An interview with Kirk Taylor

Name: Kirk Taylor (He/Him/His)

Current Job: Postdoc Researcher, National Heart & Lung Institute, Imperial College London

Scientific Discipline/Field: Cardiovascular research/Cell biology

Country: UK

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

Website (personal, work, ORCID, – you don’t have to put one down):

Twitter or other social media handle (if applicable): Twitter: @Dr_KTaylor

What does your job involve?  

I am a laboratory-based research scientist working within a team that are trying to understand links between certain HIV therapies and heart disease. This is a growing area of research as effective HIV therapies have meant that people living with HIV now have near-normal life expectancies. A consequence of this has been that there is a notable increase in the chance of heart disease in this population. An underlying cause of heart disease is excess blood clotting.  Our laboratory studies this link by taking blood cells from HIV-negative volunteers and assessing the effect of drugs used to treat HIV upon the extent of blood clotting.

When I am not in the lab, I am an early career representative for The Platelet Society, supporting PhD and postdoc researchers and influencing Society decisions. I have also been actively involved in public engagement initiatives, such as Pint of Science and LGBT STEM Day.

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

I was the first person form my family to go to university, so I relied upon support from teachers at school to help with UCAS applications and navigating the student finance process. Having achieved CCC at A-level, I thought my first choice (University of Reading) was out of the question (given that they wanted BBB!) but I was offered a space and went to study Biological Sciences in 2007. I didn’t realise that scientific research was for me until I did a summer internship and final year project in a cardiovascular research lab. I was inspired and encouraged to apply for a PhD but couldn’t afford to do a Masters degree. I approached each UK laboratory in the field that I was interested in and, 9 months later, secured a PhD project at the University of Leicester. Somehow, I managed to complete my PhD within 3.5 years and moved into my first postdoc at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge. I worked at ARU for 2 years before moving to my current post at Imperial College, where I have been for 3.5 years.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

No. Although my current project working on HIV therapies did appeal to me on both a scientific and cultural level.

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

I am lucky because I haven’t had overt references to my sexuality at work and it hasn’t made me feel uncomfortable. However, I do find myself second guessing myself in normal conversation where I may ‘out myself’ and gauge what a person’s reaction might be. I think being a member of the Imperial College LGBTQ+ staff network helps though as the rainbow lanyards can make invisible characteristics more obvious. I was at a conference in 2019 and we had a workshop on Women in STEM and spoke about important issues, such as leaky pipelines and unconscious bias. I mentioned to some colleagues afterwards that it would be useful to consider other forms of discrimination too, such as LGBTQ+, and was told that it was not something that should alter the way that you work. Unfortunately, this type of response leads to members of the LGBTQ+ community feeling like they must not be ‘too gay’ at work.

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

I was fortunate enough to volunteer and work with some great youth workers as a teenager. This really helped me build my own confidence and resilience, whilst providing a safe space to talk about issues without fear of judgement.

What are your plans for the future?

I really enjoy academic research and am hopeful that I will be able to secure a lectureship post and lead my own group one day…

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