Tricia Clayton


Assistant Professor of Structural Engineering

University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX

Built Environment Queer Project

"Just be you!"

Q&A with Participant:

  1. Describe your current position.
  2. In my position as an assistant professor, I teach undergraduate and graduate classes and conduct research. Much of my research and teaching are in the areas of earthquake engineering and design and behavior of steel structures. My goal is to help students and engineers design buildings and structures that contribute to more resilient and sustainable communities.

  3. What is your educational background?
  4. I got my undergraduate degree in civil engineering from North Carolina State University and my master’s and PhD from University of Washington in Seattle.

  5. What do you love about your career?
  6. I love getting to work with students, both in class and in research. It is very rewarding and inspiring to see students grow into outstanding engineers!

  7. Do you incorporate your queer identity in your career? How?
  8. I try to talk openly about my family (my wife and son) at work, with co-workers and with students. This did not and still does not come naturally to me, since I spent many years trying to hide my personal life from others, but it is something I continuously work on to try to increase visibility of queer professionals in my field. When UT engineering students organized a LGBTQ+ Professionals Panel, I was excited to participate in the event, since I think it’s important for students to see their professors actively engaged in non-engineering activities and topics that are important to them.

  9. Have you ever had a negative experience in a professional environment that was related to your queer identity? How did you deal with it?
  10. Not blatantly. There are microagressions or implicit biases I encounter as a woman and a LGBTQ+ person in a very heteronormative, male-dominated field. People may not think I can do all the manual construction in the structural engineering research lab like the “guys.” They may not realize how mentally draining it can be to have to repeatedly out yourself or gauge the audience every time you talk about your personal life to determine how much you should expose. I usually assume people mean well, and I politely correct them when they make a biased comment. Luckily, in the most recent places I’ve lived and worked, Seattle and Austin, folks are generally very accepting and open-minded, so I have not had any horrible experiences at work related to my queer identity.

  11. What role has mentorship played in your career? Do you have a queer mentor?
  12. I’ve had some great mentors in my career, but none who are queer. I wish I had seen more people like me when I was a student, and I hope I can be that person for students now.

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Twitter: @Clayton_UT

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