Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More Annie Dookhan fallout: crime lab chemist fired for not having chemistry degree

Another chemist has been fired from the Massachusetts state crime lab. Not for tampering (a la Annie Dookhan), but for having insufficient credentials and testifying falsely about it (via the Boston Globe):
The drug analyst who was fired for misstating her credentials allegedly falsely testified in federal court as recently as August that she has a degree in chemistry and possibly did so in dozens of state court cases as well, opening the door for a flood of new legal challenges related to the Hinton drug lab scandal.

The analyst, Kate Corbett, was fired by the State Police Friday for allegedly asserting that she holds a degree in chemistry from Merrimack College, though investigators determined that her degree is in sociology.

Corbett has not been accused of tampering with evidence, a charge that led to the conviction of Annie Dookhan, the woman at the center of the lab scandal.

But Corbett’s declarations in court that she is an expert with a chemistry degree could potentially derail convictions in those cases, say legal analysts, who say her testimony would be tainted.
The explanation is somewhat tragic, really:
However, State Police conducted background checks on the chemists’ education to ensure that the analysts met the agency’s standards for accreditation, and superiors learned of the discrepancies with Corbett’s education. 
According to a State Police report obtained by the Globe, Corbett earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Merrimack College in 2001, though she claimed on her resume that she obtained a degree in chemistry in 2003. 
A State Police investigation concluded that, in the two years after she first earned the sociology degree, she took enough credits that she believed would satisfy a chemistry degree. However, according to the State Police report, Corbett assumed she had earned a second degree without confirming it with Merrimack College. 
Also, according to the report, she would not have qualified for a second degree because she would have had to take an additional set of coursework to meet bachelor of science requirements.
I think her dismissal was the right response from an organization that is being seen as less than competent, charitably speaking. It's fairly apparent to me that her management is (yet again) at fault -- she started working for the lab in 2005. If her credentials were important (and it sure sounds like they were), then they should have been examined by her superiors.


  1. And this liar was probably making a lot more money working in a state lab than I am in my academic one, and I really do have a PhD in Chemistry (albeit from a "second tier" institution--I know, I'm disgracefully stupid).

    Life really is unfair.

  2. They should check these things. I'm almost 100% sure that one of my former colleagues was kicked out before being given a master's degree (she was kicked out after less than one full year), yet I see that she now has a tenure-track assistant professor position with her degree listed as master's. Positions in chemistry should go to those who actually did the work. Not too hard to verify. You can also look at their track record.

  3. In other news, there are now two job openings at the MA state crime lab!

  4. And here I am wishing that PhD EXPUNGEMENT was a real thing...


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