Name: Kevin Maringer
Current Job: Research Group Leader and Lecturer in Microbiology
Scientific Discipline/Field: Virology
Country: England/Germany, now living in United Kingdom
Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q,+, etc.): G
Twitter or other social media handle (if applicable): Twitter, Facebook, Instagram all @MaringerLab
What does your job involve?
My research focus is on how mosquito-borne viruses are transmitted, which means I mostly think about how viruses infect mosquitoes rather than humans. On a day-to-day basis, my research involves a combination of lab work and computer work (bioinformatics). Days in the lab involve growing mosquito cells in culture, infecting them with viruses, and then doing various downstream assays for different biological properties we’re interested in. The bioinformatics involves analysing large biological datasets on a computer to pick out broader trends and patterns.
Now that I’ve become a manager, I actually spend very little time doing lab work myself. My days now mostly involve supervising members of my research group, filing paperwork associated with biological containment and health and safety at work, university administration, teaching undergraduate and Masters students, and writing papers and applications for research funding. Although it’s really rewarding to oversee the bigger picture of my research, I don’t find my day-to-day activities as interesting as the lab work I used to do. To keep myself going I do a lot of community engagement, both in the UK and in tropical countries affected by the viruses we study, and I also help use science to inform government policy on issues related to microbiology. These activities give me the energy to keep working towards the much more long-term goals my work now involves, with my personal targets running over months-to-years rather than days-to-weeks as they used to when I worked in the lab.
How did you get to this job (education etc.)?
I studied for my BSc in Medical Microbiology and Virology at the University of Warwick, and then did a PhD at Imperial College London. I then applied for my own research funding to do my postdoc at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City before starting my own research group. I took time out along the way to work in industry and volunteer in conservation projects in Australia and South America. Those volunteer experiences are coming in really handy now that I’ve started working more with disease-endemic countries.
Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?
I don’t think being gay has directly affected my research, but it definitely had a huge influence on my decision to study and work in London and New York City. Now that I’m married I feel less of an urge to live in large cities with vibrant LGBTQ communities. I’m now really enjoying living in a smaller liberal town where I can grow my own vegetables and live more of the outdoor lifestyle that fits my character better than urban living.
Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?
I’ve generally found me being gay to be a non-issue at work. The reactions of my colleagues have been neither bad nor ‘good’, I’d instead describe them as being indifferent. My colleagues have always just accepted that being gay is part of who I am, and that it doesn’t really have a bearing on my science or the work I do. Personally I think this is as it should be. The one thing I would say is that I learnt early on that I personally prefer to make sure people know I’m gay right from the start to stop people speculating and talking about this behind my back.
Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?
I was born in the 80’s, and I found that although there were openly gay public figures while I was growing up, there were none that I personally identified with as role models. This is why I think it’s really important that we work hard to have more openly LGBTQ role models from all walks of life.
What are your plans for the future?
At the moment I’m really enjoying where I am in my work and personal life. After working on fixed-term contracts for nearly a decade I’m enjoying having a more stable existence as a permanent member of academic staff. Not worrying about where my salary is coming from has really freed up a lot of mental space to focus on getting back to being an artist in my spare time, and spending more time outdoors. The only reason I’d move now is to be closer to my husband, who lives in California. Finding jobs for two academics in the same location is difficult for any couple, and moving closer together is really the only long-term plan on my horizon right now.