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SIUE professor shares experiences at LGBTQ STEM conference

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SIUE’s Michael Shaw, PhD, distinguished research professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry. (Photo courtesy of SIUE)

EDWARDSVILLE — A professor at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE) was a featured speaker at a STEM conference, talking about his experiences as a member of the LGBTQ community.

Michael Shaw, PhD, distinguished research professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry, was among the featured speakers at the 2020 LGBTQ+ STEM Conference held virtually in October.

SIUE said that the conference brings together “researchers in all fields of STEM to highlight and celebrate the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community, and to discuss a broad range of scientific topics and issues pertaining to equity, diversity and inclusion.” It was organized by faculty from the University of Windsor and featured 12 international speakers.

“I was delighted to be invited to speak at the conference,” said Shaw. “It’s important for people to have a sense of community with diversity. The ‘80s and ‘90s – a time when HIV/AIDS was rampant in the gay community and not easily controlled medically – were not nearly as accepting as today, so there were pressures to remain closeted. I feel the AIDS pandemic resulted in a smaller population of people my age who have had careers as ‘out’ STEM professionals, especially ones in long-term relationships.”

Shaw presented “Balancing a Chemistry Career and a Relationship: Reflections on Three Decades of Coming Out.” He recounted his career and 30-year relationship, and discussed his research and experiences from various institutions.

“Many decisions that couples face, like how to fairly prioritize professional and personal goals, are common to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples,” Shaw said. “Same-sex couples faced many additional challenges prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, such as navigating immigration processes for international couples. I discussed my teaching and research in inorganic electrochemistry, coming out professionally as a faculty member at a primarily undergraduate institution, and some of the challenges and opportunities my partner and I faced along the way.”

Segue, SIUE’s weekly radio program exploring the lives and work of the people on campus and beyond, will feature an interview with Shaw. The episode airs at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29. Listeners can tune in to WSIE 88.7 FM The Sound or siue.edu/wsie.

Shaw was also recently featured on the 500 Queer Scientists website.

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