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Navigating Academia as a Queer & Trans Person

Meet this week's Grad Chat guest: Schuyler Borges!

Promotional Graphic, text reads Navigating Academia as a Queer and Trans Person, # Grad Chat by PhD Balance. There are two headshots one of Linda, the host & one of Schuyler, the guest.

Hello, fellow grads! My name is Schuyler Borges (they/them), and I am a 4th year PhD student in Astronomy and Planetary Science at Northern Arizona University. My dissertation research focuses on astrobiology; specifically, I study Antarctic microbial mats as potential analogs for life on Mars and exoplanets. I use remote sensing, modeling, and lab work in my research to investigate the types of surface biosignatures these extremophiles have. My research is very interdisciplinary, as most astrobiology research is.

However, I haven't always been drawn to the question of whether or not life exists elsewhere. I actually fell in love with rocks and more generally with the Earth as a young child, mostly intrigued by fossils. I attended UC Davis during my undergraduate, and as a result of my geologic interests, I got involved in Dr Dawn Sumner's lab, which focuses on Antarctic lake microbial mats and Mars sedimentology. After transferring universities, my continued passion for understanding the Earth is what led me to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geology from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI in 2018. Continued research with Dawn and her postdoc, Dr Marion Nachon, is what bolstered my experience in planetary science. With Marion, I created a tool that determined the location of rocks, seen in images from the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, on an orbital image of Gale Crater, Mars. I also used Curiosity rover images to investigate past fluid circulation events that took place in Gale Crater, Mars. It was this Martian research experience that led me to the program I am in today.

Over the course of my graduate experience, I have felt very alone as a result of my identities and values. As a result, I've been actively involved in numerous efforts to provide a support network for those with marginalized identities in STEMM. I've led departmental EDI initiatives as well as undergraduate workshops, and I've also been involved in local and international groups over my time in graduate school. Currently, I volunteer with THRIVE Lifeline, a trans-owned grass-roots crisis hotline staffed by and for marginalized people in STEMM. I act as a crisis responder, mentor, and training assistant. I believe in and am committed to establishing support networks and communities that are key to the advancement of marginalized people in STEMM. To all of you out there who are struggling, you aren't alone. You deserve to be here.


You can find out more about Schuyler on their Twitter (@PlanetSkyentist) and Instagram (@schuylerborges).

Schuyler will be taking over our Instagram account today, before being our Grad Chat guest tomorrow with host Linda! You can join the Youtube Livestream Saturday (10/30) at 3 pm Eastern/12 pm Pacific using this link!

Alternatively, you'll be able to catch up on the episode on Grad Chat, The Podcast published next Tuesday (11/02) here!


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