An Interview with Jonathan Wolf Mueller

Current Job:  Lecturer in Endocrine BiochemistryJon

Scientific Discipline/Field: Biochemistry and Endocrinology

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G



What does your job involve? 

I see it as great privilege as a scientist to be allowed to follow your curiosity; however, there are limits to this, one is funding and capacity to do your research, the other one is peer-review of grants and papers. In practice this means that I have consciously focused my biochemical research on quite a small subject –sulfation pathways – and have grown slowly, but steadily ever since. An important twist came from the move to Birmingham. Here I could re-frame my very research in a vibrant translational context: sulfation regulation of sex steroids is so much more relevant to human health than sulfation alone. In addition to research, my work consists of some teaching and admin around this area.

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

Even as a young boy I wanted to be a professor. Later I studied biochemistry, did a PhD in biochemistry and, after a long period of postdoc and senior postdoc, a DSci (Habilitation) in biochemistry/molecular biology – all in Germany. Then I was actively recruited to Birmingham as my biochemical research pretty much fitted into their endocrine work. Well, here I did not mention the many moments of uncertainty and the many deep valleys within my research career. Now, it’s a fantastic job with a near unparalleled degree of freedom; but it was hard getting there.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions? 

Never there were any doubts whether to go to university or not. Only the subject was of some debate and in the end I chose biochemistry. If I read nowadays that LGBT are more often out in academic settings than somewhere else, it might have been the right choice for me.

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

I must say that I only had very positive feedback from within the scientific community. Several colleagues really like to come to ours, when my husband and I do the cooking… 🙂

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

Several father-like figures were very important in my life: obviously my long-gone father himself, the presumably gay Latin teacher, as well as several of the professors at university. One of them, my biochemistry prof, is noteworthy in a LGBT-STEM context, because, while teaching basic metabolism, he devoted some time to the life and achievements of one of the greatest biochemists, Otto Warburg, being gay and of Jewish decent in a historically very difficult time. This taught me that we can have LGBT on the agenda, even when discussing atoms, molecules and chemical reactions between them.

What are your plans for the future?

I wish there would be more of academic LGBT networking. In the past, I had several LGBT students who were highly productive in the lab and with whom I still have friendly contact with. I would be grateful if this would continue. In the next some years I see my group to grow moderately, continuing to present our research findings in high quality papers and conferences on cool places on this planet; some of these organized by ourselves. Otherwise I wish to buy our own home soon and to live a balanced and peaceful live.

Anything else you’d like to add?

It is a good feeling to work at an institution of higher education, the University of Birmingham, who have a dedicated Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Equalities and who are proud to have been ranked 50th overall in the definitive list of Britain’s most LGBT-friendly workplaces.

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