Posted: January 1, 2017

The attached link from the New York Times is a chilling example of sexism in the cancer research world.  A talented woman researcher complained to her superiors that her laboratory work had been sabotaged.  She was working in a cell culture lab and claimed that someone had poured massive amounts of alcohol into her cultures, killing them.  The first reaction her supervisors had was to think she had done this to herself and then fabricated the crime to cover up her self destructive behavior.  Fortunately for her the authorities at the University of Michigan had the presence of mind to install surveillance cameras above her work bench and discovered that one of her colleagues, jealous of her success and growing reputation, had tried to ruin her work.  He was summarily dealt with and her research resumed.

Dr. Stark weighs in: despite the rapid increase in women in positions of responsibility and creativity in the cancer research world, there is still not a level playing field.  I suspect that had the victim been a man instead of a woman the authorities would not been as quick to assume self-destruction.  This intriguing story had a happy ending but it need not have.  Leaders in academia in general and academic medicine need to do some soul searching about this event.