graphic with rainbows bordering the words "GDB advising presents, Pride month spotlight"

GDB Pride Month Spotlight

Quick Summary

  • This Pride month spotlight highlights members of the LGBTQ+ community at UC Davis and their achievements and experiences in academia.
Aaron R. Milanese holding a plant

Aaron R. Milanese

PhD Student in Plant Biology

I feel lucky to be part of a university that, through the efforts of LGBTQ students, has the social infrastructure for transformative academic and peer mentorship. Whether mentoring undergraduate students in the Sundaresan Lab, as a teaching assistant or through the oSTEM student club, I relish in supporting students in their pursuit of academic goals and authentic living. ‘Beneath our superficial differences we are, all of us, walking communities of bacteria.’ - L. Margulis


Heather Dawn Lawrence

Heather Dawn Lawrence

Advisor, Education Enrichment and Outreach Program

B.S. UC Davis, Genetics, 2001. (she/her/hers) I am so grateful to work for UC Davis. I deeply appreciate its warm, welcoming community and the ongoing quest of our leaders toward learning, listening, inclusivity and justice. It is my honor and privilege to work with the Education Enrichment and Outreach Program ( as a student advisor and instructor of workshops in introductory biology for underrepresented, socioeconomically disadvantaged and disabled students. I strongly desire to work in kinship as my students work to achieve their dream of a career in the life sciences. My students inspire, push and challenge me to grow in ways I couldn't have imagined for myself prior to taking this position. I am proud to be an introvert, I consider my high sensitivity to be a strength, I love to travel, read, think deeply about things, practice Yoga, snuggle with my cats, watch movies, play the ukulele and generally be indoorsy, although I do enjoy a good visit to the beach every now and again. I identify as a lesbian.


Brett Dufour

Dr. Brett Dufour

Neuroscientist in Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences 

I’m a queer gay neuroscientist in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the UC Davis Medical Center. I’m currently doing my postdoctoral training as a part of the MIND Institute’s Autism Research Training Program (ARTP) in the lab of Dr. Veronica Martinez-Cerdeno. My research focuses on
characterizing neuropathological alterations in the brains of individuals with Autism, Fragile X Syndrome, and related conditions. This work utilizes postmortem brain tissue from individuals with these disorders, predominantly assessing anatomical changes using immunohistochemistry and microscopy. I am particularly interested in understanding the relationship between specific brain circuit-level alterations and clinical symptom profiles. I completed my undergraduate degree at UC Davis in Neurobiology, Physiology, & Behavior and Spanish (double major), my master’s degree in Animal Sciences at Purdue University, and my PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University. I’m always happy to mentor undergraduate students that are interested in gaining experience in biomedical research – and I pride myself on creating a professional, welcoming, and supportive environment for any students who wish to participate, particularly for members of the LGBTQIA community and other marginalized groups. If interested, feel free to contact me at


Shawn Christensen

Shawn Christensen

PhD Candidate in Microbiology Graduate Group        

My experience in academia as a trans man has been both beautiful and profoundly frustrating. I have found connections with other queer academics, been supported and accepted by my lab and friends, and grown into myself as a whole person and scientist. I have been lucky in that my PI (Dr. Rachel Vannette) has been steadfastly in my corner, and forgiving of the (sometimes extensive) time I spend on DEI and advocacy work. Even so, it is exhausting to just exist as a scientist who is also trans; add in fighting for this to change and it can feel like a sisyphean task. 

Going into my last year of my PhD, I have been thinking a lot about my experiences over the past five years. I have worked extensively in DEI spaces of many kinds, from the UC Office of the President Lived Name and Gender Marker Committee to getting contract protections and wage increases with my fellow grad students in UAW2865. These have been invaluable opportunities for me to (try to) change the system for the better, advocate for trans and other marginalized folks, and meet others who share my experiences. Simultaneously, this work solidified the fact that marginalized people are often required and expected to go to great lengths just to receive basic rights and consideration. 

For all of my other queer/trans/marginalized students and academics, please remember:

Joy is an act of resistance- Toi Derricotte



UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Center:

The Out List:

Aggie Mental Health:

LGBTQIA Support Lines:

  • Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
  • LGBT National Youth Hotline: 800-246-7743
  • LGBT National Hotline: 888-843-4564
  • True Colors United: 212-461-4401
  • Pride Institute LGBTQ Dependency: 800-547-7433