Famed Materials Scientist Charged With Grant Fraud | Chemical & Engineering News
  • The original version of this story stated the wrong granting agency; Grimes has been accused of misusing a National Institutes of Health grant, not an National Science Foundation grant. The story also misidentified Annemarie Mountz’ affiliation; she is with Penn State, not NSF.
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Web Date: February 3, 2012

Famed Materials Scientist Charged With Grant Fraud

Craig Grimes is accused of misusing $3 million in federal research funds
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: fraud, scientific misconduct, research funding, materials science

Former Pennsylvania State University electrical engineering professor Craig Grimes, considered a world leader in materials science, has been charged with misusing $3 million in federal research grants.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania accused Grimes on Jan. 31 of misusing $1.2 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and of falsifying information when applying for a $1.9 million grant through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. If convicted, Grimes could face up to 35 years in prison fines of up to $750,000.

Grimes had amassed considerable accomplishments during his career; he was named 25th in a list of the world’s top 100 materials scientists by Science Watch in 2011. Grimes’ received much attention for his lab’s 2009 discovery that titanium oxide nanotubes, when hit by sunlight, can turn carbon dioxide into methane, a process that he said could be used as a source of energy (Nano Lett., DOI: 10.1021/nl803258p).

The investigation of funding misuse dates as far back as 2010. The National Institutes of Health notified Penn State on June 18, 2010, that they were investigating Grimes’ use of his NIH award, according to Annemarie Mountz, the university’s assistant director for public information

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says that Grimes applied for a $1.2 million grant for his solely owned company, SentechBiomed, based in State College, Penn. Grimes claimed he would use the grant to develop methods for measuring blood gases in infants that would detect a common complication of prematurity, necrotizing enterocolitis. However, the Attorney’s Office claims that Grimes never performed the research.

Penn State fired Grimes on Dec. 31, 2010, and the university reimbursed NIH for Grimes’ misused funds, Mountz tells C&EN.

That information was kept so quiet, however, that Grimes received a lucrative offer from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, during his investigation at Penn State. Grimes was hired as Texas Tech’s Donovan Maddox Distinguished Engineering Chair in Solar Energy and was scheduled to start on Jan 1, 2011. Christopher Cook, director of communications and marketing at Texas Tech, says Grimes accepted the position in the summer of 2010. But the university rescinded the offer in late August of the same year. Although the U.S. Attorney’s Office release states that Grimes is a resident of Raleigh, N.C., Grimes listed his affiliation as Nanjing University of Technology, in China, in a 2012 journal article.

C&EN has yet to confirm whether the misconduct includes actual research misconduct. The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s charges include misuse of funds, but do not describe allegations of fabricated data.

The phone number listed for SentechBiomed was not working at C&EN’s press time, and the company’s website is down.

News of Grimes’ troubles have caught some of his peers by surprise. Grimes was an invited speaker at the Materials Research Society’s spring meeting in San Francisco in April. Symposium organizer Xiaobo Chen, chemistry professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, tells C&EN he had not been made aware of the charges against Grimes. He adds that MRS is now considering withdrawing the invitation for Grimes to speak.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment further on the issue.

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pass (February 3, 2012 9:40 PM)
C&EN has yet to confirm whether the misconduct includes actual research misconduct

why should you write the comment before everything is clear?
agr (February 6, 2012 2:39 PM)
I think the statement was meant to indicate that though misuse of funds has occurred, research misconduct is unconfirmed.
cdkeli (February 5, 2012 5:16 PM)
What are the statistics concerning NSF fraud?
Elizabeth Wilson (February 7, 2012 3:21 PM)
Please see the correction above--the text should have read NIH, not NSF. Thanks!
spped (February 8, 2012 6:11 AM)
I think there is reason to assume there is also actual research misconduct; e.g. considering the number of corrigenda Grimes published recently.
Paul Mengnjoh (February 10, 2012 11:57 AM)
I believe there are alot more folks involved in scientific fraud than we can imagine.There was an article not too long ago in the New York Times of a biochemistry prof at UCONN who falsified data and misused research funds from the National Institutes of Health on red wine research. Is the economy contributing to this or the said researchers are just incompetent!Grants are really hard to come by and those who get the grants should be monitored more carefully.Lets nib this monster in the bud before it pollutes the minds of the next generation of researchers. Thanks
Alan Price (February 12, 2012 11:53 PM)
Something is missing here -- if NIH gave all the $1.9 million to his company
(not the the University, and none of the money that was to be paid to the
University was ever given by his company to the University), why would the
University have any obligation to pay back the money (which it never got)?
George (February 15, 2012 6:41 PM)
NSF or NIH should monitor how these funds were used.
gary tourt (February 14, 2012 6:13 PM)
Another Penn State scandal!!
science writer (February 17, 2012 5:28 PM)
this story has a host of errors. the NIH grant has not been repaid by Penn, since it never received it. DoE grant was. NIH didn't tip off Penn, NSF did...etc, etc.
Sara (March 2, 2012 3:28 AM)
This article has loads of inaccurate information and sounds very framed against Grimes. If he was offered a position in Texas tech in summer 2010 he must have resigned PSU long before Dec 31st. http://www.depts.ttu.edu/coe/publications/coe_today/COE_Today_June2010.htm
I guess he made lot of enemies along the way to fame and success.

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