actually a "new field" then it is something that NOBODY is an "expert" in yet. There are a few people who could have done a little bit, and that's all there is. Yes, this guy has "papered his nest" and it appears he has played games. But for god's sake, if it were a new field, then EVERYBODY in nano-medicine is a novice, and we should all have the humility to be straight about that. \n\nNow, some of the novices in new fields have learned enough to be worth listening to. But if it really is new, then we are still in the blonde leading the blind stage in nano-medicine today. \n\nI, for one, get really tired of this raucous posturing in science. Twenty years ago it was rising. Today it has become a cacophony of malarkey that resembles nothing quite so much as the soapbox of Piccadilly Circus on Sunday. The mentality of instant expertise promulgated by marketing departments that coin jargonese with a half-life measured in days has permeated sciences. \n\nAnd THAT is how we even got this new term "nano-medicine". Bluntly, it's just jargon! Nano is just things on the scale of large molecules. Well, d'oh. People, this is chemistry of large molecules. We have been doing this stuff for decades. It isn't really new. There have been patents for delivery systems that are nano-scale that are nearly 50 years old. We have been fielding treatments based on large molecules for a long time. Dendrimers were known before "nano" escaped the mouth of the first marketing shill. \n\nBut, put "nano" on whatever, and suddenly you have a new field, and a new area to stake out to be an "expert" in. Flatly, it is all rubbish. It is malarkey of the first water and serious reportage should relentlessly criticize these "new fields" that are just renaming games.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 25, 2009

If it happen in other countries, I believe 90% of story are truth. In USA, however, it is obvious that the story are too true to believe. Either Dr. Wei or others are liars.
Avatar of: Raj Bawa

Raj Bawa

Posts: 1

June 25, 2009

The term nanotechnology is very much in vogue. But what does it mean? A nanometer (Greek, nanos, dwarf) is one billionth of a meter, or 1/75,000th the size of a human hair. An atom is about one third of a nanometer in width. Nanotechnology is an umbrella term used to define the products, processes and properties at the nano/micro scale that have resulted from the convergence of the physical, chemical and life sciences. \nMiniaturization of materials often imparts novel mechanical, electrical and/or optical properties. Specifically, as a particle's size decreases, a greater proportion of its atoms are located on the surface relative to its core, often rendering the particle more reactive (over their conventional ?bulk? counterparts). In addition, as the particle size decreases, its total surface area increases exponentially. This reduction in particle size increases its dissolution rate and saturation solubility and, if the particle is a drug, it frequently correlates to improved in vivo drug performance.\nHowever, one of the major problems regulators and lawyers face regarding nanotechnology is the confusion and disagreement about its definition [1, 2]. One often used, yet clearly wrong, definition of nanotechnology is that proposed by the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) that limits nanotechnology to ?dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers? [3]. Various government agencies, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) continue to use this vague definition based on a sub-100 nm size. Clearly, a definition based on physical limits is an unorthodox way of defining a technology field. Other technologies are defined by a key technology or breakthrough. For instance, genetic engineering technology is based upon recombinant DNA while the Internet is a collection of ?bulletin boards? networked in a World Wide Web.\nThe NNI nanotechnology presents numerous difficulties. For example, although the sub-100 nm size range may be important to a nanophotonic company (e.g., a quantum dot?s size dictates the color of light emitted therefrom), this size limitation is not critical to a drug company from a formulation, delivery or efficacy perspective because the desired property (e.g., improved bioavailability, reduced toxicity, lower dose, enhanced solubility, etc.) may be achieved in a size range greater than 100 nm. Moreover, this NNI definition excludes numerous devices and materials of micrometer dimensions (or of dimensions less than 1 nanometer), a scale that is included within the definition of nanotechnology by many nanoscientists. Therefore, experts have cautioned against an overly rigid definition based on a sub-100 nm size, emphasizing instead the continuum of scale from the ?nano? to ?micro.? \nAdd to this, the fact that nanotechnology is nothing new. For example, nanoscale carbon particles (?high-tech soot nanoparticles?) have been used as a reinforcing additive in tires for over a century. Another example is that of protein vaccines ? they squarely fall within the definition of nanotechnology. In fact, many biomolecules are in the nanoscale. Peptides are similar in size to quantum dots and some viruses are in the size range of nanoparticles. Hence, most of molecular medicine and biotechnology can be classified as nanotechnology. Technically speaking, biologists have been studying all these nanoscale biomolecules long before the term ?nanotechnology? became fashionable. However, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) emphasizes that while much of biology is grounded in nanoscale phenomena, the agency has not re-classified most of its basic research portfolio as nanotechnology. In this regard, NIH identifies three broad areas that it considers nanotechnology: (i) studies that use nanotechnology tools and concepts to study biology; (ii) the engineering of biological molecules toward functions very different from those they have in nature; or (iii) manipulation of biological systems by methods more precise than can be done by standard molecular biological, synthetic chemical or biochemical approaches.\nIn view of this confusion, the following definition of nanotechnology unconstrained by an arbitrary size limitation has been developed [1, 2]: \n?The design, characterization, production, and application of structures, devices, and systems by controlled manipulation of size and shape at the nanometer scale (atomic, molecular, and macromolecular scale) that produces structures, devices, and systems with at least one novel/superior characteristic or property.?\nNaturally, disagreements over the definition of nanotechnology carry over to the definition of nanomedicine. At present, there is no uniform, internationally accepted definition for nanomedicine either. One definition, not constrained by size, yet correctly emphasizing that controlled manipulation at the nanoscale results in medical improvements and/or significant medical changes, comes from the European Science Foundation [4]: \n??the science and technology of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease and traumatic injury, of relieving pain, and of preserving and improving human health, using molecular tools and molecular knowledge of the human body.? \nHence, the size limitation imposed in NNI?s definition must be abandoned, especially when discussing nanopharmaceuticals or nanomedicine. The phrase ?small technology? may be more appropriate to accurately encompass both nanotechnologies and microtechnologies. An internationally acceptable definition and nomenclature of nanotechnology should be promptly developed. \n\n[1]Bawa, R. 2007. Special Report - Patents and nanomedicine. Nanomedicine 2(3):351-374.\n[2]Bawa, R. 2009. Patenting inventions in bionanotechnology: A primer for scientists and lawyers. In: D. E. Reisner (editor). Bionanotechnology: Global Prospects. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 309-337.\n[3]The National Nanotechnology Initiative. http://www.nano.gov/html/facts/whatIsNano.html. [Last visited May 20, 2009]\n[4]European Science Foundation. 2004. Nanomedicine ? An ESF-European Medical Research Councils (EMRC) forward look report. Strasbourg cedex, France.\n
Avatar of: tom reller

tom reller

Posts: 2

June 26, 2009

Elsevier would like to note that Dr. Chiming Wei?s contract as co-editor was not renewed, and as of 12/31/2008 he has had no affiliation with the Journal or with Elsevier. \n \n-- Tom Reller, Director, Corporate Relations, Elsevier\n\n
Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

June 26, 2009

History of nanotechnology. See:http://www.foresight.org/nano/history.html \n\nThis short history discusses Feynman, who didn't really support nanotechnology as a field, but conveniently died, hence his Nobel prize name can be invoked. There is a very old sci-fi/fantasy about gray goo that should probably be in there as well, but it has been forgotten. Taniguchi didn't make a splash. It was Drexler, and the sci-fi hype of the digerati glomming onto Drexler's malarkey that gave us nanotechnology as we know it today. \n\nI have never understood how Drexler got away with the material he promulgated. His work is founded on basic misunderstanding of chemistry and quantum mechanics, extending a Newtonian view of the macro world's behavior down into the world of molecular behavior. Yes, he also threw in weird twists that seemed to take quantum mechanics into account, but at the same time he didn't. \n\nBluntly put, Drexler's molecular machines haven't happened. The closest thing is living cells and viruses, and those hardly qualify as new technology. That's cellular biology and biotechnology. The reason Drexler's nanos hasn't happened is simple. Drexler's machines are simply chemistry. But his hype resulted in reams of sci-fi about nanites and spaceships built atom by atom into diamond. All of that ignores physics/chemistry of this world, and takes dead-eye aim at the technology of an alternate universe. \n\nThere is no such thing as nano-medicine. There is just medicine and pharmaceuticals. \n\nI will also point out, Raj, that your discussion isn't even close to correct, although it repeats the incorrect statements of the field. For instance, you repeat this idea that the relative surface area of a particle increases exponentially to volume as the size decreases. You don't bat an eyelash and take it as an obvious truism. But this is only true for more or less spherical objects. This is typical of the Drexlerian oversimplification and ignorance of chemistry and geometry. \n\nThere is an old conundrum from fractal mathematics which asks, "How long is the coast of England". The correct answer is, it depends on the length of your ruler, and the length increases fractally. This is true for small objects also. In its simplest discussion, what is the ratio of surface to volume of a linear molecule 1 meter long? Is it significantly different from the surface to volume ratio of a linear molecule 100 nm long? Not much. \n\nSimilarly, if you look at the literature on adjuvants for vaccines, you will find that materials like aluminum hydroxide are very complex fractal surfaces, with extremely high surface areas. Even things like manufactured polymer spheres which one would think should show idealized characteristics can display, on examination, surface wrinkling, and it can change based on friction with other materials. Apparently simple things like surface coatings of antibodies on a polymer surface can potentially form dendrimers, and what is the surface area then? \n\nThe reason that nanotechnology is having trouble defining itself is that it can't be done. The original evangelists were incorrect in such broad brush that to be honest, there are few things that generate as much concern in me for the future of sciences. When something like this can take to the air on the wings of hype, what has science become?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 26, 2009

I recently had an very unpleasant experience with an editor-in-chief of a BMC journal. I found out that the EIC has accomplished nothing to qualify him to be in the position. This same IEC guy does not have the the professional integrity, let alone the scientific training and background. I even wrote to the publisher and call for his dismissal. The only thing I learned from this experience is that we need to be careful with some of the new journals.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 28

June 27, 2009

In the US Universities, there are too many "Directorships" to believe. A lots of directors only "lead" one or two members (studuents or postdoctoral researchers), just like many company's CEO and Chair of Board of Directors, who hire himself. Is this one of characteristics of a free, democratic country?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 28

June 27, 2009

Co-authorship like wei's case is not surprising. Especially it have been an unspoken rule or common sense for "unknown" scientists to find a big name as coauthor in order to successfully publish a paper in the Science, Nature, PNAS, and other "top tier" Journals.
Avatar of: POONAM BALANI

POONAM BALANI

Posts: 1

June 29, 2009

This case looks like the tip of an iceberg. There are a lot more such cases I believe. I personally came across one in the stem cell field, where the person claiming to be an authority in the stem cell field had no qualifications whatsoever in the field of stem cells. Apart from that, he also mentioned to be associated with Eagle institute of molecular medicine in the US, which , despite my best efforts, I could not get any information on.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 30, 2009

I was amused when I read this story. I actually had dinner and attended an opera with Dr Wei at a meeting in Italy in late 2005 and found him engaging and disarmingly personal. He tried to recruit me onto the editorial board of Nanomedicine, frequently mentioning his heading up a program at Hopkins. The thought of getting in on the ground floor of a new field was a temptation for me but I couldn't wrap my head around what nanomedicine was (mentioned by several other commenters) despite Dr Wei's best efforts to explain. I felt a little dumb at the time. But I looked at the offer as an investment... of my time and also my institution's good name, and couldn't make the case to myself of what I could contribute to a field I didn't understand so I declined. But, his affilitiation and pitch of helping develop a new field were very persuasive and nanomedicine might still evolve despite some bumps in the road.

July 21, 2009

I work at a University. Our esteemed ? Chancellor thought it was in the best interest of the university to take control of our state fair park (without a vote of the people of the state) and turn it into a research park. They already have a research park about 4 miles from the University that is less than 1/2 full and has brought virtually no high paying jobs to Lincoln, at least not enough to make a difference. The Unicameral did not step in and neither did our governor. It seems to me as though the "experts" don't really have the slightest idea what they're doing. All they are doing this for is to get their names in the books. It is simply a fraud plain and simple. Most universities are so top heavy that they will soon implode.
Avatar of: PETER PROCTOR

PETER PROCTOR

Posts: 16

July 21, 2009

One of my colleages, John McGinness, built the first "nanotech device" in the 1970's. This was an electronic switch using the polyacetylene derivative and biological pigment melanin as its active element. This device is now in the Smithsonial collection.\n\nDr McGinness defines "Nanotech" as anything that works on the quantum scale. That is, over distances small enough that quantum mechanical effects become important. This corresponds to another common definition of acting at "less than 100 nm". BTW, such definitions incorporate macro devices such as tunnel diodes.\n\nAnother definition often repeated at the Smalley Institute at Rice is more practical. This defines "Nanotechnology" as anything somebody will pay you to do research under.
Avatar of: Bert Johansson

Bert Johansson

Posts: 1

July 21, 2009

This situation as horrendus as it is, considering the repuational damage to science and medical research, is unfortuantely not an isolated or unique event. In Influenza research, there are individuals who have jumped on the "funding band-wagon" by representing themselves to be "influenza experts", when a simple review of their publication record on Google Scholar or PubMedline would disabuse anyone of this notion...nonetheless these poeple end up on National Media Outlets such as National Public radio, witjhout anyone to edit or refute the mis-information they spout. AIDS research suffers from the same ilk.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

July 22, 2009

I met Dr. Wei at a conference in 2007. Yes, he appeared very warm and peronable. However, after spending 10 minutes talking to him, I (as anyone with a common sense would) realized that he was grossly exagerating his title and role. It was apparent that he was determined to make a name of himeself with or without substance.

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