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UCLA Whistleblower Calls For State Investigation

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UCLA Whistleblower Calls For State Investigation

Longtime professor says he faced unrelenting retaliation and racism at School of Dentistry after standing up for scientific integrity and student welfare

After a long and celebrated tenure at UCLA’s School of Dentistry, Dr. Eric Kang Ting’s departure from the university did not play out the way he always imagined it would happen.

“I gave 26 years of my life to the university and my students,” said Dr. Eric Kang Ting, who is executive director and a founding board member for the International Orthodontics Foundation. “My research was making a difference in people’s lives, and I enjoyed mentoring residents to make sure they were prepared to be the best orthodontists in their field. I always assumed I would be at UCLA until I retired.” Former residents from the UCLA School of Dentistry say Dr. Ting built one of the top Orthodontic programs in the country while serving as the Chair of UCLA Orthodontics from 2003-2019.

After 26 years of groundbreaking achievements and universal accolades, Dr. Eric Kang Ting says he faced unrelenting retaliation by the UCLA School of Dentistry for daring to speak up about scientific misconduct, sexual harassment and racial discrimination at the university.

“For me, Dr. Ting brought a lot of value to the program,” said a former resident who graduated from the UCLA School of Dentistry in June 2022. “He was one of the reasons I applied to UCLA.”

We spoke with several former residents who verified that they attended UCLA during Dr. Ting’s tenure, but all of them asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from the university.

“I had positive experiences with Dr. Ting. He was the whole reason I went to that program,” said another former UCLA resident who graduated in 2021. “He pushed you to achieve your best and was going to make you work as hard as you could.  He had also been in the field for many years, pushing the cutting edge of technologies, so it felt like a place where you could grow as an orthodontist. I was looking for somewhere where I could get pushed.”

Besides pushing his residents to excel, Dr. Ting also pushed himself to find better solutions to help patients grow bone. He was motivated by his longstanding work with craniofacial patients who often need painful bone grafting procedures to obtain adequate bone for craniofacial reconstructive surgery. This led to his discovery of the NELL-1 protein, which has a powerful effect on tissue-specific stem cells that create bone-building cells. Alongside his wife, Dr. Chia Soo, a UCLA professor with a specialty in plastic and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Ting collaborated with NASA and CASIS to send mice to space to test the efficacy of NELL-1 as a bone growing therapy to prevent bone loss in space and to help patients needing bone growth on Earth.

Dr. Eric Kang Ting and his wife, Dr. Chia Soo, led a team of researchers to study a key bone-growing protein in conjunction with NASA aboard the International Space Station.

FIRST SIGNS OF TROUBLE

Despite his internationally recognized achievements and loyalty to the university, Dr. Ting said he felt compelled to speak up when he started noticing troubling issues within the School of Dentistry. He said it was his duty to notify the school administration to protect the integrity of the program he had worked so hard to build.

Beginning in May of 2016, Dr. Ting raised concerns to UCLA’s vice chancellor regarding unethical behavior by an associate dean and his colleagues involved in research tied to more than $30 million worth of grants from the National Institutes of Health.

“It all started when I recognized repeated scientific errors in multiple NIH-sponsored research projects by the deans and their circle in the dental school,” said Dr. Ting. “I felt it was important to report errors in the data, which had clearly been manipulated to reach the desired outcome of the experiment.”

In a formal complaint Dr. Ting filed in November 2018, he outlined instances of data manipulation and scientific malfeasance within the School of Dentistry.

“University administrators knew I was right about the findings,” said Dr. Ting, “but they didn’t want to lose the grants associated with the research, so they tried to write off the mistakes as unfortunate errors rather than the purposeful manipulation that it was.”

Not long after Dr. Ting reported the misconduct, he says university officials started retaliating against him. Dr. Ting says the Dean of the School of Dentistry, Paul Krebsbach, who was involved in the research sent to the publications and the grants tied to them, forced him to step down as chair of the Orthodontics section that he so painstakingly built to national prominence.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS

After Dr. Ting’s first whistleblower complaints about scientific misconduct but before his removal from his position as chair of the department, one of his residents reported to Dr. Ting that an associate dean at the School of Dentistry had sexually harassed her and began pressuring her to bear false witness against Dr. Ting.

In a lawsuit against the UCLA Board of Regents, the resident says she went to the associate dean to address issues she was having with her research project. The resident says the associate dean asked her to meet him in his office, and instead of addressing her research project, he asked if Dr. Ting had ever sexually harassed her, all while sitting uncomfortably close to her and trying to rub her back. The resident told the associate dean that Dr. Ting had never harassed her. Then, the resident said that the associate dean insisted she forward all of the emails she had ever exchanged with Ting, and she says she complied, so that she could get away from the uncomfortable situation.

In the lawsuit, the resident said the associate dean asked to have a second meeting in his office, and the resident claimed he closed and locked all of the doors that led to his office, a violation of the school’s policy. During the meeting, the resident said the associate dean pressured her to file a sexual harassment complaint against Dr. Ting to Title IX officials based on what he had read in her emails. When she refused, the associate dean told her that he had already sent the emails to Title IX officials. At that point, the resident said the associate dean sexually harassed her in his office in ways that she still has difficulty talking about due to the pain and trauma she says she has suffered.

A few weeks later, the resident received a letter from the Title IX office, stating that a sexual harassment complaint had been filed against Dr. Ting on her behalf. When she tried to clear up the confusion with Title IX officials, they dismissed her attempts, so she filed a separate sexual harassment complaint against the associate dean. When Title IX officials failed to act on her complaint, she filed a lawsuit.

The resident says she faced retaliation after filing her lawsuit and that her PHD was held up by university officials until Dr. Ting and Dr. Soo and their colleagues helped her get through the review process to graduate in 2019.

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

Along with repeated investigations into what Dr. Ting calls “bogus claims” as a way to retaliate against him for being a whistleblower, Dr. Ting says that he and some of the international residents also faced racial discrimination.

He pointed to delays in the renewal of his work visa following his formal whistleblower complaint against an associate dean as well as racially tinged remarks from faculty.

“When I went to discuss the issues about my visa with two members of the interim chair committee, who were appointed by the chancellor’s office,  and asked why it was taking so long, one of them told me, ‘you know there is a problem with Chinese professors stealing technology’, and when I told them I was not from China and that I was Taiwanese, the other one said, ‘we’re a little shy on geography and history.’” 

Dr. Ting documented the incident in an email to university officials, and a longtime staff member at UCLA, who asked not to be named in this story for fear of retaliation, confirmed that she was at that meeting and heard the same statements documented by Dr. Ting.

UCLA LAUNCHES ANOTHER INVESTIGATION

After years of being harassed and persecuted for speaking up about what he felt was improper and inappropriate behavior by other faculty, Dr. Ting says university administrators then launched an investigation into an allegation that had already been proven false years earlier in a further attempt to  silence him.

“UCLA bought and paid for an investigation by a legal firm with whom they have financial ties to reach a conclusion that was already decided before the investigation began,” claimed Dr. Soo. “They wanted Eric out.”

A legal battle has since ensued over the release of the investigation. Although the law firm claimed to have reviewed emails and associated documents as well as interviewing professors, faculty, administrators and current and former students, the witnesses were never disclosed to Dr. Ting, he was not allowed to cross-examine them, and the final testimony reported was highly redacted.

In the lawsuit surrounding the potential release of the report in question, Dr. Ting’s attorney, Doug Mirell, testified under oath in October 2019 that, “[the law firm’s refusal to provide documents or to identify witnesses violated Petitioner’s fundamental due process rights.”

Although the report remains sealed as of this writing, sources told the Los Angeles Times last August that three professors, named only as John Does in the report, had allegedly solicited international postgraduate students for unauthorized fees from which the professors would receive compensation.

Dr. Ting and the other professors deny receiving or soliciting unauthorized fees from international residents, and Dr. Ting provided a series of emails that shows the university’s involvement in and approval of the gift fund which was referenced in the report.

Dr. Ting also stressed that every financial transaction into and out of profit-sharing programs at the university is tracked, proving that he received no illegal or improper funds.

The attorneys for the three John Does named in the report released a statement to the L.A. Times in August, saying, “Our clients vehemently deny the meritless accusations made in the Hueston Hennigan report. As we have stated repeatedly in public court filings, we believe our clients’ rights to due process were violated during the course of the investigation. We question the pretexts under which it was launched, the way in which it was conducted, and the reasons why it has now been leaked, especially since the UCLA administration knows well that a truly independent and transparent investigation would have shown that the accusations were entirely unfounded.”

When questioned about the report, a UCLA spokesman told the L.A. Times last August, “Upholding UCLA’s values of transparency, integrity and accountability, we engaged an external firm in 2018 to examine past use of the clinical training program at the Section of Orthodontics and have taken several steps to ensure improved adherence to School of Dentistry and university policies” and that “Due to privacy concerns and pending litigation, we aren’t able to comment further.”

DR. TING FIGHTS BACK

By the summer of 2020, Dr. Ting says he was suffering from stress-induced health issues like ulcers and insomnia caused by the school’s actions towards him. When he took a leave of absence to care for his ailing father in Taiwan, Dr. Ting says an alleged “campaign of abusive conduct” by school officials only intensified.

In July 2020, Dr. Ting filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging employment discrimination, unlawful harassment and retaliation by administration officials in response to Dr. Ting’s actions as a whistleblower. The defendants in the lawsuit included the Regents of the University of California and UCLA as well as the Dean of the School of Dentistry, Paul Krebsbach, and four other professors who had served as interim replacements for Dr. Ting.

In the lawsuit, Dr. Ting’s attorney said UCLA and the other defendant “…subjected  Dr. Ting to a number of meritless ‘audits’ and ‘investigations’ in an effort to punish him into silence and drive him out of the University. On the basis of anonymous and false accusations, Defendants have disrupted Dr. Ting’s work and research with a never-ending parade of inquiries. These investigations have ultimately led nowhere and—to date—have resulted in Dr. Ting being exonerated from any wrongdoing.”

RELENTLESS RETALIATION

After years of what Dr. Ting believes was relentless retaliation on the part of UCLA officials, all three John Does settled with the university and left the school.

In a declaration as John Doe in the legal case surrounding the report, Dr. Ting stated, “Charges against me did not proceed beyond the initial investigative stage. On about November 2, 2020, Petitioner and Respondent entered into a final written Settlement Agreement, whereby all charges against Petitioner were withdrawn and dismissed imposing no discipline upon Petitioner.”

“It is clear to me that UCLA created and paid a lot of money for a predetermined investigative outcome based on false allegations to continue to retaliate against my husband,” said Dr. Soo. “There’s no other way to look at what happened and come away with a different conclusion.”

ATMOSPHERE OF FEAR: DON’T ASK QUESTIONS

After Dr. Ting left the department, the residents who had enrolled at UCLA to study under the well-respected professors were surprised about the abrupt change in direction and wanted answers. A meeting was called by the dean to make an announcement to all of the residents at the School of Dentistry.

“I was at the announcement in the auditorium,” said a former resident in orthodontics at UCLA. “Residents were really angry and sad at the meeting.”

“The interim chair and Dean Krebsbach told us that Dr. Ting had done bad things and was under investigation,” said another former resident who was also in the auditorium.

Residents continued to ask questions about Dr. Ting after the announcement, but some started to experience pushback from the administration.

“There were times when they said there would be consequences if we spoke in favor of Dr. Ting and Dr. Moon,” said a former international resident.

“Nobody really talked about Dr. Ting anymore,” said the former resident who graduated in 2022. “We were scared to talk about it because of fear of retaliation.”

The resident remembers a Zoom meeting where a fellow resident spoke up about Dr. Ting as well as the inadequacy of the school’s COVID protocols, when several others perceived that interim leaders were threatening her chances of graduating.

The resident was told to “focus on her future and not all that other stuff,” said an orthodontics resident who was also at the Zoom meeting. “It discouraged us from asking any more questions about it.”

After the meeting, “we didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves,” said the former resident who graduated in 2022.

CALL TO ACTION

Dr. Ting believes he was the target of retaliation by UCLA school administrators for being a whistleblower and because he is Asian.

“I never set out to be a whistleblower, but I did what I thought was right and paid a heavy price,” said Dr. Ting, “I hope my personal experiences in encountering racial prejudice, my track record in combating university’s issues with equity, diversion and inclusion by positively transforming the structure and culture of my division, and my outreach efforts in the community have demonstrated my life-long commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion”.

Dr. Ting says the kind of racial discrimination that he and his former residents faced is also indicative of a larger problem at the university.

“This is bigger than me,” said Dr. Ting.  “Look at all of the school’s departments,” said Dr. Ting. “Out of 13 possible dean positions, there is only one Asian dean, of Indian descent. That’s disappointing in 2022 given all of the qualified candidates who have applied for those positions.”

Dr. Ting says he is trying to raise awareness of the ongoing problems at the UCLA School of Dentistry, all of which have continued since his departure. While he seeks to improve equity and inclusion at UCLA, Dr. Ting also wants vindication for his actions and to prove that he is the victim of retaliation for being a whistleblower. “I demand a new independent investigation that is fair and transparent,” said Dr. Ting, “so that I can have a proper hearing on the false allegations against me.”

Disclaimer: Contents and opinions in this article are not Founder Courier’s. We only provide a voice to sources in our community.

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Adjusting Your Creative Output With Dylan Sesco

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Adjusting Your Creative Output With Dylan Sesco

Some people manifest their dreams, but very seldom does it pan out the way they wanted or imagined.

Dylan Sesco wanted to work on music. It started with wanting to lipsync Snoop Dogg for a school talent show, then writing his own lyrics in 6th grade.

“Oh it was bad. Really bad.”

Eventually with the accessibility of computers and programs, Dylan started making his own hip-hop beats. No longer did you need 10,000 dollars worth of studio equipment, you just needed a simple laptop. After that, a camera to start making music videos.

That led to working on projects with friends, which led to a crew of artists, which led to forming his own small label called Vertlife Entertainment with friend and fellow artist Flax.

Dylan Sesco was driven by production and crafting a brand, but still had the itch to make his own music as well. Jumping from executive producing to video production to rapper in the same session, he created an eclectic style of hip-hop based music with a stable of talent including Seaz, Ave, ItsRucka, Epacenter, Neto V and more.

Dylan Sesco

You may not know those names. Infact, you probably don’t. The label didn’t amount to much.

“It still hurts sometimes. We never made it big, but I cherish those times and the art we created.”

After struggling for years, Dylan Sesco would be in his rented studio alone until the sun came up working on music that mostly never saw the light of day. He released multiple solo projects featuring all his friends, hoping it would motivate them to work as hard as he was.

It just didn’t happen. Everyone had their own lives, and this was viewed as a hobby. But not to Dylan Sesco.

The frustration led to a creative pivot. Dylan was already well versed in video production. He was the in-house video producer as well as head of the label, producer and rapper. From various music video freelance work to small documentary work, this was another passion that he had almost ignored.

In 2016, he went all in and started a new Youtube channel: The Somethin’ Or Other Tour.

Dylan Sesco (and his brother Cole) started exploring history, going to football games, and visiting pop-up museums.

“I just wanted to do something positive and motivate people to see the world. We lost a lot of peers to violence, drugs and prison. I wanted people that otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to discover the cool things the world has to offer.”

The idea that started as a hip-hop travel show has blossomed into a small time show with big time aspirations. An adventure, travel, experience show that touches on any topic you can think of.

Dylan says it has been the most rewarding creative outlet of his life. He thought his dream was music, but letting go of the stubbornness let him find his true passion. Things don’t always go as planned.

The Somethin’ Or Other Tour, or SOOT.tv, has been featured on the nightly news, ESPN, and even in a french high school textbook.

The viewership is not huge, it’s not a famous channel, but the content has depth that has touched people.

“I get so many kind words. Teachers that show my videos to their kids, people that haven’t been able to travel themselves, things like that. It feels good to be able to provide something, as little as it may be.”

“Letting go of my other dream was difficult, but necessary. It worked out. I am so much happier now.”

Dylan Sesco

Let this be a lesson that sometimes our dreams aren’t set in stone, and there may be a separate, or adjacent goal that will fulfill you just the same, or even more.

You can learn more about Dylan Sesco and The Somethin’ Or Other Tour on Youtube at http://soot.tv.

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Epic Copycat: MEMS Company Found Guilty of Infringement amidst Global Conference

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Epic Copycat: MEMS Company Found Guilty of Infringement amidst Global Conference

The much-admired International Workshop on Acoustic Wave Devices for Future Communication recently took place after the pandemic. Needless to say, it went successfully and attracted many acclaimed industry experts and academic professionals. ‘Awareness about IP protection’ was one of the hot topics that were discussed at the conference.

However, things took an interesting turn when an announcement of a product originated from EPIC MEMES came under debate.

The proven copycat, EPIC MEMS, announced its self-reliance in research and development after the conference concluded. The company president proclaimed that the company has successfully developed the ‘FBAR technology.’ However, he forgot to mention the original developer Broadcom Inc., from whom they’d stolen the technology.

Dr. Rich Ruby, director of technology (FBAR & orthogonal markets) at Broadcom, made the case for his company. He shed light on how his company has acquired and developed the technology and presented solid evidence of the FBAR infringement.“I wish that I or Broadcom employees had thought of substituting Sc for Al atoms in the unit cell (and patented it),” explained Dr. Ruby. He then described how the process of patents works in the industry.  “You get protection from others simply copying (or stealing) your IP and avoiding any innovation or research cost,” he clarified his stance.

Dr. Rich Ruby is a renowned name in the industry and has won several accolades for his contributions. He is well-known for his participation in the packaging of FBAR filters and duplexers as well as his development efforts for acoustic properties and manufacturability. He rose to fame in 2001–2003 when he universalized the first FBAR duplexers HPMD7901 and the 7904 back in 2001–2003.

For his work on FBAR technology, he has received the CB Sawyer Award, the Bill Hewlett Award, and the Barney Oliver Prize. He’s also the recipient of the IAP Prize for “Industrial Applications of Physics.” Over the years, he has given numerous invited papers and has registered around 80 patents.

Dr. Ruby was an Agilent Fellow in 2002 and later took over the directorial role at Broadcom. He expounded how the copycat, EPIC MEMES stole the FBAR technology developed by American Semiconductor manufacturing company Broadcom and did the copyright infringement.

According to Dr. Rich Ruby, “Broadcom FBAR IP was stolen around 2008/9. This stolen IP now has found its way into many Handset manufacturers, and we are aware of this.” To support his claim, he exhibited a photo example of the copycat FBAR 41 filter and said, “[It] looks almost identical to our product and uses many of the inventions we developed and patented.”

(Photo: Dr. Rich Ruby’s Panel at the 2022 International Workshop on Acoustic Wave Devices for Future Communication)

The photo proved to industry experts that Broadcom has developed the technology. The comparison made by DR. Ruby clearly indicated that the copycat company, EPIC MEMES has infringed the FBAR technology. From the cap-opened EPIC MEMS EP7041 filter chip, anyone can conclude that EPIC MEMES is using the technology from Broadcom.

Multiple research labs have unveiled this IP infringement with solid evidence after the conference. Dr. Ruby cautioned that brands who are using filter chips with infringed IPs may have to face the consequences. According to him, their reputation will be stained and the consequences may lead to market withdrawals. Brands may have to withdraw devices like pad computers and smartphones from markets which have infringed Broadcom patent chips.

(Photo: Comparison between Broadcom FBAR and EPIC MEMS FBAR)

The notion of a lawsuit against such companies is an interesting development. It has been observed that Samsung has obtained the problematic filter chips and they’ve been delivered to the market.

But the most surprising thing is perhaps the announcement made by the copycat EPIC MEMES. In response to Dr. Ruby’s panel, the company has rejected the claim. The Epic MEMES statement “we took (the) initiative designed and developed the technology” appears to be carefree and unworried. It is as if the copycat is challenging, “catch me if you can.”

Disclaimer: Contents and opinions in this article are not Founder Courier’s. We only provide a voice to sources in our community.

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What is Positive Psychology?

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For clinical psychologists, education and training have been centered on treating mental disorders to help people achieve symptom relief and return to “normal functioning. This is valuable and necessary work. It starts to feel overly focused on negative aspects of a client’s life. Would it be great to flourish rather than feel normal? What’s normal anyway?

A new field, referred to as positive psychology, was developed in response to the need for a broader focus. So, what is it exactly?

Positive psychology is a subfield of psychology that studies and promotes the positive aspects of human life, such as the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. More specifically, it focuses on what makes life meaningful and worth living, particularly on topics like happiness, well-being, life satisfaction, gratitude, optimism, character strengths, flourishing, and human potential.

The field of positive psychology was founded in 1998 by American psychologist Martin Seligman (now known as the “father of positive psychology”) during his term as president of the American Psychological Association. At the time, Seligman was frustrated with psychology’s primary emphasis on understanding and treating the negative aspects of the human experience, such as mental illness, suffering, dysfunctional behavior, trauma, and pain. For this reason, he decided to make positive psychology the theme of his presidential term.

Other psychologists have emerged as leaders of the movement with their unique contributions, including Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Christopher Peterson, and Barbara Fredrickson. From these co-initiators, we now have compelling research on concepts such as flow, character strengths, the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, and many more. We are thrilled to be able to share them with you so that you can thrive, too.

Advantages of Positive Psychology 

Many studies encourage the workings of psychology. These include but aren’t restricted to: 

  • The ability of a cheerful disposition to cultivate the expertise of a happier mood. This isn’t only to say that putting on a happy face will lead to feelings of enjoyment. Instead, they will start to exploit a deeper relationship together. 
  • Easy and tiny actions can have the most significant effect on mood. By way of instance, if somebody generates a custom of keeping track of all the things they’re thankful for, they can subsequently experience more minutes of happiness and pleasure since they’re “priming” their heads to be receptive to these encounters. 
  • We’re resilient. Positive psychology contributes to the story as individuals are invited to concentrate on their strengths. Limited time is spent ruminating on our shortcomings or failures. By coming to us in this manner, we realize that we’re far more powerful than we give our credit for. This self-love creates a cycle of positive thinking in which people become better equipped to deal with compassion, kindness, and understanding. 

Positive psychology is popular and attempts to bring out the best within a person or group. For example, someone could pursue an extraordinary life, participate in life, have a purposeful life, or attain life using positive psychology. Positive psychology impacts supporting mental illness, being joyful, attracting well-being, and decreasing anxiety, depression, and anxiety during positive ideas. Positive psychology is the study of this “great Life”, or even the positive facets of the human experience which make life worth living. As an artwork, it targets both individual and social well-being.

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