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This Professor Resigned From Caltech After Harassing Two Students. Now He Has A New Job.

Astrophysicist Christian Ott resigned from Caltech last August. He'll start as a senior researcher at the University of Turku in Finland on March 1.

Last updated on January 31, 2018, at 2:41 p.m. ET

Posted on January 31, 2018, at 11:10 a.m. ET

Tuorla Observatory
Xepheid / Wikipedia

Tuorla Observatory

Astrophysicist Christian Ott, who resigned from his tenured faculty position at Caltech last August after an investigation determined he had harassed two female graduate students in his research group, has been offered a new position at the University of Turku in Finland.

Ott's two-year research position officially begins on March 1, but he visited the campus observatory today and will continue through this week, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News from Juri Poutanen, director of Tuorla Observatory, to the observatory's mailing list.

Ott was suspended from Caltech for nine months in fall 2015, after a university Title IX investigation found that he had engaged in "discriminatory and harassing behavior" toward two women under his direct supervision. His suspension was extended for an additional year after Ott contacted one of the students involved, violating the terms of his suspension. He announced his resignation in August of last year, after students protested his anticipated return to the university.

"Christian Ott is going to work as a senior researcher without any teaching or supervising responsibilities," Riitta Pyykkö, vice rector at the University of Turku told BuzzFeed News via email. "University of Turku was informed about the circumstances in Caltech."

Ott did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to his Caltech email address.

Tuorla Observatory is the biggest astronomical research institute in Finland. The email from its director stated that Ott "would be glad to learn more about research done in Tuorla and if you want to chat with him, please, let me know." The observatory's website lists 24 students affiliated with its research group.

"I can’t say I’m surprised, but hope at least that all group members, particularly early career researchers, were consulted during the hiring process," Sarah Gossan, one of the Caltech graduate students who filed the Title IX complaint, told BuzzFeed News via email. "The behavior I have encountered during my seven short years in academia, both perpetuated and later excused by my fellow physicists, has been truly eye opening."

"It's very disappointing to hear, and of course I believe it puts female students and postdocs in jeopardy," Io Kleiser, the second student in the complaint, told BuzzFeed News. "It sounds like the incident at Caltech is being played off as no big deal."


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