We are proud to dedicate the 2022 edition of C&EN’s Trailblazers to LGBTQ+ people. C&EN’s Trailblazers issue celebrates the diversity that drives chemistry forward.
As in past Trailblazers issues, we have invited a guest editor to help us curate this important double issue. University of Wisconsin–Madison synthetic chemist Tehshik P. Yoon partnered with C&EN staff to highlight a diverse group of 17 trailblazing LGBTQ+ chemical scientists. We are grateful to Yoon for his insight and his perspective not only as a brilliant scientist but also as a gay man and a powerful advocate for LGBTQ+ people. Yoon was instrumental in selecting a group of Trailblazers that represents the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community in terms of identity, area of research, and career stage. Some of our Trailblazers work in industry; others innovate in academic labs and in the classroom.
You can also read about a selection of historic LGBTQ+ scientists whose work and activism helped shape our discipline and society. Read more about these figures online at cenm.ag/historiclgbtq.
This issue also uplifts the voices of LGBTQ+ science journalists, photographers, students, and scholars. All the profiles are written by LGBTQ+ writers, and all newly commissioned photographs were captured by LGBTQ+ photographers. Some of my favorite stories in the issue were contributed by chemistry graduate students and postdocs, who conducted interviews and wrote one-on-one portraits of seven of the Trailblazers. These scholars represent the next generation of LGBTQ+ chemists.
Yoon is the subject of one of the Trailblazers profiles (see page 26), written by project colead Katherine Bourzac. The profile illustrates that for Yoon, his gay identity is an integral part of his scientific success. He tells Bourzac about how his experiences as a gay man have influenced and continue to influence his work.
Others also point to a connection between personal identity and work. Kelly N. Chacón, a chemist at Reed College, says, “The things that I’m interested in and the changes that I want to effect, a lot of that comes out of my lens of being queer” (page 36).
But sharing one’s identity at work is not always easy. In a Q&A between York University PhD candidate Ali McKnight and Pomona College’s Nicholas Ball (see page 32), Ball says, “As queer people, we are persistently subjected to physical, emotional and societal violence.” Ball hopes LGBTQ+ people recognize their value and work in places that affirm that value. “My wish . . . is that we lean into our worth, practice boundaries with our work, and preserve our magic.”
Earlier I described this edition of Trailblazers as important. It is also timely and necessary. In celebrating these LGBTQ+ chemists and amplifying their voices, we have an opportunity to invite and encourage others to be their authentic selves and, in doing so, improve the scientific wellbeing of our discipline. As Yoon says, “The real impact of an academic’s career is measured in the people you get to work with.” For C&EN, the real impact of our work can be measured by the careers we help nurture and the power of our journalism to help individuals fulfill their potential. We aim to foster a community in which LGBTQ+ people can bring their whole selves forward, uninhibited by bias or discrimination. That is our commitment.
C&EN’s 2023 Trailblazers issue will highlight the lives and contributions of groundbreaking Hispanic and Latino chemists. You can nominate candidates at cenm.ag/2023tbz.
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