Julia Parsa ’26
On Thursday Nov. 10th, a dinner celebrating women and minority voices in STEM was held in the Hampton Room in the Malott Commons, featuring keynote speaker Associate Professor of Chemistry Nancy Williams. At the dinner, Williams shared her personal journey as a scientist while also discussing her role as an ally for inclusive gender identity and gender expression policies in our community.
The night started with receiving name tags and then picking tables in the Hampton Dining Room. Each table had at least two Keck science faculty members. At my table I was joined by faculty members Professor of Biology Emily Wiley and Assistant Professor of Biology Sarah Budischak. Both provided insight on what they teach and gave insight on interesting academic opportunities that pertained to our interests.
Williams’ talk began after the dinner and conversation within the separate tables. She talked about her journey of research in the field of mechanistic organometallic chemistry and how it coinsided with her journey of discovering that she is transgender.
She was researching the design of Pt(II)-ligand complexes and how they should react with C-H bonds to form stable Pt(IV)alkyl/aryl hydrides. The beginning of her research fell around the same time as the 2008 California Proposition 8 was being voted on. If passed, Proposition 8 would have eliminated the right of same sex marriage in California. In her talk, Williams noted how important this vote really was as 18,000 same sex couples had already been married in the state of California, and this proposition being passed could possibly affect that. She remarked on how California, specifically Los Angeles, was a lot less accepting of LGBTQ+ rights in 2008 than it is currently.
Additionally, as she continued to make strides in her research, she also started thinking about potentially transitioning into a woman. She decided to take a trip to Las Vegas to get away for a bit, where she first started experimenting with cross dressing. Then in 2013, Williams came out publicly as transgender. This was also the time Barack Obama became the first United States president to support same sex marriage, which she said made her feel better supported in coming out.
Since coming out, Williams has been a vocal trans activist and has dedicated a lot of her time to transforming the political landscape in California and many other states through campaigning and talking to voters about LGBTQ+ issues. As the years have passed, she has continued to promote nondiscrimination legislation for trans people.
The students in attendance at the dinner were inspired by Williams’ words and her advocacy. “As a minority woman in STEM, I was moved by Dr. Nancy Williams’ keynote address and the way she is bridging the gap between gender expression and science,” said Esther Kang ’26. “I also found her talk to be compelling and inspiring to future leaders who wish to create change in an interdisciplinary manner.”
At the end of her speech, Williams stressed the importance of having more trans representation everywhere, especially the 5Cs, and having an easier way for trans students to be accepted to a historically women’s college like Scripps or any other one of the 5Cs. She is inspiring students inside and outside of the classroom and making a valuable impact on the queer community.
Image Source: INTO Study Blog