University of Chicago Exhibit and Speaker Series Celebrates LGBTQ+ Scientists

September 23, 2019

National Coming Out Day, October 11, is observed annually to celebrate coming out as LGBTQ+ and to build awareness for the social and legal inequalities that LGBTQ+ people face.

October 11 will also mark the unveiling of a University of Chicago exhibit, “Out in the PSD and PME,” featuring large-scale portraits of LGBTQ+ and ally members of the Physical Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. The exhibit, located in the atrium of the William Eckhardt Research Center, aims to shed light on the realities of LGBTQ+ people in science and the struggles and triumphs they experience. 

Borja Sotomayor in black and white with purple streak across image
Portrait of Borja Sotomayor, one of the subjects of Out in the PSD and PME

“Too often in STEM, we draw a sharp distinction and say this is science—this is personal,” said Neli Fanning, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Director in the Physical Sciences Division. “But that’s not how life works. Scientists have other defining dimensions, including being LGBTQ+, and those identities are interwoven.” 

The seventeen PSD and PME faculty members, students, and staff profiled in the exhibit wrote narratives to accompany their portraits. Several wrote about their desires to be out in professional settings, to see people like them reflected more broadly in their fields, and for grant opportunities and collaborations to remain unaffected by their LGBTQ+ status.

“Being out as a scientist means that I will not hide myself in a scientific setting,” wrote chemistry student Jake Higgins. “I will be who I am and take up a space that is mine regardless of what people expect from me.”

“Out in the PSD and PME” will also feature a weekly speaker series, including a panel of PSD and PME students and faculty, who will discuss their experiences as LGBTQ+ scientists or allies at UChicago.

“We are very excited to launch this effort in partnership with PME and to leverage our shared building to elevate the voices of LGBTQ+ people in STEM,” said Angela Olinto, dean of the Physical Sciences Division. “We want every single member of our community to know they are part of a network of support and that their voices matter.”

Out in the PSD and PME Opening Reception

Oct. 11, 4-6:00 PM, ERC Atrium
Exhibit will remain open through Oct. 30

Out in the PSD and PME Speaker Series

Dr. Bill Gordon, Assistant Professor, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
Oct. 17, 12-1:00 PM, ERC 401 B

Out in the PSD and PME Speaker Series

Vivian Miranda, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Arizona
Oct. 23, 12-1:00 PM, ERC 401 B

Out in the PSD and PME Panel

Borja Sotomayor, Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science
Brent Barker, Teaching Support Manager, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Dani Scheff, Graduate Student, Department of Physics
Jonathan Salmeron Hernandez, Graduate Student, PME

Oct. 29, 12-1:00 PM, ERC 401 B