LGBT group draws diverse audience for STEM seminar supported by IOP

23 January 2017

LGBT group draws diverse audience for STEM seminar supported by IOP

The LGBT STEMinar 2017 was held at the University of Sheffield and included opportunities for networking and discussion, as well as a programme of talks on diverse fields from human language cognition to photoluminescent polymer nanoparticles and the geometry of string dualities.

Physics topics covered included the distribution of star formation in MaNGA galaxies, viewing the sites of planet formation using high angular resolution interferometry and particle and astroparticle physics with Hyper-Kamiokande.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion led by Dr Dominic Galliano, SEPnet director of outreach, and Dr Alfredo Carpinetti, an astrophysicist and science journalist, who also wrote a blog post about the day. One issue discussed during the STEMinar was the need to engage people from the LGBT+ community in science and to take science to places where it was not normally seen.

LGBT group draws diverse audience for STEM seminar supported by IOP

Galliano described working with the University of Sussex to take science outreach to the Pride festival in Brighton and mentioned the IOP’s campaign to take physics into pubs using snippets of science on beer mats. He appealed to people to think about their social networks and the places they go and consider whether science outreach could be brought into these.

Angela Townsend, the IOP’s diversity programme coordinator, was at the conference and said it was an even bigger event than the 2016 STEMinar, with more participants including around 40 physicists, and many more applications to speak than there were slots for talks.

She said: It was a welcome opportunity to sponsor and attend a conference that brought together so many members of the LGBT+ STEM community from companies and universities to share their scientific work and research and build collaborations in a friendly and relaxed environment.”

LGBT group draws diverse audience for STEM seminar supported by IOP

Claire Davies, an ERC research fellow at the University of Exeter, spoke on planet formation at the STEMinar. She said: “As researchers, especially when presenting results in the conference-like environment, there seems a pressure to conform to a certain way of being. This can come from other people’s words, raised eyebrows, second glances or apparent silence, or can be more self-imposed, often due to an inherent social desire to fit in. What was great about the meeting was that none of that mattered. We were all scientists and all that mattered was science. That was tremendously refreshing.

“Because the work everyone was doing was so varied, people from all different career stages mingled and chatted to one another. This is something I rarely see at subject-specific conferences so it was really nice to have the opportunity to speak with people who have been in academia for a longer period of time. Their advice and experience is invaluable.”

The IOP was one of the event sponsors and also offered travel grants to IOP members to attend the conference, which was organised by LGBT STEM. The Institute was also invited to display a poster for a session at the event, and it contributed one describing the work of the LGBT+ Physicists and Astronomers Network, which is organised by the IOP and the Royal Astronomical Society. The network can be contacted through the website or by email.