An interview with Phil Pearson

Name: Phil PearsonPhil in the field

Current Job: Lab Manager/Research Assistant for Dr. David Steen at Auburn University

Scientific Discipline/Field: Evolutionary Ecology / Conservation Biology

Country: United States

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


What does your job involve?

I am currently studying behavioral responses of checkered garter snakes (Thamnophis marcianus) to chemical cues. I am also going to be aiding in projects looking at the invasive Black and White Argentine Tegu (Salvator merianae) lizard. As lab manager for Dr. David Steen’s lab at Auburn University, I do animal care and take care of logistical tasks associated with the research. I also aid his graduate students with their research projects.

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

I finished my MSc in December 2016 at Auburn University in Biological Sciences under Dr. Dan Warner. My project was looking at the effects of season and temperature during incubation on the brown anole lizard (Anolis sagrei). My experience of working with reptiles and ecology fieldwork helped land me my current position.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

I don’t think so. However, after coming out, I have found that the academia typically has a very welcoming and open atmosphere, which has helped me realize that I’ve chosen the right career path.

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

Mostly surprise but overwhelming support from my colleagues. I was not overly outspoken about my orientation throughout graduate school, but as time has progressed and I am becoming more interested in science communication, I want to open up and be an advocate for my fellow LGBTQ+ folks.

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

I grew up in a small town in rural Alabama with heavy conservative and religious ties, so I was sheltered away from most things LGBT. However, when I began college, my honors program advisor became a role model for me. She was the first person I encountered in academia who openly identified as LGBT, and I made a strong connection with her and her wife. Though it would be several years before I actually came to terms with my own identity, she helped me realize that there is a place in academia for people like me.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to pursue a doctorate in biology/ecology and eventually teach at a smaller university. I have found that I absolutely love teaching and mentoring students and hope that I can make a positive impact on the lives of my students.


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