Tyler Kelly

Portrait: Kelly
Current Workplace
University of Birmingham
Current Role
Reader in Geometry
My Mathematics Success Story is...

I started really enjoying mathematics at age 15 but did not understand that studying mathematics for its own sake was a viable career path. I started doing some competition mathematics but did not really invest in it because of personal issues regarding coming to terms with my sexuality. At age 16, I was put in conversion therapy after a discussion with my parents. Over the course of a few months, going to university and studying mathematics seemed to be the viable path in order to get out of the conversion therapy and into a new environment where I could be myself.

I started an undergraduate education at the University of Georgia in 2005. At the time, gay marriage had just been banned in Georgia the year before and there were no legal protections for LGBTQ+ people at the university.  Fortunately, the math department was reasonably safe due to one faculty member who was out and selflessly supporting most LGBT mathematics student along with a huge proportion of the rest of the students while serving as head of education. This was a radical act-- at the time, other faculty at the university were experiencing homophobic abuse on their teaching evaluations. I wanted to help others have a safe space for having meaningful mathematics experiences, so I kept going on my mathematics career.

I went to Penn for my PhD afterwards and fell in love with research in geometry (after telling myself at age 14 that I wanted nothing to do with geometry). I applied for a ton of positions afterwards and had to make a decision on going into a teaching-focused position and a research-focused position. I took the option that my self-confidence level advised against and went into a more research-focused role. I haven’t looked back yet, but one day I believe I will go into a job that is more balanced between teaching and research.

After getting a permanent academic position, I’ve been able mix the best of both worlds, having my own meaningful mathematics experiences in research while also providing support for junior mathematicians and LGBTQ+ students in STEM. I have recently become involved in the LGBTQ+ STEM project to make the UK STEM community more hospitable for LGBTQ+ individuals. We have a long way to go, but I think we have made some progress since 2005.


Immigration/working and living internationally