Making Space for LGBTQ+ People in STEM

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SPS Chapters on Building Community

Making Space for LGBTQ+ People in STEM


Leon G.O. Sullivan, SPS Chapter Secretary, the City College of New York

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The CUNY SPS chapter promotes its LGBTQ+ STEM panel. Image courtesy of the chapter.

In May 2022, the physics club at the City College of New York hosted its second annual LGBTQ+ in STEM event over Zoom. City College students heard from people in the LGBTQ+ community who work in various STEM fields: Dr. Michael Moloney, CEO of the American Institute of Physics, Prof. Timothy Atherton, associate professor of physics at Tufts University, Prof. Jeremy Dodd, senior lecturer at Columbia University, and Delia M. Sosa, clinical data specialist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Guests spoke about topics like the importance of finding a place where one feels accepted for who they are, promoting intersectionality in discussions of diversity, and making sure universities are safe spaces for students in the LGBTQ+ community as well as other minorities.

The panelists also talked about seeing positive changes for the LGBTQ+ community in STEM, as well as in the outside world, over the course of their lives and careers. Many had been the only LGBTQ+ person at their place of work or in their lab at some point. Even though they had a lot in common intellectually with the people they were surrounded by, they found it hard socially. Speakers emphasized the important role of allies in ensuring that their spaces are places where LGBTQ+ people feel accepted and comfortable discussing their experiences without being othered for who they are or how they live their lives.

LGBTQ+ students in STEM who attended the event came away with feelings of belonging and optimism. One student in the physics club said, “It’s great to not only know that there are other people in STEM like me, but also that they can flourish and find success in spite of anti-LGBT discrimination.” Another added, “It feels really good to know that there are places like this for queer people in physics.”

Creating spaces where LGBTQ+ people in STEM can discuss their experiences is important. According to a 2021 paper in Science Advances by researchers at the University of Michigan and Temple University, LGBTQ+ STEM professionals were more likely to experience career limitations, harassment, and professional devaluation than their cisgender and heterosexual peers across STEM disciplines and employment sectors.1 As stressed by speakers at our event, it’s important to the success of LGBTQ+ students and professionals that they have opportunities to come together and feel supported. Hosting panels like this is one way to facilitate a sense of belonging among LGBTQ+ people in STEM. 

Our physics club’s executive board is proud to have hosted this event for the second year in a row, and we look forward to holding more events like this. We are planning another LGBTQ+ in STEM event for 2023 and a similar event focused on the experiences of people of color in STEM. Creating an environment that promotes diversity in physics and in STEM is critical to our field and to the future of science.

Get Money for Inclusive Chapter Events

Future Faces of Physics Awards of up to $500 are available for chapter programs or events that promote diversity in physics and astronomy. Applications are due November 15. Learn more at


  1. Cech, E. A., and T. J. Waidzunas. “Systemic Inequalities for LGBTQ Professionals in Stem.” Science Advances 7, no. 3 (2021).


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