An interview with Louis-Stéphane Le Clercq

Name: Louis-Stéphane Le Clercq

Current Job: PhD Candidate

Scientific Discipline/Field: Genetics

Country: South Africa

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

Website: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8713-8920

Twitter or other social media handle: @leclercq0

What does your job involve?

At present I am an enrolled candidate of the postgraduate development program, performing thesis research towards the conferment of the Ph.D. degree in Genetics, from the University of the Free State, with a focus on genetic and epigenetic footprints that correlate to behavior and aging.

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

I completed a Bachelors of Science (B.Sc.) degree majoring in Medical Sciences at the University of Pretoria. This afforded me theoretical and practical training in diverse fields such as applied cellular biology, embryology, histology and histological techniques, genetics, hematology and immunology. Upon graduation I completed an additional B.Sc. Honors degree, based on intensified theoretical and practical training, alongside a mini research project which largely focused on cell culture in vitro experimentation to analyze nuclear transcription factors in macrophages. I then elected to continue my training with a research and dissertation based Masters of Science (M.Sc) degree as further, post-graduate specialization. During this period I worked mostly on the full genome of a dsDNA virus, as well as some gene specific work, using novel Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platforms. After graduation I opted to do a post-graduate internship, administered by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and National Research Foundation (NRF), where he was placed within the Molecular Genetics research facilities of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). This ultimately lead into a PhD.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Yes

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

Yes, mostly negative. Starting from being graded unfairly by Professors only to have my grades brought up by external examiners who don’t know me or that I’m gay. Failing a course under one Professor, only the pass with distinction the next year under a different Professor. Not getting into postgraduate programs after a panel interview, only to be accepted when I pleaded with the course coordinator. Having laboratory staff “warn” a male student about being “careful around me”, only for him to inform me that it turns out that he is gay too! (Can’t imagine what it must have been like for him, being a new student and still in the closet only to have staff put their homophobia on display to him because of me…). Countless PhD program applications/emails that got me an interview but once they met me the course was either suddenly full at max capacity, they didn’t have the funding, or had another excuse for not being able to accommodate me in their department. The LGBT+ friends I met along the way tended to follow one of two patterns in their studies. (1) They stopped at B.Sc. honors level (even if they received a bursary/offer for Masters) and left the University or (2) they went up to Masters at one institution and then go do PhD somewhere else, another institution or different country in some cases. In the end, though… I feel like I learned more by studying and training in different places and with different people, and the discipline I landed up in is really something I love doing and am passionate about.

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

Not really. I went through the “normal” diva-worship phases of the Spice Girls and Britney but growing up there really wasn’t much queer culture around me. The best I could hope for was a weekly dose of Will & Grace. It really was unfortunate that, at my past Universities, I looked around at the academics in the various departments and couldn’t find anyone like me who was a post-doc, lecturer, professor or HOD; who could serve as an example that says “Yes, the career is possible for people like us”.

What are your plans for the future?

After I finish my PhD I’d like to publish what I can and would then like to do a post-doc somewhere like EMBL or Yale. (Dare to dream!)

Anything else you’d like to add?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/louis-iv-le-clercq/

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