Unique Scientist: Cal Donnelly

Can we get a round of applause to welcome Cal Donnelly (They/them/She/her)?! Cal is a computational virologist at the Roslin Institute (you know, where Dolly the sheep was born!) in Scotland! Cal is also a leader when it comes to promoting equality & diversity in the educational setting.

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a PhD student at the Roslin Institute (Dolly the sheep anyone?). I am a computational virologist: using bioinformatic/in vitro analysis to elucidate genetic resistance mechanisms to highly pathogenic avian influenza. I am the Staff Pride Network site rep for my campus at the Uni of Edinburgh, and am part of the equality & diversity committee for my college & school.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I’ve always been obsessed with puzzles and the acquisition of knowledge! (Bioinformatics can sometimes feel like solving a billion-piece jigsaw)

“In spite of, and because of my anxiety, I try to be my most authentic Self at work to let others know they can be, too!”

Cal Donnelly

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I am non binary, queer, and living with a mental health condition. In spite of, and because of my anxiety, I try to be my most authentic Self at work to let others know they can be, too!

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
Creativity is everything to me – it keeps me (relatively) sane! Vocals, piano, uke, accordion, celtic harp, guitar and bass. I love doing gigs and hope to get my act together for next year’s Fringe festival! I am also currently working on a bioinformatics-themed sci-fi project with an original soundtrack and artwork. Super excited about it 🙂

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
Paint the ivory tower in rainbow colours, and then let it collapse!

“I am so ready to find out new and amazing things!”

Cal Donnelly

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
I am inspired by Lynn Conway; Ben Barres; all the trans scientists who came before me, who have been fired, ostracized or discriminated against for their gender.

The late Professor Pete Kaiser, who my PhD scholarship is in memory of. A renowned avian biologist who every single day I am so humbled to be walking in the footsteps of.

And of course, my principal supervisor Dr. Jacqueline Smith – a fantastic geneticist who has worked at Roslin since Dolly was cloned: she is my scientific role model!

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I was exceedingly proud to return to my research after an interruption for my mental health. I am so ready to find out new and amazing things! Let’s save the chickens! 🐥


#QueerInSTEM, #NonBinaryInSTEM

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