Stories of Pride: Maryann Tung

Meet Maryann Tung, a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University and an SPIE Student Member.
10 June 2020
Pride Month: Stories from the SPIE Community
Pride Month: Stories from the SPIE Community

In celebration of Pride Month, SPIE spoke with members of our community about their experiences as LGBTQ+ scientists in optics and photonics as well as within the greater STEM community.

Our first conversation was with Maryann Tung, who uses she/her pronouns, is an SPIE Student Member, and is currently pursuing her PhD in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Maryann was instrumental in organizing an LGBTQ social at Advanced Lithography starting in 2019.


Maryann Tung
Maryann Tung

Is there an LGBTQ+ person in your life who has inspired you?

There have been so many amazing LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers at Stanford who have inspired me to be a better researcher. On a more personal level, I am very inspired by Andrea Gibson, whose poetry reflects the beauty, magic, and vulnerability of queer life. Finally, I also want to call out Marsha P. Johnson, one of the first people to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Riots and whose work was critical in the push for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. Her life and story are particularly relevant to our current context, and an important reminder that chosen family and activism are bedrocks of the queer community.

How can allies actively support LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers?

In STEM fields, there is often immense pressure for LGBTQ+ folks to suppress their identities in order to fit into what is an overwhelmingly cis- and hetero-normative environment. If you do not know any queer or trans people at your workplace, then you likely have not created an inclusive environment in which your LGBTQ+ colleagues feel safe coming out to you. Allies can support their LGBTQ+ colleagues by creating inclusive spaces: for instance, by not making assumptions around people's gender, pronouns, or sexual orientation and by educating themselves and others about gender-expansive language and expression.

What is one piece of advice you can offer the LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers of the future?

You do not need to dim your personal light as an LGBTQ+ person in order to be an excellent scientist or engineer. As queer people, we have the power to choose workplaces that empower us to be our full selves. Together, we can change STEM fields to be actively inclusive of LGTBTQ+ people, women, and people of color.

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