The former chair of Harvard’s Chemistry Department will stand trial in Boston beginning Tuesday for allegedly concealing his ties to the Chinese government.

Nanotechnologist Dr. Charles Lieber was charged nearly two years ago with allegedly making false statements to the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health about research funding he received from the Chinese government. The case has put American researchers on edge, as foreign funding — specifically from China — has come under increased scrutiny from the Justice Department.

The Trump administration said at the time Lieber had signed a five-year contract with the Wuhan University of Technology and was paid up to $50,000 a month to set up a joint Harvard-Wuhan research lab. He opened a Chinese bank account and did not report his income to Harvard or the IRS.

"Lieber also joined China's Thousand Talents Plan, a Chinese-government run program designed to entice scientists and researchers in the United States to share their research expertise with China," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, announcing the charges. "Boston is an especially attractive target for this kind of exploitation and universities must become sensitized to this threat."

After Lieber’s arrest on January 28, 2020, and before Lieber pleaded not guilty, Harvard placed him on paid leave. He was released on bail and surrendered his passport.

The outcome of the jury trial could determine the fate of Chinese partnerships and exchanges with U.S. schools, which, the Justice Department says, China uses to steal cutting-edge research and equipment.

Some professors have called Lieber’s prosecution “unjust,” saying it creates a chilling effect and blocks the open exchange of information. They say the real threat of intellectual theft is clashing with the academic tradition of cross-border collaboration, that the mission of American research universities is to discover and share knowledge and a federal crackdown on foreign funding could undermine that openness.

"It's a tense time for the American research community," Rebecca Kaiser, head of the National Science Foundation's Office of International Science and Engineering, told GBH News in February 2020.

She said the Lieber case serves as a warning to colleges: police yourselves — and be more vigilant about potential espionage.

"We're all struggling to really understand the scope and scale of this issue, and we know there is an issue out there. We just need to work together to figure out what to do about it," Kaiser said.

The National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health do allow professors to be part of foreign talent programs, but require they disclose it.