Stephanie's Story (she/they)
Just as Wonder Woman emerged from the mythical Island of the Amazons to create a more inclusive world and bring down lies and intolerance, a genderqueer, mixed-race, Mexican-American dyke now known as Mx. Stephanie Miller, PhD, emerged from a queer utopia in Northampton, Massachusetts (a town with the highest number of lesbians in America per capita). I played rugby, cut my hair short, and studied chemistry and gender studies at nearby Mount Holyoke College. Born in a queer utopia, I was able to express myself, I was affirmed, and in college I even became one of the “cool” kids!
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s in graduate school, when a colleague consistently avoided acknowledging my presence, that I felt my queerness as a difference. Coming from a background where I'd never thought twice about being queer and nonbinary, his behavior shocked me. In the past, I would have simply approached one of my many queer classmates or role models for advice on how to handle the situation, but I now realized that I had taken for granted that things were so easy in Northampton and at Mount Holyoke. I realized there were likely lost opportunities that I would never find out I was passed over for because of other people’s discomfort with my identity. Reflecting on my time growing up in Northampton as a fish in water, it wasn't until I was out of water that I realized that in the minds of some people in my new environment, there was dissonance in seeing me as a scientific colleague. I decided that in order to thrive, I needed to find scientific mentors who recognized and valued me for my whole self.
I found my people at LGBTQ+ and BIPOC-supporting science conferences like Out in STEM (oSTEM) and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). I met scientists who represented the parts of my identity I cherish, and I assembled a team of mentors, many of whom continue to advise me today. As a result, I have a passion for mentoring POC and LGBTQ+ scientists to let them know that there is a path for people like us to achieve our scientific dreams. I make myself accessible to others because I had to scour to find mentors within my identities, and I want other young scientists to have an easier path.
My journey as a proud, queer scientist has led to an exciting career within an incredible community. Today, I thrive as a systems neuroscientist studying the breakdown of brain waves in Alzheimer's Disease at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, where my unique background and perspective is not only recognized, but valued an asset.
My final words of wisdom to anyone interested in pursuing this career are the same as those that Wonder Woman’s mentor told her: “You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know."