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Astrophysicist dismissed for bullying

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) has dismissed Italian astrophysicist Marcella Carollo, who in 2017 was accused of bullying PhD students. It is the first time in the institution’s 164-year history that it has dismissed a professor. Allegations from a dozen astrophysics students and alumni described how Carollo humiliated them and subjected them to emotional pressure, including demanding that they work on weekends, attend evening meetings, and publish a large number of scientific articles—as a result, one-third of her students failed to graduate. An independent investigation conducted by ETH Zurich found her guilty of bullying and recommended she resign.

The astrophysicist denies the charge, arguing that pressure is natural at a world-class research institution and accusing ETH of gender discrimination, since most of her colleagues are male. Carollo specializes in the formation and evolution of galaxies, and was one of the founders of the ETH Zurich Institute of Astrophysics in 2002, which was dissolved in 2017 when the first complaints against her were made. The Swiss university acknowledged that its anti-bullying procedures failed and has promised to make changes to prevent such cases from recurring, such as improving its ombudsman and ensuring that all new PhD students have at least two advisors.

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