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Chemist Sues University Again

Suvi Orr has filed suit against the University of Texas for the second time in two years in an attempt to prevent the school from revoking her PhD.

Feb 11, 2016
Jef Akst

FLICKR, DEREK KEYIn 2014, Pfizer chemist Suvi Orr sued the University of Texas at Austin, where she had earned her PhD in 2008, after the school pulled her degree due to the “falsified and misreported data” included in her dissertation. Now, according to a lawsuit filed last week (February 4) in state District Court in Travis County, the university is once again trying to revoke her degree, and Orr is once again suing to prevent the disciplinary action.

“Although the lawsuit refers to the plaintiff by those initials for privacy protections under federal law, the circumstances of the case leave no doubt that she is Orr,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Orr contends that she is being held accountable for the mistakes of her former advisor, University of Texas chemist Stephen Martin; both were authors on an Organic Letters paper that was retracted in 2011 after the chemical synthesis was unable to be reproduced, Retraction Watch reported this week (February 9). According to the latest suit, the school will hold a hearing next month in which three undergraduate students and two faculty members will deliberate on Orr’s case, but the suit argues that none of them “are qualified to evaluate the scientific evidence being used against S.O.” According to the Statesman, a hearing has been scheduled for next week (February 17) in response to Orr’s request to stop the proceedings.

“The University should not be permitted to so cavalierly attempt to take it away. S.O’s scientific career—and her livelihood—hinge on how a panel of undergraduate students review and interpret highly complex scientific data at the doctoral and postdoctoral level in organic chemistry,” the suit reads. 

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