500 Queer Scientists is intended to shine a light on the incredible individuals working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and STEM-supporting jobs. Built on individual, self-submitted stories that raise the visibility of queer scientists and their allies, the movement has three primary goals: to ensure that the next STEM generation has LGBTQ+ role models; to help the current generation recognize they’re not alone; and to create a database that helps to facilitate better diversity among speakers and panelists. Visit 500QueerScientists.com to read stories or submit one of your own, and join/follow the conversation on Twitter and Instagram.
500 Queer Scientists was started by two scientists at the California Academy of Sciences — entomology curator Dr. Lauren Esposito and infectious disease biologist and science illustrator Sean Edgerton — to help forge connections among LGBTQ+ STEM workers, who often feel isolated or alienated among their colleagues.
A 2013 survey of American STEM workers found that more than 40 percent of LGBTQ+-identified respondents working in STEM fields are not out to their colleagues — a statistic that may be related to the fact that in 28 states, it’s still legal for employers to discriminate against someone for their sexual or gender identity. Perhaps even more harrowing is a 2018 study that found undergraduate sexual minority students were 8 percent less likely to be retained in STEM majors when compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
“Despite the increasing LGBTQ acceptance I’ve experienced in my lifetime,” says Esposito, “I’ve also felt the icy chill of isolation working in a STEM career, and the awkwardness of coming out over and over again in professional settings. Recently, while reading an article about LGBTQ+ experiences in STEM, I was saddened to realize I didn’t even blink an eye when it mentioned that many STEM workers don’t know any other LGBTQ+ workers in their discipline. It’s time for that to change.
“At a time when both the acceptance of LGBTQ people and the perceived value of data-based science are on the decline,” Esposito adds, “I wanted to find a way to band LGBTQ+ STEM workers together to show each other — and the world — that we’re a powerful force for scientific progress, and that we will stand up for science and for LGBTQ+ rights.”
Check out the campaign's Instagram, and you can follow many of the scientists in this gallery.
"I am a French biologist and an evolutionist. I'm studying moths and I'm developing methods to sequence museum specimens. I've been aware of my homosexuality since I was a teenager, but I didn't dare to come out until recently. I work in Sweden, and I must confess that the academia world here is feminist, LGBTQI-friendly, and antiracist; that helped me a lot to not hide who I am. I was accepted fully and was well supported by my PI and my team when I finally came out to them. That comforted me in the idea that I am in an environment where I can be accepted as I am, and it makes me feel confident enough to assume it in front of the world. I am really interested in inclusion and representation of women and LGBTQI in science. I would like to pursue my job in academic research with a focus on evolutionary genomics and in entomology. I ultimately seek to become a university lecturer." 500queerscientists.com
"Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up in the times when gay marriage amendments were being passed, and I am always amazed at the progress that the LGBTQ community has achieved, even if there is still so much work to be done. I went to the University of North Carolina for my Ph.D., where I was blessed to have an awesome graduate advisor that provided me all the support I needed when I came out academically. I believe that while science may be science, we are most productive when we're allowed to be our authentic selves, instead of wasting so much time on the anxiety of fitting in. I am also a member of Spectra, which is the Association for LGBTQ Mathematicians and is working on improving the academic environment in mathematics and identifying issues that affect our community. I am about to start a tenure-track position at the University of Akron, where I plan to be a faculty mentor for LGBTQ students and encourage them to start careers in STEM!" 500queerscientists.com
"I'm a queer guy studying the biodiversity and impacts of global change on decomposer and plant symbiotic fungi at the University of New Hampshire. Identifying as queer is an important part of my story because I view 'queer' as a radical social justice label. The ways humans oppress the environment, nonhumans, queer people, POC, disabled folks, and other marginalized people all intersect, and my queer identity steers me to think about that intersectionality in important ways. In addition to my work as an ecologist, I'm highly interested in the emerging concept of queer sustainability and how queer thought may be able to disrupt the ways capitalism makes oppression seem normal and natural." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm a queer black femme whose research focuses on the intersection between particle physics, cosmology, and astrophysics. My pet dark-matter candidate is the axion, my favorite observational bandwidth is the X-ray, and my favorite (actually observed) particles are quarks. I also do research in science, technology, and society studies, with a focus on black feminism-grounded social epistemology, which explores impact of the presence of minoritized people in STEM. I do a lot of advocacy for marginalized people in the sciences and have been an active member of the National Society of Black Physicists for nearly 15 years. I'm also an active critic of the way diversity discourse has been mainstreamed as a move away from equal-rights struggles, and I think scientists need to talk about colorism more." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm gay, trained as a zoologist, and my research is now mainly focused on animal behaviour and welfare, especially of livestock species such as goats, chickens, and cattle. I did my Ph.D. research on deer. I am Irish and live in London, and work at the University of Roehampton. My Twitter ID is @amcell. I occasionally volunteer for an organisation called Diversity Role Models (DRM), @DiversityRM. DRM tackles bullying related to gender/sexuality and encourages critical thinking by taking positive role models into schools." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm the lead investigator of a super-resolution microscopy research group at the University of Leeds (UK). In my team, we develop, refine, and apply new microscopy tools to optically resolve the building-blocks of life: single proteins. A highlight among the proteins that we study are the arrays of giant calcium channels called the ryanodine receptors, which orchestrate the heartbeat. Building new technologies and scientific tools has been a way of self-discovery for me since childhood and a way of connecting with queer scientists who have influenced my career path toward academia. I first came out as a trans woman to two of my colleagues 10 years ago. Seven years ago, I came out to my partner, also an academic, who inspired me to be my full authentic self. I currently work in a faculty that is home to a number of LGBT scientists. Like all of them, I am well supported by my employer and find it an academic environment in which I can thrive."
"I am using my knowledge of agroecology and grassland ecology to increase the sustainability of livestock farming systems. Despite positive contributions to society, livestock farming is currently facing changes in socio-cultural values related to its land use and climate impacts, animal welfare, and knowledge of food origin. My work aims to promote ways of reconciling natural resource management and food production in the long term, as part of the necessary transition of agriculture. In doing this, I try to contribute to an ecologically and socially fair world. I believe it is important to be visible as an LGBTQ+ member of the STEM community to ensure the next generation, and those who live in less LGBT-friendly countries, have positive role models, and know they are not alone. Being openly gay to my work colleagues has made me feel more self-confident and probably helped me becoming a better person and a better scientist. Love is love and LGBTQ+ rights are human rights! Being part of the 500 Queer Scientists campaign is just another way to contribute to a more equitable and fair world." 500queerscientists.com
"I've always loved these incredible and marvelous creatures that are the true rulers of our world: bacteria! This passion took me to Rio where I am currently a Ph.D. student in microbiology at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Working on different areas such as microbial ecology, applied microbiology, and biotechnology, I hope to learn more about the bacterial and archaeal communities inhabiting Brazilian marine sponges, how they are important to their hosts, and, perhaps, use what they produce in our favor. For me, a fundamental part of being a scientist is to share your knowledge and stimulate the discussion about science with everyone. And speaking our truth is a beautiful and powerful way to do that!" 500queerscientists.com
"I'm a Ph.D. student and I study how apex predators influence nutrient cycling and carbon storage. I conduct my fieldwork in the Argentine Andes, researching puma-vicuña interactions, which mainly involves hiking around looking for carcasses. It's important to me to be out in my professional life — and to be vocal about social and racial justice in every setting — to show that science isn't divorced from social issues and that we can only do our best work after we have confronted the inequality and biases that remain pervasive in our field." 500queerscientists.com
"I am currently an MS student studying marine resource management at Oregon State University. For my research, I am conducting an ecological assessment of a potential sea otter reintroduction to the Oregon coast. Through this work, I will identify suitable sea otter habitat, as well as investigate the potential ecological impacts of sea otters on Oregon's coastal species and ecosystems. As a gay black man, studying and working in STEM has made me realize the vital importance of representation. I hope that my life and experiences can be used as an examples and proof that queer and people of color can and do excel in STEM." 500queerscientists.com
"I am a university senior lecturer in pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, having previously lived and worked in New York City and Berlin. I run a research group focused on understanding neuronal mechanisms that drive chronic pain and everything that makes naked mole-rats so cool (cancer resistance, longevity etc.). I also lecture a variety of undergraduate courses for scientists and medicine/veterinary medicine students, mainly to do with different aspects of neuropharmacology. Cambridge has a college-based system and I am a fellow of Corpus Christi College. At Corpus I carry out small group teaching in pharmacology, am a director of studies in biology (academic guidance), work as a tutor (a pastoral role), and am also the custodian of the Corpus Chronophage Clock — a truly magnificent timepiece! Alongside my academic work, I really enjoy public engagement and outreach/widening participation activities, believing them to be a key part of being an academic scientist." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm a biology student at San Francisco State University, and I currently volunteer with fieldwork studying bats in Marin County and currently in Honduras as well. I love teaching others about the importance of wildlife, specifically bats. I started an Instagram page, @batsarereallycool, to share information about them! I know many queer scientists and I love our community. Go bats! Go gays!" 500queerscientists.com
"I did my Ph.D. on speciation in birds at Lund University, and in my postdoc project at University of Oregon I focus on the funky snouts of pipefishes, seahorses, and seadragons. I use genetic and genomic tools to understand the underpinnings of variation in phenotypic traits, and ultimately how those provide targets for selection, leading to Earth’s incredible biodiversity. Being open since my late teens — and fancying holding my partner’s hand — meant regularly enduring harassment even in progressive Sweden. In other parts of the world, homosexuals may face anything from social stigma to the death penalty, which directly impacts where I feel comfortable going for fieldwork or conferences. I have generally met positive attitudes in academia, but it long seemed as though no other queer biologists existed. Twitter helped me discover that isn’t true, and I realized how isolated I had actually felt. I strive to actively support diversity in STEM, and being out and proud is one of many ways." 500queerscientists.com
"My research using tree rings to reconstruct past climate has allowed me to explore the most beautiful mountain ranges of the world. I’m honored to serve as the inaugural dean of the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. I wake up every day thinking about how to make science more accessible and relevant to our planetary grand challenges. I am a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America. I was recently elected to the American Geophysical Union’s Board of Directors. I live in Seattle with my mathematician wife and our two daughters." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm a lesbian, but I prefer the term 'lesbiana' because gender expressions and sexual preferences are shaped by our culture and I identify within my Mexican background. I'm a scientist and activist trying to understand the importance of spatial distribution in microbial evolution and fighting for inclusion of diversity in science." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm currently a Ph.D. student at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, University of Oregon. I study marine disease, parasites, and invertebrates. They're often scorned for being a little bit different from the rest of biology, yet the things that make them different also allow them to shape their ecosystems in incredible ways. I must confess that my drive to flip the 'evil parasite' narrative comes from my personal identity and belief that understanding can lead to appreciation. Queer folk are people, and parasites are living things too." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm a biology graduate student at UC Davis. My work focuses on how different cell types in the gut provide discrete nutrients for commensal and pathogenic bacteria. I'm an advocate for diversity, good mental health, and queer visibility in STEM and mentor undergraduate students interested in pursuing graduate careers. As an undergraduate just starting to navigate my identity, I really struggled with finding guidance from a perspective that addresses not only issues with coming out, but coming out in a culturally sensitive family or navigating science as a young queer scientist. I hope to one day become the cool queer Asian-American science role model that I wish I had met when I was a young blossoming queer!" 500queerscientists.com
"I work as an evolutionary biologist and science illustrator at the California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco. As a biologist I study the evolution of viruses and infectious diseases of wildlife. As a science illustrator under 'The Pen & the Pangolin,' I bridge the gap between my love of art and science. My artwork stands in the service of science and for the purpose of education, while focusing on endless forms most beautiful, threats to biodiversity, organisms poorly understood, without a voice, and in dire need of our conservation efforts. I live in the Haight with my puplet Laika, where I also work as a freelance science/wildlife illustrator in my studio. If not in the city I'm most likely camping and backpacking around California." 500queerscientists.com
"LGBT scientists have played a big part in inspiring my work as an evolutionary biologist. I am happy to have one of my current desks near the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, which would not be the amazing collection of biodiversity it is without its founder, Annie Alexander. I owe much of my current happiness at work to those that pursued their scientific passions at times when it was far more difficult." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm a consultant clinical dcientist and the head of medical physics at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. I am also director of the Professional and Standards Council and LGBTQ+ network mentor at the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. When I started my scientific career in the late 1980s in chemistry, there were very few, if any, LGBTQ+ role models that I was aware of. Nevertheless, I came out as gay in the early 1990s during my doctorate and have stayed out during my entire career. In 2003 I joined the National Health Service and retrained in medical physics, specializing in radiotherapy physics; I felt isolated until recently, as I didn’t know of any other LGBTQ+ medical physicists. I'm fortunate to work in a role that straddles science and healthcare, as this enables me to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues in both arenas. I'm also lucky to live on the edge of the beautiful North York moors with my husband of more than 20 years." 500queerscientists.com
"I'm interested in insect brains and behavior, and as a grad student I study how mosquitoes hunt humans: what sensory cues they use (visual, thermal, olfactory), and how they make moment-to-moment decisions as they fly toward us. I do science, organize LGBTQ+ community at my school, and draw comics from my vantage point as a queer/bisexual nonbinary Chinese-American." 500queerscientists.com
"At Rutgers University, my lab studies the mechanisms through which estrogens control metabolism, reproduction, stress, and behaviors and the impacts of adult and developmental exposures to endocrine disruptors on these functions. However, my undergraduate and graduate training was in marine biology/toxicology. My change in career fields was due, in large part, to difficulty in securing postdoctoral training in a state that legally recognized my queer relationship. While being educated in mostly supportive environments, I also received my fair share of hostility and discrimination. These reasons are why I am an openly queer professor whose lab is supportive of all marginalized students and trainees, especially LGBTQ, at all levels of their studies. Being an out and active professor on campus is one of the most important parts of my job!" 500queerscientists.com
"During my master's degree in Brazil, I found myself really interested in the individual differences in the animal kingdom. I started studying captive capuchin monkeys (finger crossed for my first article ever to be published this year in this topic), and now, as a Ph.D. student in France, my main research focuses on the relationship between personality and cognition processes in free-range broiler chickens. Studying animal behavior, and particularly individual differences, helped me to understand myself and others better. Growing up under religion traditions and not having LGBT+ role models was very difficult for the younger me; I hope my story and this campaign reach people who are in need of a word of encouragement." 500queerscientists.com