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Nobel Prize-winning professor Tim Hunt resigns after sexist remarks about 'girls' in lab

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Tim Hunt/LinkedIn

Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Tim Hunt, who suggested that scientists should have gender-segregated labs to stop men falling in love with "girls," has stepped down from his position at the University College London (UCL). The 72-year-old professor came under fire this week after making sexist comments at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea on Tuesday. "Let me tell you about my trouble with girls," said Hunt. "Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry."

Hunt apologized for the remarks on BBC Radio 4's Today program yesterday, but added that he was "just trying to be honest" and "did mean the part about having trouble with girls." He said: "It is true … I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science because it’s terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field."

"I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people have fallen in love with me."

In a statement published on UCL's website, the university confirmed that Hunt has resigned from his position as Honorary Professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences. "UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality," reads the statement posted on UCL's website.

Hunt's comments have been met with widespread dismay and anger from the scientific community. Imran Khan, the chief executive of the British Science Association, said: "It's hard to find Sir Tim's comments funny if you've been held back by systemic bias for years." The UK's Royal Society — of which Hunt is a member — also distanced itself from his remarks, commenting: "In order to achieve everything that it can, science needs to make the best use of the research capabilities of the entire population."

On Twitter, the reaction has been more strident and often more creative, with scientists using the hashtag #distractinglysexy to mock Hunt's remarks: