An interview with Harriet Brown

Name: Harriet (Hattie) BrownHarriet Brown

Current Job: Postgraduate Researcher

Scientific Discipline/Field: Astrophysics

Country: UK

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

Twitter or other social media handle (if applicable)? @Auntiehattie24

What does your job involve?

My PhD Product is studying the acceleration methods for hypervelocity star through a binary exchange between binary star systems and supermassive black holes. I run simplified 3-body interactions looking at the probability of a binary exchange and the energy of the ejected star. As a side part of my course I also do teaching for first year undergrads, it’s not mandatory but it’s something I really enjoy.

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

I did my Undergrad in Liverpool doing astrophysics on the joint course with University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores. I found out in the computational astrophysics module that I really love coding and once I finished my masters I got a PhD placement at John Moores working with Shiho Kobayashi, the same guy that taught me computational astro and I have been working with him since then.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

It has affected my decisions in traveling, I am always hyper aware that there are places I could go overseas where I might not be safe. Me being trans has also limited my future, since i am on waiting lists here in england it makes it hard for me to pursue careers overseas where they may not have the same healthcare or would end up putting me on the bottom of waiting lists.

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

When I first came into the office wearing woman clothes nobody said anything or asked any questions. Eventually I had to send a mass email to people explaining that I was transgender and I had a different name. After that I got a lot of support and I felt good to have my department head saying I had his support.

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

I don’t really remember who I looked up to when I was younger before realizing I was a woman. Since coming out I have fallen into the stereotype of looking up to any woman as “transition goals”, anyone who is happy and comfortable with who they are.

What are your plans for the future?

In life: Stay alive, get through GIC waiting lists, finish making my RPG rulebook, find a permanent place to live.

In STEM: I don’t think my future lies in academia, traveling around between postdocs for a decade do not appeal to me. But I would like to stay doing science even if it isn’t astrophysics something where I can use my computing and data analysis skills.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I spend a lot of time playing role playing games, seems that pretending to be a well adjusted adult is much easier than actually being one, probably because my RPG characters can shoot laserbeams at problems. 😀


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