Charles Lieber, one the world’s top nanotechnology experts and the chairman of Harvard University’s chemistry department, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with lying about payments he’d taken...
Drag net: The charges against the chemist, announced by the US Department of Justice, are part of a wide-ranging effort by the US to crack down on what it calls rampant intellectual-property theft by China.
Cover-up: According to a charging document written by an FBI agent, Lieber received more than $15 million in US grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, among other sources.
Researchers are supposed to disclose if they also have foreign funding. But Lieber didn’t do so and then, when confronted, gave “false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” to the DOD and to the NIH as recently as this month.
Big money: According to the charging document, Lieber, starting in 2011, agreed to help set up a research lab at the Wuhan University of Technology and “make strategic visionary and creative research proposals” so that China could do cutting-edge science.
He was well paid for it. Lieber earned a salary when he visited China worth up to $50,000 per month, as well as $150,000 a year in expenses in addition to research funds. According to the complaint, he got paid by way of a Chinese bank account but also was known to send emails asking for cash instead.
Harvard eventually wised up to the existence of a Wuhan lab using its name and logo, but when administrators confronted Lieber, he lied and said he didn’t know about a formal joint program, according to the government complaint.
Top ranked: Lieber was ranked the most cited chemist in the world between 2000 and 2010 and came up with the concept of “neural lace.” The metallic mesh, which can be injected into the brain, was an inspiration for Elon Musk’s brain-machine interface company, Neuralink.
Investigations ongoing: According to the New York Times, US agencies are investigating “hundreds” of cases connected to Chinese researchers.
Also charged today was Zaosong Zheng, a Harvard cancer scientist arrested in December carrying vials of cancer cells taken from a Harvard hospital.
The Crimson, Harvard’s newspaper, reported that Lieber has been placed on “indefinite” leave and that the university is cooperating with investigators.
NASA has selected Houston-based Axiom Space to build and deploy a habitable module that will be attached to the International Space Station in the second half of 2024, it announced this week....
Why? NASA wants to open the ISS up to commercial opportunities. Last year, it finally started accepting bids from private companies that want to use the station’s resources and microgravity environment to test out new technologies, run different experiments, and even provide a potential destination for tourists looking for a short space getaway. As part of the new agreement, Axiom will attach a new kind of habitat module to the station’s Node 2 docking port, for at least five years (with a two-year option to follow).
The module: Neither NASA nor Axiom has released much information about the module, but it’s a safe bet it will be modeled after the company’s Axiom Station concept: a privately owned platform designed for habitation in low Earth orbit.
The habitation module in Axiom Station was designed by French designer Philippe Starck as a “comfortable and friendly egg.” It features a cushioned interior and hundreds of small LEDs that provide optimal lighting and color. Axiom says its ISS segment will include a crew habitat, a research and manufacturing space, and a large windowed component for viewing Earth.
Other habitats: This won’t be the first time an experimental module has docked with the ISS. Bigelow Aerospace already has an inflatable module, BEAM, docked with the station since 2016.