The woman who served as the inspiration for Greece’s first Barbie doll has been accused of falsely claiming she is a leading scientist who has won awards for her work for Nasa.
Eleni Antoniadou, 31, has been described as a specialist in the fields of regenerative medicine, artificial organ bioengineering and space medicine, as well as training astronauts at Nasa, and working as CEO of Transplants Without Donors, which creates artificial organs for transplants.
Cited as a “Greek scientist of global calibre” by national media, her accolades include being named in a Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 list for Healthcare, being voted 2013 Woman of the Year at the annual British FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards, winning the NASA-ESA Outstanding Researcher Award in 2012, and presiding over the European Health Parliament.
Two weeks ago, she was presented with an award for scientific excellence by Niki Kerameos, Greece’s education minister, who said: “Her passion for science inspires us and fills us with optimism.”
However, Ms Antoniadou’s career has this week come under heavy scrutiny, with members of the academic community claiming that many of her credentials are false, and that she has never held a position at Nasa or won one of its awards.
Ms Antoniadou was announced as one of 20 female role models as part of Barbie’s “Sheroes” series, alongside model Adwoa Aboah, and US Open champion Naomi Osaka.
The women all had dolls made in their likeness to celebrate Barbie’s 60th anniversary in March.
“By introducing girls to stories of women from all walks of life, they begin to see more opportunities for themselves,” the company said of its campaign.
Ms Antoniadou, the first Greek woman to have a Barbie modelled after her, said: “Every step brings us every day closer and closer to achieving our dream… You can become what you dream of.”
The website of Barbie manufacturer Mattel says Ms Antoniadou joined Nasa in 2012.
However, Costas Bouyioukos, an assistant professor of Bioinformatics at Paris Diderot University in France, has claimed that she has never worked at Nasa, and only completed the space agency’s Frontier Development Lab, an eight-week educational programme.
In a viral Facebook post, Mr Bouyioukos said: “She is not even fit to be called a scientist for most people.”
Mattel did not respond to requests for comment on the recent claims when approached by The Daily Telegraph.
Greek Hoaxes, a team committed to debunking fake news, also dismissed her claim to have worked on a team that built the first trachea implant to be successfully used on a patient at University College London, saying the patient died afterwards.
The NASA-ESA Outstanding Researcher Award does not appear to exist and Ms Antoniadou’s name is not included in Nasa’s record of its award winners.
On Tuesday, she issued a statement on Facebook saying she was working on a project on artificial intelligence for Nasa.
A spokesperson for Nasa said Ms Antoniadou was not an employee of the agency, but they could not rule out the possibility she had worked as a sub-contractor on Nasa projects.
The organisation that gave out the award Ms Antoniadou accepted earlier this month from the Greek minister said Ms Kerameos was not in any way involved in the selection of the winner.
Ms Antoniadou did not respond to requests for comment from The Telegraph.