An Oxford University professor who rejected an Israeli student who wanted to study with him because the professor disagreed with Israeli policies is no stranger to thorny ethical issues.
Since 1996, Andrew Wilkie has served on two Nuffield Council on Bioethics working parties, grappling with issues such as the genetics of mental disease and the effects of genes on behaviour. Professor Wilkie was recently appointed to the council itself but, after serving barely more than a month, he has asked it to consider whether he should continue.
The geneticist is awaiting the results of a university investigation into his decision to reject Amit Duvshani's application to work on a PhD in his laboratory. In an email to Mr Duvshani, who has done national service in the Israeli army, Professor Wilkie wrote: "I am sure you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army." He subsequently apologised for any distress caused by his remarks.
A university statement said that it supports freedom of expression but will not condone any actions that discriminate on nationality grounds. It announced an "immediate and thorough investigation".
Professor Wilkie, a Wellcome Trust-funded researcher, leads the clinical genetics research group at the Oxford University Institute for Molecular Medicine and is a fellow of Pembroke College. He has three PhD students, and his research centres on the genetic basis for specific birth abnormalities.
He studied medicine at Cambridge University then Oxford. He was appointed to a chair in genetics at Oxford in 2000 and made Nuffield professor of pathology just over a month ago.
Mr Duvshani has decided to look elsewhere for his doctoral study. "I will now think twice before coming to study in the UK," he said. "I strongly believe that politics and science should not mix."