An Interview with Scott James Davidson

Current Job: PhD student at the University of SheffieldScott

Scientific Discipline/Field: Ecology/Biogeochemistry

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G

What does your job involve?

I’m a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Sheffield looking into the role of vegetation in methane fluxes across Arctic tundra in Alaska. The ultimate goal of my PhD is understanding the role vegetation plays in influencing methane emissions and using a combination of hyperspectral data and multispectral imagery to upscale methane emissions from the plot scale to the landscape scale.

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

After mistakenly thinking I could be a journalist and doing a year of English/Politics at university, I completed MA (Hons) Geography at the University of Dundee and an MSc Polar and Alpine Change at the University of Sheffield. This career pathway has included field work on debris covered glaciers in the Italian Alps, working in the Scottish uplands and across Svalbard. I rather enjoy fieldwork in far off places – although I am a little accident prone…

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

No, I don’t think being part of the LGBT community has affected my career decisions. I’m very fortunate to have an extremely supportive family and friend network, so although the thought of coming out was an extremely stressful process internally, the reality of it all meant it was pretty smooth.

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

In the postgraduate stages of my career, I have always been open about who I am. My colleagues are completely accepting of my sexuality. I do get questions or queries from a few (all with good intentions) and I’m often asked for my opinion on sexuality matters that arise in the media etc. but over all I’ve had no bad experiences from colleagues.

Due to undertaking a lot of fieldwork, you do meet people from around the world and I have occasionally had to deal with comments that are less than polite but at 25 years old, I have finally started to use the mantra ‘water off a ducks back’ and not take things too much too heart. It took me 7 or so years to get used to it, so I don’t mind others taking a little longer – as long as the comments are not homophobic and/or offensive.

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

Role models… yes, but they weren’t necessarily LGBT. I was completely motivated by the work of Gavin Maxwell and Sir Peter Scott when I was wee and their passion for the natural world was an incredible inspiration for me. During my school years, I was told a career in biology wasn’t for me so I put it on the back burner. I’m glad I found by way back to what I love.

What are your plans for the future?

Finish the PhD and potentially continue on in academia. I get a real kick out of research but I also really enjoy the teaching side of things. I do have a favourite saying which is ‘It is no will-o-the-wisp I have followed here’ – I like to just take my own path and see what happens.

Anything else you’d like to add?

You can follow me on Twitter – @scootjd

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An Interview with Val Knapp

Current Job: Database development officerIMAG0034

Scientific Discipline/Field: ICT / Computer Science

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): I ID as gay, but technically I’m a lesbian.

What does your job involve? 

Working with people, writing specifications, writing and testing code, writing, testing and optimising reports, lots of email, lots of phone calls and lots of learning.

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

I used to work in a secondary school, where I taught myself how to use Google docs and the school database to organise a complex structure of meetings and related documents. I used those skills to get this job. I am actually about to start a new job as a developer, which I have been able to get from the skills I learned in my current job.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions? 

Yes, I moved to England from America because I was married to an English lady. My degree background is in running summer camps from the USA but when that wasn’t an option as a career in the UK, I had to take what was on offer and I have learned loads in the process.

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

Mostly really positive things. I have been in meetings with people who were really horrible about LGBT issues and I have tried to stand up for myself and my peers but I mostly just try to set a good example. I’m very open and resourceful so I would often point people in the direction of more information about a topic if I feel like they would be open to learning more.

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

Not really…

What are your plans for the future?

Be a great developer! Learn loads all the time! Maybe meet another nice lady (I’m divorced now).

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you aren’t getting smarter, you’re getting dumber in my opinion. Go to lectures, read read read, do everything you can to broaden yourself! It’s the best advice I can offer. You will meet others with bright, sparkly minds and they are the best people.

An Interview with Stephanie Rankin

Current Job: Research Analyststephrankin

Scientific Discipline/Field:  Analytical Chemistry

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): L

Website? Twitter, Website

What does your job involve?

I work as a research analyst in the Organic Geochemistry Unit at a UK university. My job is partially a technical role troubleshooting and (theoretically!) fixing analytical instrumentation when things go wrong, along with carrying out lab work and analyses for various research projects.

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

I studied forensic science at university, which had a heavy basis in analytical chemistry. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for a while before deciding I wanted to work in a more varied, research-based environment, and so began my current job.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Not at all. I knew that I wanted a career in science long before I knew I was a lesbian, so the two haven’t really been relevant to one another. Perhaps it would be different if my career required me to move to a country where LGBT rights were not quite as established, but so far I haven’t faced that.

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

I’ve had a lot of good or neutral reactions, but never anything bad (that I’m aware of anyway). I have definitely had a few awkward questions posed in the past, but mostly from people who didn’t know much about LGBT relationships and were curious.

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

I don’t think I really did have a role model growing up, especially not an LGBT role model. I probably have more role models now than when I was a child!.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d love to go back to university to do a PhD one day. I’ve also become more and more involved in science communication work, so it will be interesting to see where that leads.

An Interview with Calvin James Smith

Current Job: Lecturer in MathematicsmeBB

Scientific Discipline/Field:  Mathematics

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G, living a life of domestic bliss with my long term boyfriend and our two sons.

Website? http://www.reading.ac.uk/maths-and-stats/about/Staff/calvin-smith.aspx

What does your job involve?

I hold a teaching intensive lectureship in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Reading. The main focus of my work is the development of pedagogically sound teaching techniques and working with colleagues to share good practices. As a mathematician I am interested in the interplay between rigorous mathematics and its application in the physical sciences, and communicating to students that these approaches are not mutually exclusive!

I am also involved in outreach to schools and our University’s commitment to widening participation. I give talks at schools and colleges as well as more high profile events like the Training Partnership’s “Inspire A Class.”

I also co-chair our School’s Equality and Diversity Committee which looks to address issues like gender bias in STEM as well as promoting a more inclusive environment and holding the School to account on equality issues. I’m also involved in the University’s staff network ‘LGBT Plus’ where I am serving as acting co-director.

In a past life I did some research in quantum field theory in curved space-time.

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

After finishing my undergraduate degree and MSc at the University of Sussex I was accepted to study for a PhD in Mathematics at the University of York. In the final months of my PhD I was offered a temporary lectureship in Mathematical Physics at University College Dublin where I stayed for the next 18 months before securing a Teaching Fellowship, then lectureship, at the University of Reading. During this time my partner had followed me around the country once he finished his PhD and subsequently trained to become a teacher. We got fed up always living apart, especially while I was in Dublin, so both applied for work in the south of England prompting my move to Reading where I have now been for six years

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Only in the sense that because I am in a relationship with another man we’ve had to plan our lives and careers together.

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

I have played the “pronoun game” when starting a new job or place of study but these days I am very open about who I am.

I have experienced some homophobic remarks from students, which I will charitably chalk up to thoughtless “banter”. I think it’s incredibly important that people in positions of authority challenge such remarks, be they LGBT+ or otherwise, in order to bring about cultural change and work towards a more inclusive environment for all.

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

Not necessarily while growing up, although I have always admired Mr Impossible. My STEM inspiration will always be Paul Dirac whose work on unifying relativity with quantum mechanics is breathtakingly beautiful. More recently I’ve met Professor David Smith, a chemist from the University of York, who is an incredibly inspirational LGBT+ role model in STEM.

What are your plans for the future?

In terms of my career I’m endeavouring to move our School into an even better position on the equality front. In my family life I am very much looking forward to watching my two boys grow up and helping them find their way in the world.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m on the Twitter as @C_J_Smith if you want to get in touch and talk further!

An Interview with Kate Montague-Hellen

Kate Montague-HellenCurrent Job: Research Nurse

Scientific Discipline/Field: Clinical Haemato-Oncology

Country: UK

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

What does you job involve?

Recruiting and supporting oncology patients on clinical trails within the NHS.

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

Initially I read for a BSc in Biology at the University of Sussex and at the end of it I came to a cross roads. I loved the Ecology and Evolution aspects of Biology so started an MSc in Human Behavioural Ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

At that time the recession hit and it appeared that I would need to move into a more practical field if I ever wanted to get a good job after my course. I decided to end the MSc at PGCert level and move into Nursing, which had always been in the back of my mind as a career.

I read PGDip Nursing (Adult Branch) at Sheffield Hallam University and became a Registered Adult Nurse (RNA). I took a job as a Staff Nurse in Spinal Rehabilitation which I loved. I worked at the unit for two years but missed Research. Other than ‘topping up’ my PGDip to MSc, and a bit of patient teaching, I hadn’t really used my academic skills for 4years. I missed it. A lot.

I have recently took up a post at the University of Sheffield’s Clinical Oncology Department as a Research Nurse in Haematology and I love it.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Being LGBT+ hasn’t really had too much of a conscious effect on my life at all, and particularly not in terms of my career. The biggest affect any one thing has had on my life is meeting my wife, Beth. If I hadn’t joined her in Manchester after we left the University of Sussex, I would probably still be down in Brighton. But there are no regrets. Ever.

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

My only jobs, post graduation, have been in Nursing, including placements as a Nursing Student. On placements, I did initially have concerns about outing myself before testing the water. My confidence was boosted when I met my best friend on my first placement. She was a newly qualified nurse and we supported each other on the ward. Smoothly, in conversation, she just mentioned that she had a girlfriend. Admittedly, I was surprised. I don’t know why, but I guess that stereotypes are powerful, and we are all surprised when people don’t necessarily fit into the idea we have of them.

Since that placement, I found it easier to come out each time, especially when I got one of the good mentors who were genuinely interesting in me as a person and not just their ‘student’. Some wards I never came out to in the months that I was there. These wards, and one in particular, I would not wish to ever return to. Interestingly, this was not necessarily about me being LGBT+, it was that I did not feel respected as a person, regardless of who I was in a relationship with.

When starting a new job, I throw it out there instantly. I think I even mentioned being LGBT+ in my interview for this job!

I don’t think coming out has had any detrimental effects on my career thus far, nor has it had any positive effects. My new team have shown the best possible response- they genuinely didn’t batter an eyelid. Just picked up the female pronoun for my partner and ran with it.

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

I don’t think I had any role models growing up. As a child I tended to look up to powerful women – it’s not surprising as I was raised in a very political family of Trotskyite Feminists! I think I still look up to powerful people of all genders. After all, my wife was the President of the LGBT Liberation Group at the University of Sussex when I met her!

In terms of my career, each choice I have made has been on instinct (and a lot of thought) so role models were very transient.

What are your plans for the future?

I intend to develop my career as a Research Nurse for the moment and finish my MSc. The rest will fall into place when it’s ready.

Anything else you’d like to add?

As a great man once said:

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”