An interview with Charlie Wand

Name: Charlie Wand

Current Job: Postdoctoral Researcher

Scientific Discipline/Field: Chemistry/Chemical Engineering

Country: United Kingdom

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

Twitter or other social media handle: @craywand

What does your job involve?

I’m a postdoctoral researcher working at the University of Manchester in Chemical Engineering. I work in multiscale modelling looking at how the molecular level structure effects a material’s properties. I’ve worked on a variety of materials including shampoo, liquid crystals (used in LCD displays), and polymers for smart textiles and artificial muscles.

Alongside my research, I also teach and supervise undergraduate and postgraduate students, something which isn’t mandatory but I really enjoy.

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

I always wanted to be a scientist and my choice in A levels reflects that (Chemistry, Physics, Maths with AS Further Maths and Psychology). I then went and studied for a Masters in Chemistry at the University of Oxford before doing a PhD at the University of York. I did an internship in the summer before my final year in modelling and found my niche.

After my PhD I spent a year off before going to Sweden for a year before coming back to the UK to do a postdoc at the University of Cambridge then moving to Manchester.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Being trans has definitely affected my career decisions, whilst being bi has impacted it less in the past. I started my transition during my PhD, and part of the reason was that I knew that the department was a supportive place from a friend who was a few years above me. When I worked abroad, I was limited to which countries I could move to, due to the availability of affordable healthcare. Even after this, I was not out at work when I was abroad which was a drain on my mental health.

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

I haven’t had any terrible reactions, the worst was probably when I started transitioning one of the other PhD students refused to use the correct pronouns. The institutional bureaucracy on transitioning during my PhD, however, was not very good, with things not being updated. I think (hope!) that universities have better procedures in place now.

Overall, I would say the reactions from colleagues I’ve told have been good.

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

A really cliché answer but my mum was a role model growing up. She’s a (now retired) maths lecturer and did a PhD in maths when it was very uncommon for women.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to stay in scientific research. The current progress in computer power means that it is possible to run more and more sophisticated and larger simulations. I enjoy working on gaining fundamental understanding of how/why things happen that can have real-life implications.

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