Coached them in several of their junior years too. Here they are:
And there was one more, Sherman, but perhaps he had dropped out of the team by 1996. They are all friends on my Facebook nowadays. The other remarkable thing — and this applies to quite a few other Sydney High students I knew, especially debaters, is how many of them now reside overseas: Andrew in Oxford, Prashant in London, Alexander in Berlin — and Peter, on the end there, in Canberra, which is almost a foreign country!
In my last post here I mentioned running into Andrew in Surry Hills in December 2008. Let’s look at what an amazing ten years — well, 22 since 1996! — he has had. Andrew is now Professor of Materials Chemistry at the University of Oxford. His research group is based in Oxford’s Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory.
And this I found fascinating: LGBT IN STEM.
…It wasn’t just the absence of obvious role models that mattered. There were many small individual incidents that collectively portrayed an unwelcoming – or, worse, hostile – attitude towards LGBT scientists. I could give many examples, but the one that sticks particularly in my mind took place on the first official college event after my appointment at Oxford. A senior colleague, on learning that I was Australian, shared his hope with me that I wasn’t from Sydney “because they’re all f**king p**fters in Sydney”. Unfortunately I was unable to disprove his assertion.
This all happened only nine or ten years ago. And yet it feels as though so much has changed – and very much for the better – in that time. There will be many reasons for this (general awareness of LGBT issues, the role of social media, visibility of LGBT scientists, the amazingness of the newer generation…?) and others will be able to speak much more authoritatively than I on the topic. For my own part, it is just a relief to feel quite genuinely that I don’t need to hide my personal life in professional circles, and can simply get on with the job I’m so lucky to be paid to do….
And I am equally fortunate that the group as a whole – and my collaborators and colleagues – have been extremely supportive of those students, of me, of my husband Jonathan, and of LGBT issues in general. Increasingly it seems that one’s sexuality is less and less of an issue in a scientific career – just as it should be.
Yet it would be naïve to suggest challenges don’t still remain. Science is an international endeavour and many other countries are still very unwelcoming places for LGBT individuals of any professional persuasion. For LGBT scientists, it’s not simply a case of coming out to one’s colleagues in a single cathartic event. Instead it’s a repeated process of coming out time and time again, as one meets new contacts at conferences or meetings, often in environments that are obviously less supportive than what we have started to grow accustomed to here in the UK.
But what makes me so optimistic is the attitude of the students. To them it seems so clear that what matters is the quality of what one does rather than sexuality or gender identity, or race. How refreshing! We are quite simply all the better off for such an outlook. And so I feel lucky to be an LGBT academic at a time of such tangible, long-needed, and productive change.