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Yiheng Percival Zhang, former Virginia Tech professor guilty of research fraud

February 25, 2019

A federal judge has found a former Virginia Tech professor guilty of defrauding the federal government by applying for grants to conduct research that he’d actually already completed in China.

Yiheng Percival Zhang, 47, had won $600,000 in small business grants from the Energy Department and the National Science Foundation to perform work under his startup firm, Cell-Free Bioinnovations.

The proposals were, in fact, for research Zhang had previously conducted in China, where he had been a paid researcher for the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, according to the Justice Department.

Chief Judge Michael F. Urbanski in the Western District of Virginia found Zhang guilty last week of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, three counts of making false statements, and one count of obstruction by falsification.

Zhang has yet to be sentenced.

He was a member of Virginia Tech’s department of biological engineering who specializes in artificial sweeteners.

Calls and emails to the Justice Department, the National Science Foundation’s inspector general office and Virginia Tech were not immediately returned.