An Interview with Calvin James Smith

Current Job: Lecturer in MathematicsmeBB

Scientific Discipline/Field:  Mathematics

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G, living a life of domestic bliss with my long term boyfriend and our two sons.

Website? http://www.reading.ac.uk/maths-and-stats/about/Staff/calvin-smith.aspx

What does your job involve?

I hold a teaching intensive lectureship in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Reading. The main focus of my work is the development of pedagogically sound teaching techniques and working with colleagues to share good practices. As a mathematician I am interested in the interplay between rigorous mathematics and its application in the physical sciences, and communicating to students that these approaches are not mutually exclusive!

I am also involved in outreach to schools and our University’s commitment to widening participation. I give talks at schools and colleges as well as more high profile events like the Training Partnership’s “Inspire A Class.”

I also co-chair our School’s Equality and Diversity Committee which looks to address issues like gender bias in STEM as well as promoting a more inclusive environment and holding the School to account on equality issues. I’m also involved in the University’s staff network ‘LGBT Plus’ where I am serving as acting co-director.

In a past life I did some research in quantum field theory in curved space-time.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

After finishing my undergraduate degree and MSc at the University of Sussex I was accepted to study for a PhD in Mathematics at the University of York. In the final months of my PhD I was offered a temporary lectureship in Mathematical Physics at University College Dublin where I stayed for the next 18 months before securing a Teaching Fellowship, then lectureship, at the University of Reading. During this time my partner had followed me around the country once he finished his PhD and subsequently trained to become a teacher. We got fed up always living apart, especially while I was in Dublin, so both applied for work in the south of England prompting my move to Reading where I have now been for six years

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Only in the sense that because I am in a relationship with another man we’ve had to plan our lives and careers together.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

I have played the “pronoun game” when starting a new job or place of study but these days I am very open about who I am.

I have experienced some homophobic remarks from students, which I will charitably chalk up to thoughtless “banter”. I think it’s incredibly important that people in positions of authority challenge such remarks, be they LGBT+ or otherwise, in order to bring about cultural change and work towards a more inclusive environment for all.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

Not necessarily while growing up, although I have always admired Mr Impossible. My STEM inspiration will always be Paul Dirac whose work on unifying relativity with quantum mechanics is breathtakingly beautiful. More recently I’ve met Professor David Smith, a chemist from the University of York, who is an incredibly inspirational LGBT+ role model in STEM.

What are your plans for the future?

In terms of my career I’m endeavouring to move our School into an even better position on the equality front. In my family life I am very much looking forward to watching my two boys grow up and helping them find their way in the world.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m on the Twitter as @C_J_Smith if you want to get in touch and talk further!

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