Making science a better place: Student‑led group expands efforts to create community for LGBTQ+ in STEM

- August 18, 2021

Participants in the BIPOC in STEM panel QAtCanSTEM held last year. (Screen shot)
Participants in the BIPOC in STEM panel QAtCanSTEM held last year. (Screen shot)

Dalhousie PhD student Landon Getz founded QAtCanSTEM (Queer Atlantic Canadian STEM) a few years ago with a mission to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion for queer individuals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields across the Atlantic provinces.

Now, Getz (shown left) is looking to expand the group's impact with an online conference this fall aimed at a national audience.

“When you enter a science space it’s weird because you’re navigating this space as a queer person, and you’re wondering is this a space where I can be open with my identity,” says Getz.

Getz’s inspiration for QAtCanSTEM came from attending the LGBTSTEMinar in 2019 after being encouraged to attend by friend Alex Bond, a conservation scientist based in the UK who has helped run LGBTSTEM over the past five years.

“From the minute I entered the conference, there was a huge rainbow flag on the wall and everyone there was wearing different pronoun pins,” says Getz. “What was great about being in that space was that there wasn’t the burden of trying to decide whether I was going to have to come out multiple times over the course of a conference.”

Following this experience, Getz wanted to bring that same feeling of community and engagement to the Atlantic provinces.

To date, QAtCanSTEM has hosted two local events, a STEM conference which focused on voices of the LGBTQ+ community, and the other was a BIPOC in STEM panel that was hosted last year. The pandemic has impacted the organization but they’re continuing to plan events for 2021, including this fall's conference.

Their hope is that this is the beginning of a more national movement, with plans to make it an annual event. "The primary objective of the event is to create an environment where people can enjoy science and do science without all those burdens.”

Inclusivity in the STEM community

Hannah Gonzales, an undergrad student, and Tam Pham, a PhD candidate from the Faculty of Medicine are two pioneers in the BIPOC STEM panel. Gonzales first heard of QAtCanSTEM through a Dal News profile on Getz. After reading the article, she connected with Getz.

In May 2020, Getz reached out to Hannah to talk about centering BIPOC voices within QAtCanSTEM. Landon and Pham had laid the groundwork for an event and after connecting with Gonzales, they began to organize an event despite the challenges of COVID-19.

“I partnered with Tam to help her vision come into fruition. We work really well together and having such great panelists is what made the event so successful,” says Gonzales.

“The number one thing we’re trying to address right now is trying to get more folks to join due to the impacts of COVID. Now with in-person events possible, we can have more of an intimate experience.”


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