Dan Hdidouan

STEM Equals Profiles - Dan Hdidouan

Tell us a little bit about you:

I was born in inner South London, UK, to a Roman Catholic Italian mother, and a Muslim Moroccan father - this set me up for having an inclusive and international perspective on global challenges - like climate change! Now I'm doing a PhD which focuses on understanding the impacts of climate change on the renewable energy system. I’ve always been a fierce BAME and LGBTQIA+ advocate. I’ve often had to be the role model I want to see in this world, so sharing our stories is a fantastic way to show that we (and you!) are not alone - you are just finding your way. Don’t let ignorance, fear or hate guide your decisions - life is too precious and short, and importantly #SlayInScience!

What is your area of research and what project(s) are you working on now?

My career has always focused on sustainability, with a research interest particularly on the climate-energy interface. I am currently finishing my PhD thesis which looks at the economic impacts of climate change on wind and solar power.

When was your interest in STEM/your field first sparked and why?

Coming from a diverse background, I always wondered why and how I was different and that curiosity led me to loving geography and the environment. This grew into a keen interest in the nature-socioeconomic interface, particularly on climate and energy.

Who or what inspired you to stick with STEM when you were younger?

Teachers encouraged me to nurture and develop my STEM skills. Family and family friends spurred my on to see STEM as a way of contributing to society and working my way out of poverty.

What challenges do you think STEM disciplines face with regards to issues of diversity and inclusion and what should a supportive, inclusive STEM community look like?

STEM is seen as challenging and boring, which discourages a lot of people that have non-traditional skillsets. A lot of STEM is abstract to younger members of our community because they just haven’t had the time to see, think creatively or live most of it. If you have difficult formative years due to discrimination or disadvantage, it is even harder to sustain interest in something perceived as challenging. STEM itself is not necessarily exclusive. Those that have traditionally done very well in STEM have often sacrificed a lot of their personal life to get far, which is not something those that fought hard to get are willing to give up. I think this is even more true for LGBTQIA+ members especially after the effort and mental capacity required to fight the internal and external stigma of being different. A supportive and inclusive STEM community reflects the make up of our real life communities.

In your career, what are the moments that have made you proudest so far?

Whenever I change jobs or leave somewhere, I am always (quite emotionally!) proud of the new family and friends I have made, coupled with the experiences I have shared with them. It is even better when you leave a personal imprint or legacy of you being there – whether it is someone having a broader outlook on life, a story about that amazing tiramisu, BBQ or friendship, or something more professional (like suggestions for a more sustainable organisation).

Since STEM career paths are rarely easy to navigate, what challenges have you faced along the way?

There are two areas to this: 1) money, and 2) awareness. Worrying about financing the steps along the career path have been a challenge. My family and I have never had any savings, so needing to move for work, or travel long distances were life choices – when they didn’t have to be. Secondly, being aware of the opportunities and what work/job-speak actually means was a massive learning curve. Awareness on financial solutions to help you further down the career path is the perfect storm of these two challenges.

Where do you find support to sustain you in your current career?

In response to question six, I mentioned how proud I am of my new friends and family - well, I keep them close and we draw strength and support from each other.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in STEM?

Ask questions – never leave a meeting confused or unsure. Make it easy for people to help you. Know what you want and what you do not want. STEM is not everything. Be creative and proficient with your skill application, that is how you add value.

Fun question: Tell us two truths and a lie about you.

a) I have travelled across China, the UK and Morocco by train (not at the same time!). b) Every year I help make around 200 jars of tomato sauce in Italy; I help eat around 20! c) I regularly perform STEM stand-up related to my research at my local comedy club.