Gavin McNicol


I’m gay and I’m a postdoc in ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry. //

Being gay has been one of the most formative aspects of my life and has guided me toward a career in STEM. As a teenager, though, I tried to “pray-it-away,” but slowly came to understand my homosexuality as a completely inescapable fact, though one I was still not sure I should be ashamed or proud of. This doubt, in turn, became the essential catalyst for questioning the majority philosophies and social conventions that surrounded me in the rural Scottish community where I was raised. Science, in contrast to those conventions, seemed to offer a radical solution: a philosophy rooted in doubt and skepticism where the testing of ideas meant gradually developed principles replaced dogma, and knowledge could be continually expanded. As I read more about the history of science, I began to see that this collective endeavor has been, for centuries or more, a source of essential and often stifled dissent in the pursuit of human progress. I now study the biogeochemistry of climate change and now, more than ever, I believe STEM helps us overcome social and environmental challenges because it stops us from reacting out of fear and prejudice, and proves again and again that we can find a way to understand our world and embrace its diversity.