Martin Nowak, a professor of biology and mathematics who led Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics (PED), is barred from starting new research or advising students for at least two years.
Nowak will still be allowed to teach during that period, but other contact with students will be limited and his research center is being shut down, according to a memo from Claudine Gay, dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
A review completed last year found Epstein, who helped establish PED with a $6.5 million donation, was given a keycard and passcode to gain entry whenever he liked to the program’s offices, despite his 2008 guilty plea of soliciting a minor for prostitution. His “assistants” were also given unfettered access to the facility.
The arrangement was “easier” because otherwise Epstein would have to go and get his photograph taken to gain access, an administrator wrote to Nowak.
Epstein visited Harvard offices some 40 times between 2010 and 2018, according to the review. The visits ended after multiple PED researchers complained to Nowak about Epstein’s continuing relationship with the program.
Epstein used the visits to meet with professors from Harvard and other schools and also attended one of Nowak’s undergraduate math classes. Epstein also enjoyed his own office at PED.
“Taken as a whole, the documents suggest that Epstein viewed the PED offices as available for his use whenever he wished to gather academics together to hear scholars talk about subjects Epstein found interesting,” lawyers wrote in the review.
“Epstein’s permanent possession of a visitor keycard; his knowledge of the passcode to the PED offices; and his possession of a key to an individual Harvard office all gave him unlimited access to PED. It appears that this circumvented rules designed to limit access to Harvard space to individuals with legitimate reasons to be there.”
In a statement on Friday, Nowak said he is “humbled to be able to return to my work at Harvard and immerse myself once again in this most remarkable of academic communities.”
“While I have always been grateful to anyone who would support my research, I regret the connection I was part of fostering between Harvard and Jeffrey Epstein and the hurt that it has caused,” he said. “I will take the lessons from this time with me as I move forward.”
Harvard announced the new sanctions against Nowak after a further review found that he violated several policies around professional conduct, campus access, and other areas. In her memo, Gay said Nowak’s penalties are “proportionate to the severity of the behavior” but also allow for the possibility of “productivity and improvement.”
Nowak’s research center will be shut down “as soon as it is feasible,” Gay said, and shifted to the university’s math department. After two years, Gay will decide whether to restore Nowak’s privileges, she said.
Ellen Zucker, a lawyer for Nowak, said she’s pleased that Nowak can return to his position and continue his research. But she also said it’s “a tired truth of organizational dynamics that individuals, and not institutions, are too often left alone to take responsibility when things go wrong.”
Epstein had ties to numerous elite figures and institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, members of Congress, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. He committed suicide in federal prison in 2019 as he awaited sex trafficking charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.