Stories of Pride: Izzy Jayasinghe
In celebration of Pride Month, SPIE spoke with members of our community about their experiences as LGBTQ+ scientists in optics and photonics as well as within the greater STEM community.
Our next conversation is with Izzy Jayasinghe (she/her) whose research has focused on developing new optical microscopy techniques for studying the organization of the molecules of life, particularly proteins, within the heart. Currently, she is developing a series of methodologies which enable super-resolution microscopy in the broader Life Sciences such as clinical and environmental research. She is a trans woman of colour (of Asian origin) and has lived in four countries and worked in five universities over the last decade. When she is not working on microscopy, she works to promote and advocate on equality, diversity, and inclusion in STEM workplaces and universities.
My high-school physics teacher, Dr Michael Hart. He was the first out, gay person that I ever met. He was also the most captivating teacher that I have ever seen. He inspired many of us in that class to explore and take physics well beyond the curriculum that was taught. As a result, I built my first experimental rig in that class, a prototype of a viscoelastic damper to measure design factors which affect damping properties. Dr Hart then encouraged me to enter it in the Auckland Science Fair where my project won the physics prize, a $1,000 scholarship to study science at the University of Auckland. Needless to say, I was super excited to study science when I got to uni.
How can allies actively support LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers?
Active allyship can drastically transform the experiences of LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers in the workplace. Active allyship is where one goes well beyond standard symbolisms, such as rainbow lanyards and Pride Month decorations, to actually shifting the culture of the workplace to being more inclusive. Lobbying for LGBTQ+ inclusive policies, platforming LGBTQ+ role models, promoting LGBTQ+ colleagues for leadership roles, actively educating the straight/cis colleagues, and intervening to curb hate speech or hate crimes in the workspaces are all part of active allyship.
What is one piece of advice you can offer the LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers of the future?
Dream big. Your gender identity, presentation, or sexual orientation are not going to stand in the way of your achievements in the future. Things are always getting better. Step up and take up that space that is rightfully yours.
EDI at SPIE
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