A prominent biologist at the University of California, Irvine could be placed on unpaid leave because he refuses to take sexual harassment prevention training.

Alexander McPherson, 64, calls the mandatory training a "sham" and considers his refusal an act of "civil disobedience." He has already been relieved of his duties supervising other scientists in the lab where he studies proteins.

McPherson has generated about $20 million in research money since he joined the university in 1997, and has had his experiments aboard the space shuttle and the international space station.

He can attend a training course by November 12 and regain his standing but said he won't, even if it means suspension from his job that pays $148,740 a year.

"I have consistently refused to take such training on the grounds that the adoption of the requirement was a naked political act by the state that offended my sensibilities, violated my rights as a tenured professor, impugned my character and cast a shadow of suspicion on my reputation and career," McPherson told the Orange County Register. "I even offered to go to jail if the university persisted in persecuting me for my refusal. We Scots are very stubborn in matters of this sort."

A state law passed in 2004 requires supervisors to undergo sexual harassment training at businesses that regularly employ 50 or more people.

McPherson's department chairman declined comment. A university spokeswoman would not comment directly on McPherson, but said 97 percent of the school's faculty have completed the training.