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Byron Rusnak

About Byron


Plant Biology Ph.D. Candidate, Roeder Lab

School of Integrative Plant Science

Can you please share an example of a joy and/or challenge of being an LGBTQIA+ academic in STEM?

A major source of joy has been the connections I have created with other LGBTQIA+ researchers in STEM. Through groups like Qgrads, which helps to represent and support the queer graduate student community, I have been able to forge friendships across disciplines in a way that would likely have not occurred without the shared connection of our queerness. 

You have spent many years now in science and, in particular, the academic world. What kind of changes would you like to see in these spaces?

Many of academia’s attempts to help support communities like the queer and neurodiverse communities end up being compartmentalized, failing to sufficiently support the intersectionality between identities. For instance, I’ve only really been able to explore the complex interactions between my identities as queer and as autistic, and even then I have only gotten this opportunity due to queer neurodiverse students taking the initiative to bring us together themselves. More institutional support and recognition for intersectional needs would be a good start.

How has being LGBTQIA+ or any other aspects of your identity influenced your experience in science or academia?

In some ways being and exploring my neurodiverse and queer identity while in academia has been a great boost, since there are active communities of neurodiverse and queer students to learn from and connect with so I do not have to go it alone. At the same time though, grad school can be a particularly taxing endeavor, and sometimes I lament having to fit self-discovery into a busy and chaotic schedule in order to meet academia’s expectations from me.