Tyler Kelly (they/he) is an Assistant Professor and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow in Geometry at the University of Birmingham in the UK, researching higher-dimensional geometry using algebraic methods. They serve on the London Mathematical Society’s Women and Diversity in Mathematics Committee and the LGBTQ+ STEM Project’s Steering Committee, after organizing the LGBTQ STEMinar 2020 at the University of Birmingham with 250 attendees.

(Links: Tyler's Twitter and website.)


How did you first get interested in mathematics?
I really enjoyed mathematics throughout being a student. I liked finding my own understanding of the formulas and understanding the concepts and internalizing them—often to the chagrin of a few teachers who wanted me to memorize in order to be faster! Through finding my own explanations, I adopted a bit of a distaste for how certain textbooks were written by age 15, and decided I wanted to write mathematics, which has led me on this career path!

What other experiences led you to where you are today?
In university, I double majored in mathematics and romance languages. I wanted to spend a summer abroad, but also wanted to do mathematics. My advisor ended up helping me do both, and I went to do math research in Milan for the summer. This really solidified my enjoyment of mathematical research, collaboration, and participating in the mathematical research community. I haven’t stopped since.

What's your research on?
My research is in algebraic geometry, a field where we study geometry by modeling shapes as the solution to multivariable polynomial equations. Think of it as the conic sections you have done [Ed note: "Conic sections" = hyperbola, parabola, and ellipse—we had to look it up too] but with more variables, more equations, and higher degrees. Through more general equations, one can model higher-dimensional geometry that cannot be visualized; however, you can analyze it algebraically. The questions I'm primarily interested in have their provenance in string theory and theoretical physics, where higher-dimensional geometry is a necessity for the physical theories, and takes inspiration from the structures that this physics predicts.

You also worked on organizing the LGBTQ STEMinar 2020. Can you explain what the event is, and why it was important to you to be involved?
The LGBTQ STEMinar is an annual event that brings together STEM researchers and provides visibility of STEM advances achieved by LGBTQ+ researchers. I got involved in the LGBTQ STEMinar in 2017 when I spoke. Having a community that helps one another navigate the STEM community while being out as LGBTQ is very important to me. There are many hidden obstacles that are useful to discuss, and this event and others create a supportive network for people to source this information.  I met so many inspiring people at my first LGBTQ STEMinar in 2017 who helped me feel ready to secure a permanent job in the near future. For that, I felt it was appropriate to give back and organize another in the hopes that it would help others have the same experience. It’s been very rewarding to see the event grow so much over the past years.

Why was it important to you to contribute your story to the 500 Queer Scientists project?
When I was a postdoctoral fellow, I found it very surprising how hard it was to find openly LGBTQ+ mathematicians in my field, and especially those who were out of the closet before securing a permanent job. It worried me about my future prospects. It’s important to me that out lists exist so that people know that getting an academic job while being openly LGBTQ+ is possible. To be fair though, it is more tricky!) Another issue I have recently found is that many researchers, when organizing events, often claim that there are “no good ____ speakers” where ____ is some underrepresented group. They then quickly proceed to give up on platforming people who represent the entire community. Out lists like 500QS and the one that Spectra hosts provide lists that can diversify a speakers list for a conference/workshop that does not have the diversity that represents an entire population.  They also provide a list of people who are at various institutions who may be useful resources for potential new employees to confidentially ask about the climate for LGBTQ staff at their institution.

Anything else?
Allow me to plug some events! I am organizing the conference $\mathrm{Spec}(\overline{\mathbb{Q}})$—or Spec(Q-bar) for the non-LaTeX inclined—at the Fields Institute for Research in the Mathematical Sciences at the University of Toronto in 2022, with Juliette Bruce, Renzo Cavalieri, and John Voight. This will be the first conference internationally to celebrate and promote research advances of LGBT2Q mathematicians specializing in algebraic geometry, arithmetic geometry, commutative algebra, and number theory. Please come if you are in that research field! Also, please consider attending an LGBTQ STEMinar in the future—the 2022 installment will be hosted by University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.