Two Bay Area gay scientists honored

  • by Heather Cassell
  • Wednesday February 21, 2007
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From left, awardees Carolyn Bertozzi, Tim Gill, and Karl<br>Mauzey at last weekend's reception. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
From left, awardees Carolyn Bertozzi, Tim Gill, and Karl
Mauzey at last weekend's reception. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals honored two Bay Area gay scientists last weekend at the group's fourth annual recognition awards.

On Sunday, February 18, University of California at Berkeley's Carolyn Bertozzi, Ph.D., 41, a lesbian chemist, received the GLBT Scientist of the Year Award. City College of San Francisco's Karl Mauzey, Ph.D., a gay male biology and computer science instructor, received the GLBTA Educator of the Year award. (The latter award is sometimes given to a straight ally, hence the "A" in GLBTA.) The reception took place during the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in San Francisco.

Bertozzi received the award for her "outstanding achievements in applying chemistry to help answer biological questions related to human health and disease."

"It's a tremendous honor," said Bertozzi after receiving her award. "It reflects science achievement and stands as a representative of the community history overlooked or actively suppressed. Hopefully people can look at me and realize that it's okay to be open in their lives and be themselves and do great work and make contributions to the world as scientists."

In addition to Bertozzi's achievements as a professor of chemistry at the UC Berkeley, she is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, part of a select group of scientists and health center professionals from around the United States focused on the function of the human body and deciphering why diseases happen. She also has a working group in biomaterials at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Currently, Bertozzi is working on identifying a way to recognize earlier stages of cancer and developing a drug to block the bacteria that causes tuberculosis.

The GLBT Scientist of the Year Award is just one of many awards she has received during her career, but it was different for Bertozzi.

"There is a different dimension to this award," said Bertozzi. "Most awards I received were from groups focused on science. This accomplishment pertains to science accomplishments, but also recognizes the gay or lesbian services of being a scientist."

Rochelle Diamond, chair of NOGLSTP, told the B.A.R. that as Bertozzi became better known for her accomplishments beyond the Bay Area, magazines wouldn't print that she is a lesbian.

Mauzey, 68, received the GLBTA Educator of the Year Award for his "outstanding achievements as well as his leadership in the GLBT community." Mauzey is one of the first out scientists and educators in biology and technology. During a time when it was difficult for any professional to be out in their field, Mauzey took the risk.

"Getting such an award from such an organization makes me feel that my life has been a success," said Mauzey.

When the B.A.R. asked him if being out made a difference to his queer students he said, "I think it makes it much easier for my gay students."

NOGLSTP's annual awards program began four years ago as a way to recognize LGBT scientists for their work and contributions to society as well as for being out.

"These people are role models," said Diamond. "Not only to the LGBT community but to their colleagues in their workplace in their fields and disciplines. By being out and proud [both communities] will realize the contributions we are making to science and technology."

Diamond added, "We have to form our own 'old boy's network' in the GLBT community because that will give us the hand up the ladder to pull each other up to leadership positions."

Others who were recognized last Sunday included out gay philanthropist Tim Gill, who received the GLBT Engineer of the Year Award. Gill founded Quark Inc., a successful software company. Now, as chairman of the Gill Foundation in Colorado, Gill continues promoting LGBT equality by providing millions of dollars in grants to numerous organizations.

Finally, Christopher Bannochie, Ph.D., received the group's Walt Westman Award, which is the highest honor given to a NOGLSTP member who has shown dedication and commitment to the advancement of the group's mission.

The awards are also a vehicle to begin putting a queer face on science and technology. Diamond told the B.A.R. that plans are under way for a traveling history of scientists and engineers. The exhibit will include historical scientists of all sexual orientations and genders as well as contemporary scientists and engineers who are "out and proud" and actively working in their careers.

The awards were made possible by a $2,000 sponsorship from U.S. defense contractor Raytheon, which supplies the military with electronics. The company was honored in 2005 with a National Corporate Award by NOGLSTP for its support of LGBT scientists, despite the military's anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

When asked about the contradictory nature of the sponsorship Diamond responded, "They feel that by having the best talent pool is the best way to create the technology needed for the armed forces."