An interview with Alex Blanchard

Name: Alex Blanchard

Current Job: PhD Student

Scientific Discipline/Field: Physics – Photonics

Country: Scotland

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

Twitter or other social media handle: @_MacZander

What does your job involve?

PhD Title: “LED & CMOS Structured Light Systems for Multi-modal Optical Lithography”

So I’m trying to use micro-LEDs and fancy photonics systems to help make lithography better, which can be one of the ways electronics are made.

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

My career path is varied, having done a Master’s in Physics in Exeter, and then I’ve worked as an office Engineer in Reading, Glasgow and Belfast, then spent time in manufacturing, for lasers and laser-based gas analysers, before starting my PhD at Strathclyde!

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

No, however my Master’s project went so poorly that it really put me off doing a PhD as I thought I wasn’t good enough. That followed me through my PhD application 5 years later, with imposter syndrome even when I was offered the studentship! That’s been a tricky one to shift, especially with having to do classes at the start of the studentship, not having done much sit-down learning since my Masters.

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

Thankfully I haven’t had any outright homophobia from coming out to colleagues, but I’ve had the “You don’t look gay!” response right down to folk not caring at all when I’ve mentioned about my partner. The former is a touch odd but I don’t think folk are being malicious, I think it’s from the stereotype of what a gay person is or does. I hope I’ve been able to change folk’s mindsets about this from doing my thing. I have also noticed homophobic incidents (thankfully not directed at me) in the work place. I was mentally knocked for six when it’s happened, I thought I’d be better at speaking up about it but the moment hits hard.

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

Not really – I’ve been stubbornly independent for as long as I can remember, and that includes role models! I’ve just always wanted to do my own thing and not try and be anyone else.

What are your plans for the future?

Firstly, finishing my PhD! That’s the first thing I’d like to do. After that though, I’m unsure. I might stay in academia. I’m also interested in Science Communication and Policy-making, but I wouldn’t say no to going back to engineering either, especially in Optics and Photonics. I’m just trying to keep my options open.

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