LGBT+ History Month: Celebrating diversity in the climate community – Emma Beirns

In this series we shine a light on some of the talented members of the LGBT+ community working or studying in climate change and environment.

Emma Beirns, postgraduate research student (she/her)

Emma Beirns, postgraduate research student at Environment and Water Resources Engineering

“I find it very reassuring to hear about people working on problems I was either vaguely aware of or completely unaware of and working towards the most sustainable solution possible.”

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m an asexual, cis-gendered woman who loves going to new places and trying to ignore all the writing to focus on the architecture and people (just try to ignore the writing! If even for the mental exercise).

What do you do at Imperial? 

I’m a PhD student in the Environment and Water Resources Engineering department of the Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty. I’m researching the removal of antibiotics from wastewater. 

What first made you care about climate change and the environment?

A potent combination of David Attenborough and the Red Nose Day campaigns. Learning how humans, animals, and the natural environment go hand in hand. 

What is your pet environment peeve? 

That fair-trade and organic products are hard to come by. I want both! I don’t want to have to pick! 

What were you doing before you came to Imperial? 

I was working for Thames Water having completed their operational management graduate scheme. 

What is your favourite thing about studying at Imperial? 

Hearing about all the fascinating research projects people are working on. I find it very reassuring to hear about people working on problems I was either vaguely aware of or completely unaware of and working towards the most sustainable solution possible. 

What could be better about studying at Imperial? 

Difficult for me to say. I was only here for 6 months before COVID-19 kicked in! 

Tell us about an LGBT+ figure you admire (current or historical).

Credited with being the God-mother of rock and roll, I want everyone to know about Sister Rosetta Tharpe! Besides being a pioneer of the genre, influencing Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Johnny Cash, she was also one of the first black singers to tour with white artists. And although she never publicly came out, it is widely believed that she was in a relationship with her touring mate, Marie Knight. 

She was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, 44 years after her death. It is my belief that everyone should know that one of the most white-male dominated spaces owes its existence to a black, queer woman! 

For those interested (and you should be!) here’s an article about her in the Rolling Stone.

For more information about the LGBT+ community at Imperial see Imperial600, the LGBT+ staff network and IQ, LGBT+ student society.

News story

Climate and environment researchers talk about their LGBT+ heroes

Discover more about LGBT+ History Month, find out why pronouns are important and read more Q&As in this news article.

Upcoming events

Imperial 600 & Women@Imperial Week | Featuring Inspiring LGBT Women

9 March, 12:00-13:00, online  

Imperial 600 is supporting the broader International Women’s Day (IWD) programming happening across Imperial College London in March 2021, and we’re very pleased to host Michelle Raymond, a senior leader at MyGWork a global networking hub and job board for LGBT+ professionals and graduates.

Additionally, Michelle is an accomplished musician who’s played with some of the biggest names in music today.

LGBT History Month edit-a-thon

26 February, 14:00-16:30, online  

Wikipedia – the world’s largest online encyclopedia – overwhelmingly recognises the achievements of white men.

This event is your chance to help change that by learning how to become a Wikipedia author and editor then putting that knowledge into practice straight away to start chronicling the achievements of LGBTQ+ people on this online platform.

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