When delivering research lectures, or outreach talks to school students, I always talk about the inspiration behind our research. Much of our research addresses applications connected with my husband’s illness (cystic fibrosis followed by a lung transplant). We have been investigating gene delivery as a potential treatment for CF, new drugs for intervention during major surgery, and gels to direct and control tissue growth with a long term view towards growing replacement organs. By explaining our science within this context, the audience are engaged within my personal story, and I can instantly bring my ‘whole self’ into a room full of strangers. I have watched this approach have a remarkable impact on audiences and believe it is a hugely powerful means of LGBT+ advocacy. Furthermore, this approach to science has inspired both me and my team to do better research.
Within my own department I have advocated for LGBT+ students experiencing difficulties during their degree. I organised a survey of our undergraduates to find out more about the LGBT+ learning experience, which was in general very positive as a result of ‘out’ role models. As a result of this survey, the department introduced named LGBT+ contacts. We have also become a leading department with regard to the rights of transgender students and employees.
As a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry Diversity Committee, I have led initiatives on LGBT+ Diversity, in particular, a major survey of LGBT+ physical scientists working in the UK. I have been heavily involved in other diversity initiatives and spoken at events associated with gender diversity, in particular the launch of the award-winning ‘Breaking the Barriers’ report and a major report evaluating the impact and extent of gender bias in RSC publishing.
As an adoptive father, I have advocated for part-time and flexible working, and have taken advantage of both of these during my own career. As a recently bereaved single father, I am currently working part-time flexi so that I can align time off with school holidays.
My Twitter account, @professor_dave, has >15,000 followers, and a key way in which I use this account is to advocate for a wide range of diversity issues. It has been recognised by Chemical and Engineering News as one of the Top 25 accounts to follow.
In addition to LGBT+ advocacy, I am passionate about widening participation in Higher Education to under-represented groups. I am Academic Chair of the Next Step York and Realising Opportunities initiatives, which work with Year 12 and 13 students from underprivileged backgrounds. These schemes give students real experience of university study, and also support them through academic assignments which can count as part of their tariff for university entry. Every year, I speak to the WP students on their residentials in York, about my experience going to university from a very mixed comprehensive school in Stockport.