In recent years, 31-year-old Greek Eleni Antoniadou has been praised for her scientific work in her home country and abroad. She gained fame as a NASA researcher, astronaut trainer, an expert in regenerative medicine and producer of innovative artificial organs. Toy manufacturer Mattel even named a Barbie doll from their ‘Sheroes’ series after her. Colleagues from the Greek academic world now state that Antoniadou was very creative with the truth about her professional and scientific achievements.
For years, Eleni Antoniadou has been giving interviews in which she presents herself as a leading scientist with a, particularly impressive track record. Greek media call her a “Greek scientist of international caliber.” Forbes Magazine placed her in its list of the most successful 30-year-olds in health care. In 2013 she became ‘Woman of the Year’ at the British FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards. In 2012, she would have received the NASA-ESA award for best researcher and was president of the European Health Parliament. And Mattel created a Barbie modeled on the woman as part of their ‘Sheroes’ series, in honor of Barbie’s 60th birthday. But no one seems to have taken the trouble in recent years to fleece out whether the woman was who she claimed to be.
The turning point came earlier this month when Niki Kerameus, the Greek Minister of Education, presented Antoniadou with an award for her scientific work at a private event. On Facebook, Kerameus posted a picture of the event with a quote from Antoniadou: “You can become what you want.”
Costas Bouyioukos, a Greek professor of Bioinformatics who teaches at Paris-Diderot University in France, then decided to do some research online about this young woman who has already achieved so much. He noted that Antoniadou had never worked for NASA, but only followed an eight-week training program with the space agency. “She’s not even fit to be called a scientist for most people,” he wrote in a Facebook message that went viral.
His findings caused a stir among Greek scientists. Among others, Greek Hoaxes, an organization dedicated to unveiling fake news, looked into the matter.
According to Greek Hoaxes, Antoniadou has greatly exaggerated her achievements. For example, the woman claims to have worked on the first artificial trachea that was successfully implanted in a patient. She is said to have saved the patient’s life and to have told him how, thanks to her, he can now live a normal life. In reality, however, at the time the woman was only a student at University College in London and was only involved in the operation from a distance. Besides, the patient died afterward because his body refused to accept the implant.
Her claim that she worked for NASA as a researcher for many years also turns out to be incorrect. She only attended a ten-week training course and had a lot of pictures taken of herself in NASA clothing. NASA denies that the woman worked directly for them, but does not rule out that a subcontractor may have hired her.
Antoniadou claims she has a Ph.D., but in reality she has two master,s degrees. The woman also states that she is a successful entrepreneur and a CEO of Transplants without Donors, a company that makes artificial implants. But, as Greek Hoaxes noted, her company is nowhere, and the internet domain name is inactive.
Moreover, the NASA-ESA Outstanding Researcher Award does not exist, and Antoniadou’s name does not appear in the list of people who have won an award from NASA.
Amid all the commotion, Eleni Antoniadou posted a photo on Facebook on Tuesday of an award she would have received from NASA. “I learn every day by participating in simple or more complex projects, such as the AI project (artificial intelligence, ed.) at NASA in which I am currently involved,” she wrote. “It was not my intention to compete with academics or to compare my first steps into science as a new researcher with people who have been working for decades. At the end of the day, it’s important to work together, by helping the people around you to move forward, not to take a step down.”
For the time being, however, the woman refuses any further comments.