Name: Peter Coles
Current Job: Professor of Theoretical Physics
Scientific Discipline/Field: Cosmology
Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q,+, etc.): G
Twitter or other social media handle: @telescoper
What does your job involve?
I do research in theoretical cosmology and the large-scale structure of the Universe and teach various topics in theoretical physics, including computational physics, vector calculus and astrophysics and cosmology.
How did you get to this job (education etc.)?
I did my first degree in Natural Sciences, specialising in Theoretical Physics in my final year. I then did a postgraduate research degree (DPhil) at the University of Sussex under the supervision of John Barrow. I subsequently held postdoctoral research positions at Sussex and Queen Mary, University of London, before I got my first professorial position at the University of Nottingham. I moved to Cardiff to become Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics in 2007, and then back to Sussex as Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in 2013. For a variety of reasons I moved back to Cardiff in 2016 in a part-time role, and took up my current position at Maynooth University in Ireland in July 2018.
Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?
It has. My decision to do graduate studies at Sussex University was definitely influenced by it being so close to Brighton, and my decision to move to London after that was largely to do with my partner living there. Other decisions I have made were less to do with my sexual orientation. I am moving to Ireland, for example, largely as a result of Brexit.
Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?
I have been out since I was a research student i.e. for over 30 years. Over the years the overwhelming majority of colleagues have responded in a positive, supportive and friendly manner to the fact that I’m gay. There have been one or two exceptions to this, but nothing to dwell on here.
Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated.)?
I don’t think I had any LGBT role models, but my decision to follow a career in science was definitely influenced by one particular teacher at school, Dr Geoff Swinden, who taught chemistry.
What are your plans for the future?
I am 55 now, and I think I’ll be staying in Maynooth until I retire or pop my clogs. I hope to get involved in the European Space Agency’s Euclid mission from now until then, hopefully supervising a few PhD students on the way.
When at Sussex I helped set up a staff LGBT network and would like to do likewise at my current institution.