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LGBTQ+ and STEM Day: Celebrate and Support Diversity

Promoting equity and inclusion in STEAM, and in general, is one of our biggest goals here at Ozobot. We believe that everyone should be afforded the same opportunities regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., so when we heard that November 18th is LGBTQ+ and STEM Day, it was a no-brainer to highlight some inspiring LGBTQ+ individuals in the STEAM community! 

While progress has been made in the areas of awareness and acceptance of different gender and sexual identities, we still have a long way to go.  Women in STEM, BIPOC people in STEM, and the LGBTQ+ communities are still underrepresented in STEM careers.

A 2013 survey of STEM workers found that more than 40% of LGBTQ+ identified respondents working in STEM fields are not out to their colleagues. In an effort to be a part of the solution and inspire the next generation of STEM workers, we want to spotlight the stories of professionals who overcame adversity shared on 500 Queer Scientists about pursuing their dream STEM careers.

Colton Feathers | Astrophysicist PhD Candidate

“I’m currently pursuing a PhD in astrophysics at the University of Toledo, with a concentration in cosmology. The project I’m currently working on is a model of the early universe during the era between the ‘dark ages’ before the first stars formed and the completion of the reionization of the universe. The dark matter halos that populated the universe then attract each other gravitationally and merge until they reach a critical mass that can cause a gas collapse to form the first stars made of the pristine gas formed from the Big Bang.

I grew up in a really small town in Ohio so it was difficult coming to terms with being gay. It wasn’t really heard of and felt wrong for so many years. Luckily my friends and most of my family were supportive of me when I came out in undergrad, and today my fellow grad students are just as accepting.”

Dr. Alyssa Allen | Chemist

“I am a 2019 Chemistry PhD graduate from the University of Central Florida. My main focus of research during the PhD candidacy was on evaluating fire debris using different classification models in order to calculate likelihood ratios. This work was performed at the National Center for Forensic Science and helped aid in the field of forensics through the generation of Substrate and Ignitable Liquids Databases.

I currently am a chemist for the DOD where I am assisting in the demilitarization of a stockpile of chemical agent munitions that have been present since World War II. GC-MS and GC-FPD are the major instrumental analysis techniques that are used throughout my work.

I am a half-Black lesbian in a very straight, white male dominated space which is evident from the conferences, professors, and academic environment I have been apart of since undergrad. I am a strong advocate for mental health focus in graduate programs, especially STEM fields. Representation matters for everyone in every field; STEM fields are no exception.”

Ivan Zhao | Software Engineer 

“I’m a designer, engineer, and dog-lover from Bellevue, WA, passionate about building products and community. Tech is slowly taking over the world and I want to help be on the right side of it, building products and supporting those who want to make a difference in the world.

I love understanding decision making frameworks, both from a technical perspective (understand Machine Learning models) and from a psychological perspective of why the brain is the way it is. This has pushed me to explore and read books in consumer psychology or do projects that analyze motivation. I want to learn as much as I can, which you can track through my Goodreads account or follow some of my musings!”

Ellie Cardenal | Geologist

“I’m a geologist, freshly graduated from NC State with my master’s degree. I consider myself a geospatial analyst, too! I’ve got a graduate certificate in GIS and my job is heavily focused on mapping and modeling to support the Clean Water Act.

My master’s work focused on reconstructing landscape changes over the last several thousand years using plant microfossils and sediments linked to human disturbances. The paleo perspective has bled into other parts of my life and made me a more critical thinker work better foresight!

I’m a child of an immigrant. My father was also racist and extremely homophobic. I grew up in a suburb of Jackson, MS, so I was surrounded by racism and homophobia outside of my home, too. I realized and accepted myself in my early 20s. Though it meant having no relationship with my father and others, I’m extremely proud of who I am! I’ve been through a great deal of trauma in my life. I was able to start healing when I looked inward, forgave abusive people while keeping firm boundaries, forgave myself, and practiced self love every day.”

Autumn Kent | Mathematician

“I am a pansexual trans woman and I am a mathematician.

I am an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I study the interaction between algebra, analysis, geometry, and topology in low-dimensional topology. I also take photos, draw, and write poems. I live in Madison, Wisconsin, with my partner and our two daughters.

Being trans is hard. Our culture treats us like we are less than human. It is hard. And I’m trans but I am also a middle class white woman. Go listen to women of color. Listen to all they endure.  And then go listen to trans women of color. Think about the intersection of these marginalized classes.

If someone misgenders a trans person, correct them casually and politely. I am misgendered a lot and correcting people can be taxing. Help is appreciated.

If you see discrimination, call it out. Go to these health care meetings for us. Go to these town halls for us. Demand equitable treatment. Tell your universities to treat us right. To let us use the bathroom and to give us the care we need. Tell the grade schools in your town to respect trans kids and to believe them when they say who they are. Go to school board meetings and shout. Stand with us. Stand for us. Make a ruckus. Shout!”

To learn more about how you can support LGBTQ+ people and their allies working in STEM, or to read more inspiring stories, visit the 500 Queer Scientists website. 

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