Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex or aseaxual (LGBTQIA+) travellers can face unique challenges when travelling abroad. That’s why, Rosie Maddren, Lucy Okell, Beth Cracknell-Daniels, Joseph Hicks and Christina Aitchison from the School of Public Health set up the LGBTQIA+ International Support Group at Imperial to help improve the overall experience of going abroad for LGBTQIA+ staff and student travellers.
“So are you married?”
I freeze. How do I respond? It seems like a simple enough question, but I’m gay (and so is my spouse). The question is being asked by a taxi driver in a country where not only is same-sex marriage illegal, but so is homosexuality in general. And it’s not just something imposed by the government. A recent poll suggested that 90% of this country’s citizens have a negative view of LGBTQ people. So how do I respond? How would you?
Travelling abroad for work is a rewarding opportunity that can come with challenges for any student or staff member. For those identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, such travel can be associated with further complications. Legal restrictions and societal norms of some countries may make LGBTQIA+ staff and students feel anxious, unwelcome or unsafe. Unfortunately, in certain environments being your true self can directly impact your safety. On the other hand, presenting a censored version of yourself may negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. There is no single correct way to navigate such situations, and there is limited guidance on this topic provided not only by Imperial, but wider networks across the globe. Last year, a group of us started working together to help build support for LGBTQIA+ staff and student travellers at Imperial.
Helen Johnson, Communications and Marketing Manager at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) discusses her recent project ‘Making Waves’, which set out to update the Department’s imagery across their buildings to better reflect the diversity of NHLI’s community and inspire the next generation.
“Sometimes our stories make us stronger”
This is what one of our contributors said to me during her interview, and I couldn’t have summed up ‘Making Waves’ any better. This project set out to showcase the people behind the great science and teaching that the NHLI is known for.
We don’t always think about it on a daily basis but when you actually look at who is celebrated in the imagery on our walls, it tends to be people who no longer work for the Department, and they tend to also share characteristics in terms of their age and race. But, then again, it is just a portrait of that person, so we don’t necessarily know their whole story by just looking at an image. Everyone has their own story.
The founding premise of ‘Making Waves’ was that anyone should be able to look at these new portraits and see themselves. So that everyone can know they are welcome at NHLI and in science – that they belong. I was tasked with this vision by my Head of Department, Professor Edwin Chilvers, who was keen we brought our imagery more up to date to represent who NHLI is today. The leaky pipeline in science for those holding protected characteristics has been much reported, and is easy to see when you look for instance at the number of Black Professors across not just NHLI, but across the whole of Imperial. One set of portraits will not solve this, but hopefully by showing a greater variety of successful people and their journeys, others will be inspired to continue their own scientific paths.
How can we close the gender gap in STEM? Dr Ilaria Belluomo explores how a new network at Imperial aims to provide a safe space for women to discuss and plan their careers in leadership roles – in and outside academia.
We are all aware of the disparity between the number of men and women in senior academic positions, as well as the limited number of female mentors available to support and inspire young girls interested in pursuing a career in science. This small percentage of female representation can give the impression that a career in science and academia, in the current climate, can be difficult and hard for women to pursue. Things are slowly improving, but we are only at the beginning of initiating this change. We continue to have conversations and work on initiatives to ensure that the academic gender gap can be improved.
When Imperial alumnus Dr Brian Wang founded In2MedSchool, he had one aim: to break down the barriers preventing students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursuing medicine. Brian shares his motivations for supporting the next generation of medics.
In the summer of 2022, before my final year of medical school, I had the opportunity to support the national efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic at Imperial College Healthcare Trust NHS hospitals. My experiences as a medical student and volunteer during this time kick-started my passion for advocating diversity within the healthcare workforce. Levelling the playing field and ensuring the diversity and representation of medical staff—in my mind at least—seems beneficial to the healthcare workforce and the communities that our healthcare system supports.
Today I am the founder of In2MedSchool, a charity that provides support for disadvantaged children with ambitions to study Medicine and healthcare-related degrees at university.
This festive period, Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.
The journey to becoming a clinical academic can be long and arduous, with many obstacles. Dr Maddalena Ardissino, from the National Heart and Lung Institute, reflects on her own experiences as a trainee and explains why mentorship is key to supporting the growth and development of young, aspiring clinical academics.
Almost exactly five years ago, I stood amongst a crowd of young academics at a poster session at the Intensive Care Society’s annual conference, experiencing a feeling of anxiety I’ve never known before or since. I was in my fifth year of medical school and standing in front of a group of excellent researchers who were about to listen to me give my first scientific presentation. It seemed unthinkable to me, at the time, to think that they might have the slightest interest in what I had to say.
Since then, my journey through clinical and academic training has been what I can only describe as an adventure. I quickly realised that there isn’t a single defined path for clinical academics, with each individual moulding a slightly different journey. When I look around at my fellow clinical academics at the National Heart and Lung Institute, however, there is one key feature that we all share: enthusiasm. And behind this feature there is one single, common theme: the support of a truly inspirational mentor.
In August 2022, fifth-year Medical student, Joaquin Bello, and his twin brother, Javier Bello, made history as England’s first-ever Commonwealth Games beach volleyball medallists. Joaquin reflects on his journey to becoming a professional volleyball player, and the challenges of juggling academic studies with sports stardom.
This summer I won a bronze medal at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the culmination of many years of hard work whilst balancing my studies with training. While I hope my dual-career is far from over, I wanted to reflect on my journey so far and the lessons that I have learnt along the way.
Recognising the value of interdisciplinary learning, Imperial’s Food Student Research Network aims to bring together students from across the College’s faculties to enable the cross-fertilisation of ideas and research in fields relevant to food. Here, members reflect on the Network’s inaugural conference.
In September, Imperial’s Food Student Research Network hosted its first Annual Conference. Reflective of the ethos of the network, this conference was an event for students, led by students.
Graduating is a significant milestone, especially if your studies have been impacted by Covid-19. Jasmin Adebisi, now an alumni of the Master of Public Health programme, shares what it meant to walk across the stage at the Royal Albert Hall.
Graduation represents the culmination of a journey and the attainment of a goal. It is an exciting period in any student’s life which brings a long journey of hard work to a close. Graduation day can be filled with an array of varying emotions, including feelings of joy, pride and contentment but also thoughts of anxiousness, worry and concern of what’s to come next.
Having been a part of the Covid cohort of 2021, I can say with confidence that I have also experienced these emotions during my time studying. Reflecting on the start of my journey, I was bursting with excitement on getting accepted to my master’s course but was also deeply concerned because of the pandemic and the future.
PhD students Salina Nicoleau & Maike Haensel outline their vision for The Elevat(Her) Podcast and share the importance of highlighting positive female role models to empower other women to achieve their full potential.
Look around you – how many women are in senior positions across your university? Lucky you if you can count more than a couple. According to a recent report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), women account for only 28% of professors in UK universities in 2020/21 (1). This is a recurring theme within many sectors, not just higher education, where there are fewer women than men in senior positions. In 2021, the number of female Fortune 500 CEOs was only 41. Yes, out of 500 CEOs, 459 were men (2).
Finding the right PhD programme can often be a time-consuming and lengthy exercise. Emre Yavuz, Translational Neuroscience Master’s student, shares his experience of applying for a PhD programme and the many challenges he faced along the way.
This September I’m going to be starting my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, supervised by Professor Hugo Spiers. Excited as I am about moving onto the next chapter of my career, choosing the right PhD for me was no easy process.
Choosing the right PhD programme comes down to many variables. When I had initially applied for several programmes in early December, I was excited by the possibility of travelling and living abroad after two years of lockdown. I had received interviews from places including Toronto, Montreal, Zurich, Lausanne and London. Although studying abroad seemed highly tempting at first, there were many other factors I had to take into account. (more…)