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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Controversial Wash U Prof Jonathan Katz Cut Loose From Gulf Oil Spill Relief

Posted By on Wed, May 19, 2010 at 10:10 AM

Jonathan Katz
  • Jonathan Katz
Well that didn't take long.

Yesterday Daily RFT covered the White House's controversial appointment of Jonathan Katz, a physics professor at Washington University in St. Louis, to a team of five scientists asked to help the Department of Energy and BP stem the flow of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

In personal writings on his Wash U webpage, Katz blamed AIDS deaths around the globe on homosexuality, described himself as a "proud homophobe," and said that, "global warming is probably good for humanity."

This morning Katz got canned.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports:
The U.S. Department of Energy emailed us the following statement:

"Dr. Chu (the U.S. Energy Secretary) has spoken with dozens of scientists and engineers as part of his work to help find solutions to stop the oil spill. Some of Professor Katz's controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill.

Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department's efforts." - Stephanie Mueller, Press Secretary, US Department of Energy
Katz specializes in astrophysics and had no experience with underwater drilling or environmental disasters. One publication described him as the "What Am I Doing Here Guy" on the Department of Energy's team.

Speaking to the St. Louis Beacon, Katz himself expressed surprise at his appointment.

"It's often a matter of someone who knows someone who knows someone who makes a recommendation," Katz said. "My long-term academic work would obviously be irrelevant to this. I'm not a petroleum engineer by any means. I'm not an engineer at all.I'm a professor of physics. My degrees are in astronomy and space science, but I've done a lot of applied physics work for quite a number of organizations over the years, and someone must have thought I had something to offer. "

Katz full-time employer has also gone into damage control mode since his personal beliefs have been cast into the spotlight.

Washington University issued a statement on Katz that reads:
The views and opinions expressed by Professor Jonathan Katz on his personal Web page are his personal statements and do not represent the opinion of Washington University. Professor Katz clearly states this important distinction on his page, and he has the right to express opinion in this context and under these conditions. As long as Professor Katz does not use his University-conferred authority in matters related to students (grading, recommending, mentoring, etc.) to reward those who share his views or punish those who do not, and does not otherwise participate in any discriminatory activity that would violate the university's antidiscrimination policy, he has a right to free speech to express his opinions under the Web page policy of the university.
The BND has the full statement. Read it here.

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