LGBTQ+STEM - Anyone Can Be a Scientist

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Think back to childhood. What was the most common question you were asked? For many people, it was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You might have answered that you want to be a doctor, or an artist, a musician, a teacher, or a scientist.

Whatever your answer, it was because you could imagine yourself in that career. It’s hard to envision yourself in a profession where you don’t see anyone like you. And for many underrepresented groups, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ people, finding people to identify with, especially in STEM, can be a challenge. This is why visibility is so important and why I was happy to write for LGBTQ+STEM Day.

I’m currently a PhD student in applied physics at Stanford University. When I’m working, I spend most of my time thinking about how to trick photons into doing computations. My research involves designing reprogrammable nanophotonic circuits that use light to perform high-speed matrix multiplication and quantum information tasks. I’ve also recently started doing experimental work using high-powered lasers to probe certain types of vacancy centers in a diamond lattice.

In addition to research, I’m also involved in science outreach and communication on Twitter through making math and physics animations. I’ve found Twitter to be a great platform not only for communicating science concepts, but also for connecting through communities like Pride in STEM and 500 Queer Scientists.

I’m fortunate to live with my partner Alex in San Francisco – one of the world’s most progressive and inclusive cities – and to attend a university which tries to foster a similarly welcoming academic environment. Throughout my time in grad school, I’ve had the privilege to work with a wonderful and diverse array of people. The best way I can think to contribute to this inclusive research community and to LGBTQ visibility in STEM is to be open and proud of who I am. Science is an amazing community, and I think it’s important that people know that anyone can be a part of it.

Ben Bartlett

PhD candidate in applied physics, Stanford University

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