Pride in STEM: Get Involved

Pride Month 2022 is here! BioTrib is committed to raising the visibility of LGBTQ+ researchers, students, and staff in STEM. Pride month is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity that enable our research communities, but also to reflect and contribute to the ongoing struggle for equal civil rights globally and raise awareness on vital issues to the LGBTQ+ community in the pursuit of equality.

Why is LGBTQ+ representation still so important STEM? It is estimated LGBT people are approximately 20% less represented in STEM fields than expected [Cech, 2017]. With nearly 28% of LGBT and 50% of trans staff at least once considering leaving the workplace due to a climate of discrimination [RSC, IOP 2019].

Check out these great initiatives for STEM LGBTQ+ and allied researchers to get involved with:

  • Pride in STEM is a charitable trust run by an independent group of LGBT+ scientists & engineers from around the world. They run a range of events and initiatives to raise the profiles of LGBTQ+ researchers in STEM.
  • 500 Queer Scientists is a visibility campaign for LGBTQ+ people and their allies working in STEM and STEM-supporting jobs — a group that collectively represents a powerful force of scientific progress and discovery. 1,688 stories and counting!
  • Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM), is a non-profit professional association for LGBTQ+ people in the STEM community. With over 100 student chapters at colleges/universities and professional chapters in cities across the USA, UK, and Canada. You can join a local chapter of even start your own!
  • The LGBTQ+ Stem Cast podcast by Felix Berrios  aims to expand the voices of LGBTQ+ Scientists from a variety of disciplines. With a range of guests they discuss their research, upbringing, and how their passion for science started.
  • Stonewall, a UK based charity who run a range of LGBTQ+ events, workshops, and provide a host of resources for those of us looking to explore our identity, coming out, and LGBTQ+ issues.
  • You! Start your own initiatives at your institution for championing LGBTQ+ visibility, perhaps start your own diversity coffee hour or workshop!

Read more about BioTrib’s commitment to promoting equality.

 

 

Simone De Beauvoir and Hard Maths!

I had to pinch myself a number of times this week to ensure I was not ensnared in some Kafkaesque nightmare. Katharine Birbalsingh CBE, Chair, Social Mobility Commission (yes, that is correct), decided to make a comment and relate hard maths in physics to the poor uptake amongst girls in this subject, not withstanding the latest round of results in A-level Mathematics.  The full select committee discussion can be found here, in which Katherine refers to anonymous research supporting her claims.  This got worse as our Chair decided to go on GB News (a common media outlet for Katharine) to explain that she had endeavoured to control for social factors, after which the only attribute left was the sex difference.  Clearly, Katharine couldn’t  have, effectively, excluded all these factors as many are outside her control, but that didn’t stop her professing her innocence.

A key aspect of the debate, to my mind, is not just about getting women in STEM careers, but that if they are excluded we get a world designed for men in an increasing technological age. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez (review here) sets out cataloguing, through careful research, the lack of data and the lack of gender/sex disaggregation of that data, which then works in hand with the assumption that maleness and the male lens are neutral to discriminate against women. The effects of this data invisibility, arising from a lack of representation, in many technological spheres leads to profound inequalities for women, which impoverish them (and children) to an appalling extent.  This is made worse by the examples of good practice which are just ignored.  The book’s inescapable conclusion is best summed up by the quote at the beginning:

Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.”   Simone De Beauvoir 

International Womens Day – BioTrib

For International Women’s Day 2022 the women in BioTrib have put together a series of 6 interviews and articles covering:

– Why engineering as a profession?
– Women of Impact: Empowered women, empower women. 
– What did you expect your experience of engineering to be like, and how does that compare to reality?
– What skill(s) in particular have helped you during your career?
– What advice would you give to your younger self about entering STEM?
– Do you think that the proportion of women in your field has changed over the course of your career?

Thanks for editing and contributions from Judith SchneiderCecilia PerssonEdona HylaIsobel ReesBeril Saadet YenigülAfrina Khan PiyaDr Lisa-Dionne MorrisFjolla SylajIsobel Pollock-Hulf OBE and Charlotte Merrell

Check it out below!

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 956004 🇪🇺

LGBT History month: Alan Turing History and a Call to action

Alan Turing was certainly one man ahead of his time. He was fascinated by mathematics and logic and laid the foundations for what would become modern computer science. He helped the United Kingdom in the war efforts to break the Enigma, a dreaded cryptography machine used by Nazi Germany for communications. Later, he would also come up with concepts that just now are being explored such as artificial intelligence and mathematical biology (BBC Horizon).

Turing was homosexual, for this sole reason, he was arrested in 1952 for indecency. He was chemically castrated and had developed a depression that might have caused his suicide (Doan, 2017). Doan (2017) reflects on his tragic fate as a classic example of how society’s prejudice robbed him of a dignified and fulfilling life.

We might have progressed in tolerance and respect of LGBTQ+ community in most countries; however, LGBTQ+ scientists are still more likely to suffer discrimination in the workplace. This culminates in a higher likelihood of depression, stress at work, insomnia, and other health issues (ELSE, 2021). Specially LGBTQ+ ethnical minorities and women are subject to the effects of prejudice (ELSE, 2021).

Let us not forget this tragic example and keep fighting to promote a more egalitarian culture in honor of Turing’s and so many lives wasted to intolerance.  As scientists, we can advocate for more inclusive and respectful workplaces and societies for everyone, regardless of gender expression and sexual orientation.

 

This article was written by André Plath as part of a series on LGBTQIA+ History Month. curated by BioTrib’s Early Stage Researchers.

André is one of BioTrib’s Early Stage Researcher‘s who is investigating Boundary Lubrication of Fibrous Scaffolds at ETH Zürich, Switzerland.

 

 

Header Image: “Alan Turing” by avaragado is licensed under Creative Commons. Image source: https://wordpress.org/openverse/image/a6514d5d-a295-4a60-8023-9a3e89f81c1b

References

Alan Turing BBC Horizon. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-sTs2o0VuY>

Doan, L. (2017). Queer History / Queer Memory. In GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (Vol. 23, Issue 1, pp. 113–136). Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-3672321

Else, H. (2021). The largest-ever survey exposes career obstacles for LGBTQ scientists. In Nature. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-00221-w

 

 

Pride, Science, and Prejudice

Back in 2013, I used to volunteer for a community-based non-profit organisation that provides HIV/AIDS education, prevention, care, and support programmes in conservative Malaysia. Their main office is located on a first floor of shop lot in the seedy part of Kuala Lumpur. Every time I walked up the stairs, I would be greeted by a poster that says ‘Discrimination kills, not AIDS’ which has faded over the years. It was a reminder for all to leave their prejudice behind upon entering. For 2 hours, twice a week, I would carry out an anonymous rapid HIV antibody test for marginalised community of Kuala Lumpur and providing counselling and education on sexuality and sex-related issues in a non-judgemental way.

Millions have died from Covid-19 but it is only the second highest death tolls of global infectious disease pandemic in the last century after HIV/AIDS. Progress in eradicating HIV/AIDS has been painfully slow despite almost reaching its 4th decade and millions more death since it was first discovered. Covid-19 pandemic has proved that lives can be saved from expedited, concerted effort from everyone in record time. This raises the question of whether HIV/AIDS patients’ demographic was the main reason for the lack of appetite to fund or eradicating this problem?

The current daily anti-retroviral treatment for HIV has helped people to have near-normal life expectancy as well as managing it like a chronic condition rather than a death sentence. In 2021, another breakthrough for HIV when long-acting ART injection was approved by NICE [1]. This treatment will reduce the burden of daily dosage to once every 2 months which will improve patients’ compliance and managing the problem better. To give sense of the timeline, the daily combined ART was first introduced in 1995, more than a decade ago [2]. The NHS also has been offering free Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) since 2020 for HIV negative who are at risk of being exposed to the virus. This decision was taken after an overwhelming positive outcome from IMPACT trials which was consistently oversubscribed from those who are interested to take part and had to be on waiting list for months. The same affirmative outcome has been seen in other trials all over the globe [3].

Currently, only men who have sex with men AND who have had the same sexual partner for 3 months or more are able to give blood in the NHS. These criteria were only being introduced in Summer 2021 after a lengthy campaign for risk-based assessment for blood donation amongst gays. Ten years before that, a total ban was in place for all men who have sex with another men. Earlier this month, Terrence Higgin Trust reported that new HIV diagnoses amongst heterosexual people have overtaken from those in gay and bisexual men in 2020 [4]. If we are ‘following the science’, shouldn’t the risk-based assessment for blood donor applicable for everyone who wanted to donate blood, given the new data presented and not just our preconceived idea of it is a ‘gay disease’?

Covid-19 also has brought up some of the prejudice that have been lurking in the subconscious mind of science. The advice on the use of face coverings was only introduce by the UK Government and WHO in June 2020 citing there was ‘lack of scientific evidence’ prior to that. A meta-analysis study on usage of face masks during infectious disease pandemics funded by WHO that was published in The Lancet [5] has since changed their stance. Looking back at the scientific paper, out of 23 studies on face masks, only 3 were conducted during 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. 20 other studies were conducted during SARS or MERS outbreaks, a dozen of them has been published for more than a decade before, where majority of them were in East Asia. Only 3 studies were in a non-healthcare setting. Was it really ‘lack of evidence’ or our prejudiced has blinded us again towards the good public health practice from nations that have a different ethnicity culture or who are not aligned with our belief? Were we right to “err on the side of caution” towards South Africa when Omicron variant was first detected?

Table extracted from Chu et al. 2020. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 395: 1973–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31142-9

Discrimination and prejudice have been the fabric of humanity since the beginning of time. As a human being, we all need to proactively be kind towards each other regardless of your moral values. As a scientist, we must not let our biases eclipse our scientific rigour. There should not be a place for prejudice in science, or anywhere for that matter. That 90’s poster might have been faded, but the message still rings truth to this day. For LGBT+ History Month, let us remember that our work in ending discrimination will NEVER end. The work will always require an active participation and effort from everybody – scientists are no exception.

This article was written by Faizal Kamarol Zaman as part of a series on LGBTQ+ History Month and prejudice in STEM.

 

References

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-59330979

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4309625/

[3] https://www.iwantprepnow.co.uk/prep-trials/

[4] https://www.tht.org.uk/news/heterosexual-hiv-diagnoses-overtake-those-gay-men-first-time-decade

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673620311429

 

LGBTQ+ Researcher Visbility: 500 queer scientists

500 queer scientists (Actually 1,625+ queer scientists) is a visibility campaign for LGBTQ+ and allied people working in STEM and STEM supporting roles. It is a database of self-submitted biographies and stories intended to boost recognition and awareness of STEM scientists. This is with the view of helping isolated members of the queer community realise they are not alone and perhaps even create opportunities and connect communities in academic or professional institutions!

Visibility for LGBTQ+ STEM workers is critical for cultivating wellbeing in professional and academic environments. Many members of the LGBTQ+ community have reported incidents of harassment and discrimination in STEM environments,

It is estimated LGBT people are approximately 20% less represented in STEM fields than expected [Cech, 2017]. With nearly 28% of LGBT and 50% of trans staff at least once considering leaving the workplace due to a climate of discrimination [RSC, IOP 2019].

Further statistics and information is available on the 500 QS resource page.

If you are an LGBTQ+ person or ally in the STEM community, you can help grow 500 QS by submitting your own biography!

 

References

RSC, IOP 2019: https://www.rsc.org/globalassets/04-campaigning-outreach/campaigning/lgbt-report/lgbt-report_web.pdf

Cech, 2017: https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6010012 

 

This article was written by Rob Elkington, the BioTrib website manager as part of a series of blog posts for LGBTQ+ history month.

 

Women in Science: Elena Corner Piscopia, the First Woman to Graduate

The Italian Elena Lucrezia Corner Pisonia is the first woman in the world to graduate, as she entered her degree in Philosophy from the University of Padua on June 25, 1678. Born in Venice in 1646, Elena was the daughter of Giovanni Battista, that held the part of the alternate most important authority in the Republic of Venice after the Doge.

Since she was a child, Elena had shown a great literacy capability, curiosity, and cleverness, as well as serious fidelity to her studies. Elena enrolled at the University of Padua – one of the most prominent universities in ultramodern Europe- for a degree in Theology. Her university operation was accepted by the directors without any difficulties. Still, she met with the opposition of Gregorio Barbarigo, bishop and cardinal of Padua, as well as chancellor of the university, who was trying to put the Catholic Church doctrine according to which women were allegedly not suitable to perform complex logic.

Without his authorization, Elena couldn’t graduate. Ultimately, the Corner family, the University and Barbarigo, reached a concession and it was agreed that Elena would be awarded a degree in Philosophy rather than Theology.

According to sources of the time, on the day of Elena’s graduation roughly 30’000 people showed up to attend her dissertation. Elena, therefore, became the pride of the University of Padua, and of the Republic of Venice. Her historical significance, however, was only conceded in 1969, when the University of Padua decided to officially certify her as being the first woman in the world to graduate.

Statue of Elena Corner Piscopia

Inside Palazzo del Bo’, the main structure of the University of Padua, her statue is exhibited.

Read more on Italy Magazine.

This article was written by Elisa Bissacco as part of an ongoing series of scientific communications written and curated by BioTrib’s Early Stage Researchers.

She is studying a PhD in Tribological Characteristics of Nanofibrous Electrospun Materials at ETH Zurich.

World AIDS Day – 1st December 2021

December 1st is the annual World AIDS Day, an important event to reflect on the worlds response to AIDS and to recognise efforts to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and improve access to treatment along with HIV prevention.

For information on HIV and where to get tested in the UK please refer to the NHS website. Further information and advice on PrEP can be found at the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Globally, young women are still disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic and struggle to access appropriate care and resources. This also translates to underrepresentation of this marginalised group in research and will be the subject of an upcoming lecture titled ‘Involvement of women living with HIV in research‘ on 8th December 2021.

Involvement of women living with HIV in research lecture – 8th December 2021

Women living with HIV are under-represented in research, yet studies such as the Invisible No Longer project led by Sophia Forum and Terrence Higgins Trust indicate women do want to participate. Meaningful involvement of women living with HIV in research leads to better outcomes, both in upholding the right to participation and in the quality of the research itself. In this presentation, barriers to research participation and how to overcome them will be explored, and strategies to achieve visibility, inclusion and representation of women living with HIV in research will be discussed.

“Visibility and inclusion” involvement of women living with HIV in research

About this event:
Dr Jacqui Stevenson, Freelance Consultant/Researcher; promoting gender equality in the HIV response and in global health

Chair: Prof Richard M Hall, University of Leeds.

12:30 – 13:30, 8th December 2021 – online. Sign up on Eventbrite.

International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEM

November 18 is the International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEM, an opportunity to celebrate diversity within the BioTrib community and wider STEM fields! In parallel to outputting cutting edge biotribology and medical device research, BioTrib celebrates diversity within our worldwide community by endeavoring to use the resources and influence of BioTrib to advocate for and educate towards equality in STEM.

Inequality and equal representation in STEM is a vastly complex landscape with much progress to still be made – but we are heading in the right direction!  Following the recruitment of Early Stage Researchers, BioTrib will set in motion a dedicated Gender Opportunities Committee to critically identify how BioTrib can best use its network and community to improve inclusivity in STEM as well as engineering research.

BioTrib commits itself to raising awareness and promoting equality in STEM:

  • Gender Equality: Women in STEM are still vastly underrepresented in senior academic positions. Gender disparity grows as research careers progress, only one third of EU researchers are women with less than one quarter in top academic positions [European Commission 2020].
  • Equal Representation: Ethnicity STEM data [RSC, 2020] highlights consistent disparity in BAME degree completion rates, and outcomes, along with reduced retention and career progression in STEM. Presently STEM ethnic minority staff are much less likely to hold senior posts and contracts.
  • LGBTQIA+ in STEM: It is estimated LGBT people are approximately 20% less represented in STEM fields than expected [Cech, 2017]. With nearly 28% of LGBT and 50% of trans staff at least once considering leaving the workplace due to a climate of discrimination [RSC, IOP 2019].

Read more about BioTrib’s commitment to promoting equality.

Pamela Ball: first Jamaican woman to gain the fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England

Pamela Ball, FRCS, source: rcseng.ac.uk 29/10/21

Pamela Ball, a broadly skilled surgical officer mostly operating in Kidderminster and Wordsley in the UK Midlands, is the first Jamaican woman to gain the prestigious fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

She was born Pamela Margaret Moody in Kingston, Jamaica. Her father is also a trailblazing Jamaican medic, who after moving to study medicine at King’s College London and in 1919 became the first Jamaican to pass the MRCP exam!

Pamela’s vibrant and varied work history includes beginnings as a house surgeon at Birmingham General Hospital where she trained with ‘… lots of operating, including gall bladders and gastrectomies and so on’ along with developing experience in casualty and orthopaedics.

She then went on to gain the fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1954.

Eventually she settled in Kidderminster as a resident surgical officer, going on to dabble in other highly skilled surgical disciplines including plastic surgery and anaesthetics. She later became a clinical assistant and taking lead within the highly dynamic accident unit in Kidderminster.

Retiring in 1991, she stayed active within the Kidderminster hospital, continuing as a locum for a further two years and helping the League of Friends of Kidderminster Hospital to raise funds for new equipment, eventually becoming the leagues president in 2006.

Celebrating a highly accomplished life, Pamela Ball died of bone marrow cancer in September 2019, just after receiving an MBE for her services to the NHS. She was 92.

Read the original article: https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/library-and-publications/library/blog/pamela-ball/

Women living with HIV – carrying the burden of the pandemic.

Source: Sophia Forum – We are still here – accessed 25-10-21

All groups affected by HIV should have access to appropriate care and the opportunity to, for instance, enter clinical trials and access innovative treatments. A recent editorial noted the mismatch between those PLWH that were recruited to clinical trials (overrepresentation of young white males) and those seen in the general population (a more heterogeneric demography). Women have been severely underrepresented in many areas of HIV treatment and care including inclusion in research. This appears to be an ongoing issue across the HIV landscape with alternative approaches required to allow both access and opportunity in advancing care and its underpinning research. This is essential as in the UK a third of people living with HIV are women and globally the figure stands at fifty percent and it is incumbent on everyone that the right interventions are utilised in this as well as any other community. This is particularly important where intersectional issues make marginalisation and stigma even more challenging.  The near-invisibility of WLWH is not a recent phenomenon but one that has existed from the early 80s when HIV came to the fore and the public’s attention.  This is one legacy that the community needs to overcome and as Jacqui Stevenson says:

No more excuses: Making HIV research work for women. (Sophia Forum)

Other marginalised groups such as those from BAME backgrounds, whilst being disproportionately affected, were also largely excluded from trials and medical care more generally.

As ART has produced improved outcomes in terms of life expectancy, the demographics of people living with HIV has changed radically. A significant number of PLWH including women have a life expectancy similar to that found in the general population.  However, there are disparities between groups (see, for instance, Solomon et al 2020) and a general reduction in quality of life for PLWH due to the onset of a range of geriatric syndromes a decade or more earlier with ongoing discrimination. This has been emphasised recently by ongoing research and advocacy by Jacqui Stevenson who has studied WLWH growing older. The outcomes of the research provide eight asks to improve the lives of WLWH.

Advice for women and HIV including using PrEP can be found at:

Mechanical Engineers Walk the Walk – Well Cycle the Cycle!

Absolutely great effort from the School’s Med Tech cyclists Drs Peter Culmer and Andrew Jackson in support of Cancer Support Yorkshire. The route was the famous The Way of the Roses… nice play on words… unifying the pre-eminent counties of England, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

A mighty 250 km cycle across the country in one day!

Please donate on Just Giving: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andrew-jackson112

This post was written by Richard M Hall on behalf of Andrew Jackson and Pete Culmer – Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds.

93 percent club

Earlier in the year I reported on a new University Stakeholder Group that was gaining traction within the sector. Unusually this one was centred on those which form the greatest proportion of school leavers, those from state schools.  There is further news on this on the BBC website.  Sophie Pender expertly brings the situation to the fore saying:

“Truthfully, when many state-educated people reach the pinnacle of their careers, they’ve often dispensed with their state-school identity,”

“Our socioeconomic background is not obvious on the surface.

“It’s a characteristic that we are able to mask if we need to – and that needs to stop.”

 Quotes taken from the BBC website – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-57580910, accessed 12th July 2021

I just wonder how may of us now say ‘dinner’ rather than ‘tea’!?

Further information on this not-for-profit social enterprise can be found by following the link  – 93percent.

Paige Kesemeyer – homelessness to academic success!

A truly brilliant piece from Paige Kesemeyer about her journey from disadvantage and initial lack of opportunity to completing her BA degree in Social Policy and an MA in Society, Culture and Media.   Education for all and the opportunities that it provides are a necessary part of imaging a just and beneficial society which allows all to flourish as they see fit. It also provides us (society) with the widest possible pool of talent and encourages a broader range of innovation and ideas to circulate within different sectors.  It also recognises the importance of taking to account all stakeholder views to ensure that minimal disadvantage is impacted on particular groups.