Monday, April 8, 2019

Duke graduate student speaks out, 10 years later

I haven't really followed the problems that Duke University science has had, but this Medium post by a former Duke graduate student about the situation surrounding Duke Biochemistry professor Homme Hellinga is pretty remarkable: 
...At this point, in the early summer of 2008, a subset of Duke Biochemistry graduate students considered taking matters into its own hands. If our department’s faculty didn’t collectively have the guts to demand an investigation of Hellinga, then we would. We considered drafting a petition, addressed to the leadership of Duke and its medical school, which invoked the university’s rules for requesting research misconduct investigations. Execution of the plan briefly stalled due to fears of retribution.... 
...The petition was signed by eighteen of the approximately sixty graduate students in the program. While ~1/3 may not seem impressive, those who know the dangers of confronting tenured faculty and deans will realize that this was an extraordinary response. The signers risked their studies and their livelihoods...
Here's a rather old article that contains some of the context around the post.

Since I have no way of judging the accuracy of the post, I think it's best to leave the whole situation aside, and address the rather extraordinary and hypothetical event where graduate students would sign a petition for address of grievances surrounding the treatment of a specific set of graduate students. I'm not sure that I was ever in such a dire situation in grad school, and now, I think my response would have not to have fought City Hall, but to have left.

It's a remarkable document - read the whole thing.  


  1. Bravo Metzger! Hell of a story that some (your's truly) would shudder to take this to eventual conclusion. Sadly, the professor is still there!

  2. I was impressed than many of these people appear to have decent jobs (from the links). What this says to me is even if you have a bad experience in grad school, if you post-doc at Harvard you will be OK (!)

  3. Serious question: where does Hellinga get his graduate students from?

  4. I don't think Hellinga gets many graduate students these days. Even the newest rotation students are not that uninformed.