A former Caltech research scholar denied Wednesday that he was a plagiarist and said he would rather be working as a scientist than battling it out with the institution’s lawyers in a trial of his whistleblower retaliation suit before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury.
“I used to have a lot of respect for Caltech,” 39-year-old Farshid Roumi said. “What they are doing is just not right.”
Roumi said he arrived in the United States from Iran on an Einstein visa, which is reserved for people showing extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Famous recipients include First Lady Melania Trump.
Roumi maintains he was wrongfully ousted from Caltech in 2014 for exposing the misuse of federal funds and said he would rather be working on his battery project than have to come to court to seek justice and defend himself against attacks on his character.
Caltech attorneys have denied any wrongdoing on the part of the institution and say Roumi had unrealistic goals for the battery project he was researching.
Before hearing Roumi’s testimony, Grace Fisher-Adams, Caltech’s director of research compliance, told jurors that Roumi had cut and pasted the works of other scientists to submit reports that she said made up some of the worst cases of plagiarism she has ever seen. She said that in some cases, Roumi not only failed to give credit to those who actually compiled the research, but also to those scientists who they themselves credited in their writings.
But Roumi said it was hurtful to hear the plagiarism accusations. He explained he put the information in his reports to possibly be of help to Caltech professors by showing them the opinions and works of other scientists doing similar work.
Roumi was a doctoral candidate at Caltech in 2004-10 and worked as a postdoctoral scholar in 2010-14. In 2012, he co-founded Parthian Energy LLC with the goal of increasing the reliability and performance of rechargeable batteries, he said.
Roumi said that he worked on three battery projects while at Caltech, including one involving the S-cell, the aim of which was to significantly improve performance and reduce the chance of batteries catching fire due to their energy output. He said the goals include changing the architecture of Wednesday’s batteries so that cell phones can be charged in 10 minutes and a Tesla battery in 15 minutes.
Roumi said that after negotiations with Caltech professor Michael Hoffman, he agreed to transfer funding he received from the Department of Energy from Parthean to the school for the S-cell battery project. In 2015, Caltech hired two researchers to work with Roumi on the project, but the plaintiff said he was shocked to see that Caltech was billing the Department of Energy for thousands of dollars for hours spent by the two researchers on the S-cell project when in May-June 2015 when they actually were working during that time on Hoffman’s fluoride battery project.
Roumi said he had developed the S-cell project and wrote the request for funding and, like a mother who gave birth to offspring, knew the project inside-out. The perception allowed him to see when money was allegedly being misspent on something for which it was not intended, he said.
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