I am a fresh medical graduate. I worked with a professor who harassed me sexually. Unfortunately, I was afraid to talk and also a little bit confused because I was an international visiting student at that time. I did a great job in his lab before he did that. He wrote for me a great letter of recommendation at that time. After he started to be unprofessional, I decided to leave his lab.

Since then, I was surprised that he published the preliminary results of the research as conference abstracts without putting my name as a co-author. However, he stated that I am an author in the recommendation letter, formulated the primary draft and helped in the lab experiments, data collection, and statistical analysis as well. I sent him an email to ask him about the papers’ progress but he did not reply.

My question is: Now I want to apply for a research fellowship and I am going to use his letter of recommendation. But he wrote my last name as my father's name, not the family name that I usually use in my applications. I do not feel comfortable to send him an email. I do not know if it will be a problem if there is a difference between my last name in the application and what he wrote. I also feel so bad when I found him published the papers in an international conference without mentioning my name and feel worse for not reporting him, deleting the message, and moving on to another lab.

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    As someone with 4 names (2 first, 2 last, no hyphens - thank the Portuguese tradition for that), I would say that people are in academia are fairly familiar with naming problems. I don't think anyone will think that letter isn't about you. That's my "answer" for the easy question. Nov 4, 2017 at 17:50
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    Which messages do you mean by "deleting the message" ?
    – The Onin
    Nov 5, 2017 at 7:40
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    What country or what part of the world? Nov 5, 2017 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


I am sorry for your experience. Regarding the naming issue, I think that it is alright and no one will comment about it. You do not have to email that person again.

Regarding the publication, You should not be silent. It is an authorship dispute. If he published them in a peer-reviewed journal. Email the editor in chief all the documents, the LOR that indicate your role. You do not have to be silent if he stole your work. He is abuser and thief and that it should not be acceptable in academia. Stay safe and strong. You are not wrong. He is the jerk.

  • I agree with this answer. In addition, keep as proof any initial draft or email exchanges you had with him. As well as your own data and notes.
    – electrique
    Nov 6, 2017 at 17:36

Sounds like he has behaved unprofessionally more than once. The sexual harassment needs taking to the top, as this should be seen as an abuse of his position. It may have happened with others, too, so authorities ought to be informed.

As far as the paper is concerned, he is falsely claiming it as his own work, so is being unprofessional here too. Again, go to the top, with proof. Also go to the people he has shown it to, and explain that maybe he has forgotten to include recognition of your involvement, again with proof. Again, this may not be the first time he has purloined other people's work.


This is a partial answer, intended to complement the other answers. This answer is specific to the U.S.

If I understood you correctly, the abusive professor sent you an incriminating email message, which you deleted. But I think all university email messages must be backed up somewhere. So, if you wish to report the incident(s), I think you can still do so, even if you didn't retain a copy.

Even if I imagine a worst case scenario, in which the university IT department is unable to retrieve the incriminating message(s), I can still think of ways it might be productive to report what happened. It might help prevent this individual from behaving this way with others. It might be constructive for you personally, since after a traumatic experience, it can be helpful to take action. Also, since many universities' Title IX procedures are new enough that it can be constructive to put the university through its Title IX paces. Finally, my wish for you is that by reading about your options, and perhaps deciding to file a complaint, you'll have more confidence as a woman doctor going forward, and in myriad ways (both explicit and subtle), will communicate this self-confidence to the women you encounter in your life -- medical students, pre-med students, colleagues, and patients.

Here is a resource that may be helpful: https://www.knowyourix.org.

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    "But I think all university email messages must be backed up somewhere": Generally, I very doubt so. Moreover, you seem to assume US, but the OP didn't specify a country. Nov 5, 2017 at 14:29
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    I think all university email messages must be backed up somewhere — Keeping long-term email backups may be legally required at US public universities, to comply with laws like FOIA and the Open Meetings Act. But that legal requirement may be limited only to administrators (dept chairs and above), not to arbitrary faculty or students. Consult your lawyer.
    – JeffE
    Nov 5, 2017 at 20:02
  • I'm confused — where in the question is anything about deleted message? It says there was no response.
    – JDługosz
    Nov 6, 2017 at 14:34
  • @JDługosz "[I] feel worse for not reporting him, deleting the message" - final sentence in the question.
    – JBentley
    Nov 6, 2017 at 18:19
  • The writing is not clear, but I take it that was a mail the OP sent (drafted but reconsidered and did not send) to report this when it happened. What is clear is «but he did not reply» and «I do not feel comfortable to send him an email.» so in any case, it's not an incriminating incoming message from the professor.
    – JDługosz
    Nov 6, 2017 at 18:27

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