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Spectra, LGBTQ+ mathematician organization, launches Rice chapter

Ndidi Nwosu / Thresher

By Amelia Davis     4/9/24 10:54pm

A new chapter of Spectra is being introduced at Rice this spring semester. Spectra is a professional association for LGBTQ+ mathematicians, originating as a protest after the 1995 Joint Mathematics Meeting conference was scheduled to take place in Colorado, which had recently passed a state amendment prohibiting anti-discrimination laws for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. 

Only recently did Spectra begin allowing university chapters on Sept. 1, 2023. Anna Lowery is one of the mathematics graduate student founders of the Rice chapter. 

“The broader organization is probably more specifically for mathematicians, so people who are pursuing a Ph.D. or have a career in math can network,” Lowery said. “At Rice, we want this to be a community for math graduate students and math majors. I’m also excited about it being a space for any students at Rice or people in the Rice community at large who aren’t even students, like professors, postdocs, just people who are generally interested, even if they’re not pursuing math as a career.”

Today, Spectra is a community-building organization to academically and professionally support LGBT+ mathematicians, arranging events and maintaining a contact list of “out” mathematicians and allies according to their website. Though Spectra may seem to serve a very specific intersection of identities, Lowery foresees it having a significant impact on its members. 

“Math is really about pushing against what you know, so if you’re doing math and you feel like you’re good at it and you’re just getting everything … you’re not asking questions that haven’t been asked yet,” Lowery said. “There’s always stuff that’s going to feel challenging. One thing that makes that struggle a lot more bearable is doing it in community.” 

Lowery also said that Spectra can broaden people’s perspectives on math as a subject.

“Through joining Spectra, people might also see other sides of math that they’re not being presented in these standard calculus classes,” Lowery said. “That could be really exciting if they change their minds.” 

The Spectra chapter at Rice is currently gauging student interest to decide what events and support would be most appreciated, and the chapter’s executive board elections will be held April 22 at 1 p.m. 

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