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Dr Clara Barker from the Department of Materials has been awarded a prestigious Points of Light award by the Prime Minister’s Office, recognizing her outstanding contribution to Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender awareness-raising both in the University and community.

In a personal letter to Clara, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Your tireless volunteer work with LGBT+ groups across Oxford is educating young people and members of the public in the importance of diversity and different identities. You are a positive role model for the community and you should be proud of your ongoing work in transgender education and support.”

Dr Barker, who identifies as trans-female, manages a Centre for Applied Superconductivity run by two Oxford departments, Materials and Physics. She says, ‘It was a really nice surprise to receive this. It’s not why you do it but the recognition is lovely.’

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers. It was launched by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014, copying a US Presidential model dating back to 1990. Dr Barker adds that the current Prime Minister has continued to support LGBT+ issues first highlighted by her predecessor. ‘Her voting record on these issues is a bit up and down to be honest, but overall this award is a statement of support for the LGBT+ community and that matters a great deal.’

In her professional capacity as laboratory manager, Dr Barker manages a rapidly growing project involving approximately two dozen faculty and research students. The object of their research is improving the efficiency of electricity transmission and magnetic applications through the use of superconductors. The laboratory, which is part-funded by Local Enterprise Projects and has several local business partners in Oxfordshire, is halfway through a five year programme and was officially opened earlier this year by the Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon.

Outside the lab, Dr Barker’s volunteering work has ranged from working with Stonewall, the lobbying charity for LGBT+ equality, to helping the Council run an anti-HBT bullying initiative in local schools. A trained mentor and role model, she is a great believer in the importance of role models — be it in the work place, in schools, universities or the community at large. ‘It is easy to say that these places accept people for who they are but it is vital to actually see that this is true.’

In the two years that Dr Barker has worked at the University, she has witnessed a real change both in the community and University. ‘I’ve seen a lot more events and understanding. People are engaging and listening, the University is an accepting place. There are problems of course, but we’re addressing them head on.’

The University of Oxford is committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected. It was recently put forward for a national award concerning its coverage of LGBT history in a booklet and tour called Out in Oxford.

Story courtesy of the University of Oxford's Medium channel - https://medium.com/@Oxford_University

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