Member: Niamh Kavanagh

We need to create a supportive and inclusive culture within physics so that we can really allow people to reach their full potential. I’m Niamh Kavanagh and I’m a physicist. I work at Tyndall National Institute in University College Cork. I received a scholarship from the Irish Research Council to do my PhD in the area of photonics and fibre optic communications. I got involved in science communication very early in my PhD. It was something that I was very passionate about, so I started going out to schools and talking about science to show that science isn’t just for really smart people or really weird people. Scientists are people too. As I did more of it and my confidence grew, I started to do competitions. I got the IOP Ireland Rosse Medal at the Spring Meeting that year. It was great to see that the IOP were recognising the importance of science communication. When I was starting my PhD it was a time of big change for LGBTQ+ people in Ireland. However around a year later after we voted for marriage equality the Orlando shooting happened in the Pulse nightclub. I remember looking around at my co-workers and thinking I can’t talk to anyone about this here. I was afraid to talk to anyone about it I felt like I didn’t have any commonality in that sense with anyone. So I was really happy to discover the IOP LGBT+ network. But I wanted to have something more locally also. I was approached by the brilliant Shaun O’Boyle who had an idea and we now have House of STEM, the first Irish network for LGBTQ+ scientists. All of the research the IOP do into gender equality is just so brilliant. Initiatives like Project Juno are trying to make sure that everyone in physics is valued. My future goals are actually pretty simple. What I’d like to do is to be able to make positive change and to be able to leave the world a better place than I found it.

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