Former student sues for emotional distress

Fall 2005
Mazdak Taghioskoui joined the Chemistry Master’s Program as an Iranian student with academic adviser Akbar Montaser, who promised full financial assistance. Taghioskoui never received full financial assistance.

April 2007
Taghioskoui was admitted to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department’s Ph.D. program.

Late 2007
Montaser’s behavior became erratic and concerning, including inappropriate emails and demeaning language about Taghioskoui to other faculty.

April 2008 to January 2010
Montaser placed on administrative leave after threatening to punch Executive Vice President Lou Katz.

Summer 2008
Taghioskoui returned to Iran after suicidal thoughts caused by Montaser’s behavior. Taghioskoui fell into a state of depression.

February 2010
Taghioskoui discovered Montaser filed for a patent on one of Taghioskoui’s work, listing Montaser as the sole inventor. The University took no action following Taghioskoui’s complaints.

Spring 2011
Taghioskoui’s tried to change academic advisers but was told he would not receive his Ph.D. if he switched advisers.

June 2011
Taghioskoui discovered Montaser took credit for his work on another patent application. The University took no action against Montaser following Taghioskoui’s complaints.

January 2012
Montaser presents Taghioskoui’s research at the Winter Conference with the Office of the Vice President for Research without Taghioskoui’s consent and following a complaint by Taghioskoui.

April 2012
Taghioskoui reported
Montaser’s allegedly manipulative actions and false financial promises to the University.

A former student is suing GW for $1 million, alleging his academic adviser plagiarized his work and caused him enough emotional distress to become suicidal.

Mazdak Taghioskoui alleged in a complaint filed in D.C. Superior Court this month that professor Akbar Montaser applied for patents using his work while he was in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Ph.D. program. He said his relationship with the professor first turned sour in 2005, when he reported erratic behavior like “bizarre, inappropriate emails” and “demeaning language.”

Over the next three years, he suffered “such mental anguish” that he became suicidal, seeking help from GW’s suicide hotline and mental health services starting in 2008, according to the complaint. He said he became “extremely depressed.”

Taghioskoui, a 31-year-old from Iran, began working with Montaser when he enrolled in the chemistry master’s program in 2005, according to the documents. He met Montaser through mutual friends at the Sharif University of Technology in Iran, when the professor promised Taghioskoui full financial aid at GW.

The former student was required to work 20 hours a week to receive financial aid but was not given a full scholarship.

After earning his master’s degree, Taghioskoui enrolled as a Ph.D. candidate in 2007 and took on Montaser as his Ph.D. adviser. Montaser allegedly verbally abused Taghioskoui over the phone on weekends and early mornings and sent false and humiliating emails to faculty members about the student. Montaser also allegedly asked Taghioskoui to borrow money and a car, among several other personal requests.

Montaser was placed on administrative leave from April 2008 to January 2010, after threatening to punch Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz in the face, according to the complaint. During the professor’s absence, Taghioskoui alleged, the University failed to assist or communicate with him regarding graduation requirements, causing a delay.

The documents also note that Montaser’s wife contacted Taghioskoui during the absence to inform him that Montaser thought his wife was going to poison him.

Taghioskoui chronicled three counts of plagiarism after Montaser returned, ranging from February 2010 to January 2012. In the first two incidents, Montaser allegedly filed patent applications for two of Taghioskoui’s works. This year, he presented Taghioskoui’s research at a conference held by the Office of the Vice President for Research, according to the documents.

The former student claimed he notified “multiple GWU faculty and administrators” of the plagiarized work in all three scenarios, but the University repeatedly refused to investigate, leaving Taghioskoui “to suffer harm to both his academic and his business prospects.”

Taghioskoui allegedly attempted to switch academic advisers in spring 2011, but was told to drop out if he wanted to switch advisers.

Montaser also allegedly told Taghioskoui his language skills were not up to par and he “would not be able to succeed in life,” according to the documents.

The $1 million in damages would compensate for GW’s and Montaser’s negligence and Taghioskoui’s emotional distress.

“GWU’s actions were made in bad faith and with malicious intent,” the complaint reads.

Montaser declined to comment on the complaint.

When asked about the professor-student relationship and the lawsuit, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard declined to comment, because the litigation is pending.

Taghioskoui’s attorney, James Bailey, did not return a request for comment.

The court ordered the University to respond to the complaint by Sept. 24.

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