Affairs between professors and graduate students aren’t usually advised, even when they’re not expressly prohibited. And a lawsuit due to proceed to trial involving a former University of Pittsburgh professor and a research assistant in his lab reads like one heck of a cautionary tale.
Tianyi Wang, former associate professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, is suing his former research assistant, Aram Lee, for invasion of privacy, fraud and defamation, among other counts, in a U.S. district court in Pennsylvania. Wang alleges that Lee attempted to sabotage his career and relationships with his family and colleagues, in part by sharing a sexually explicit photo in a mass email and requesting that he be served with a petition for a restraining order during an out-of-state interview.
Lee and Wang began dating in 2012, court documents show. Wang was married to someone else and Pittsburgh had a policy against professor-student sexual relationships when the professor is teaching or evaluating the work or research of the student. Both denied the affair when initially confronted about it by their department chair in the middle of that year. In late 2012, Lee said she was pregnant with twins and moved to Washington State, where some of her family members lived. Wang helped her move and sent her money and gifts, according to the suit.
Lee could not be reached for comment, and her lawyer, Frederick Frank, did not return a request for comment.
Moskal declined to comment on his client’s current employment status.