An interview with Phil Marsden

Name: Phil MarsdenPhilMarsden

Current Job: Director and Consulting Physicist at Unitive Design and Analysis Ltd

Scientific Discipline/Field: Imaging and sensing in medicine and biotechnology

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): B

What does your job involve?

Running a small business in tech consulting and product development requires a wide range of skills, of which I hope that I am good at some. Day to day I still do a lot of science from bandwidth calculations, optical resolution calculations, camera performance measurements, Monte Carlo simulations and lots of back-of-envelope sums to determine whether an in-depth analysis is even justified. I also do a lot of talking to clients, writing reports, quoting, invoices and liaising with collaborators and grant bodies etc.

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

I came to this job the long way around through a PhD in semiconductor/optical physics, a postdoc in quantum information, another postdoc in ultra-fast switches, the film industry (where I was part of a team designing celluloid film scanners) and then the MedTech industry, where I was the manager of a large engineering team designing medical X-ray panels.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Definitely. I ‘hid’ in academia for maybe longer than I should have because I didn’t know what it was like to be out in ‘the real world’. (To be fair, having spent 12 years at university, there were also sorts of unknowns, this was just one of them). I was very lucky in the motion picture industry because there were other queer people around who were more-or-less out and nobody really cared. Going into a blue-chip MedTech company in a management role was a different story. The atmosphere of constant political battles was not one where it was easy to be yourself. As a result, I never really came out. This came back to bite me later on when I was working as a contractor in a team with one of my previous team when I was the manager. They made some comment about my hair colour and I had to react quickly to nip the situation in the bud. I think that I could have preempted this situation, had I been visible previously and created the correct environment.

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

Since starting my own business, I have been much more open. I have tried to be open with both my colleagues and clients, and the response has always been positive. Things like the LGBTSTEMinar definitely provide an easy hook to bring up in conversation, which makes it easier to become more visible, and therefore normalise queer people in business and engineering.

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

Alan Turing was definitely my LGBT role model, sad as his story is. I didn’t know any other STEM-related LGBT people until I was at uni, and then none in positions of responsibility. My non-queer role models were Richard Feynman and some of the amazing academics that I worked for / with over the years, including people like Prof Anne Tropper (Southampton) and Prof Gunnar Björk (Stockholm).

What are your plans for the future?

I shall continue to build up Unitive Design and Analysis and transform it from a consultancy company into design and manufacturing company in the MedTech and BioTech. We shall continue to expand maintaining our principles of inclusion and diversity.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Nope – I think that I have rambled enough.

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