Amy Brewer, OCR GCSE Science and Applied Science Subject Advisor
In honour of Pride Month, the science team wanted to highlight opportunities in the Gateway and 21st Century GCSE qualifications where teachers can incorporate LGBTQ+ scientists into their lessons.
Representation matters! For example, a study from the US in 2014 showed that positive representation of LGBTQ scientists in the science classroom increased the likelihood of students who identified as LGBTQ taking up a STEM career. Another study found that giving students an opportunity to engage with counter-stereotypical examples of scientists improved their ability to relate to scientists, and showed some long-term enhancements in engagement and course grades.
Here are a few notable scientists that you could use to enrich your lessons and show a more diverse range of specialists in their fields. For each one I’ve given the relevant area of the specification.
Polly Arnold (born 1972) was awarded the Rosalind Franklin Award (2012) and an OBE (2017) for her work in chemistry and for women in STEM. Her work in synthetic chemistry underpins understanding of how catalysts work, especially the use of the lanthanides and actinides. Currently working at University of California, Berkeley, Arnold chaired the RSC’s Inclusion and Diversity board, and is now exploring catalysts to improve the conversion of nitrogen into ammonia.
Polly’s work could link to the following parts of our specifications:
Ben Barres (1954-2017) was the first openly transgender member of the US National Academy of Science (2013). He was noted for his ground-breaking work on the role of glial cells in the brain, previously considered to be biological scaffolding. Publishing much of his early work under his birth name, Barbara, he explored programmed cell death in the nervous system and synapse formation. Transitioning in his 40s, Barres was also a strong advocate for the role of women in STEM and helped to debunk the notion that innate ability explained the gender imbalance in science and engineering professorships.
Ben’s research has links to the following parts of our specifications:
Alan L. Hart (1890-1962) was one of the first trans men to undergo a hysterectomy in the US (1918). He pioneered the use of x-rays to detect tuberculosis and implemented mass screening programs that saved thousands of lives. Unusually of the time, he was allowed to dress and live as a boy with both parents freely supporting his gender expression. Tuberculosis was one of the most deadly infectious diseases in the 1940s, but Hart dedicated all his time to fundraising for medical research and to help support economically-challenged TB patients.
Sean Collins, working at the University of Leeds, uses a technique known as electron microscopy that allows him to look so closely at materials that it’s possible to observe individual atoms and how they form the structure of materials. Sean came out during high school, and has been involved in supporting the LGBT community ever since, committing to making the research and teaching environments he belongs to inclusive ones.
For further reading to develop a more inclusive science classroom, I recommend the following:
How are you celebrating LGBT-STEM in your school this Pride month? We’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or follow us on Twitter @OCR_Science. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive email information about our science resources and support.
Amy joined OCR in May 2022 and is a subject advisor for GCSE Sciences and Applied Science. Before joining OCR, Amy taught Chemistry to 11-18 year olds for 16 years, and was responsible for planning her school’s science schemes of learning. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Amy mentored PGCE students, was responsible for the progress of KS5 science students, and is committed to improving diversity and inclusion in the sciences.