A national organization devoted to LGBTQ+ individuals in scientific or technical careers is honoring a longtime Southern Research employee with a new scholarship specifically geared to individuals in biosciences.

LaVinia Ray, manager of the Anatomic Pathology and Central Repository Groups at Southern Research, received Out to Innovate’s inaugural Amy A. Ross Scholarship in Bioscience on July 31. The $2,000 award was established to recognize those who enhance LGBTQ+ visibility, diversity and inclusion in biosciences.

Ray said she is honored to receive the scholarship, which will support her work toward a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of West Alabama.

“As a woman scientist and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have encountered many barriers to my growth and development,” she said. “However, one thing has held strong – my commitment to making the path an easier one for those who follow in my footsteps.”

Ray has worked for Southern Research for 20 years, and said she has been fortunate to work at an institution that has long valued and celebrated diversity. Specifically, she said, Southern Research was among the early companies to provide insurance coverage for same-sex spouses. “I am so proud to work for Southern Research and pleased with its stance on equality for all,” she said.

Josh Carpenter, president and CEO of Southern Research, said Southern Research is equally proud of Ray.

“LaVinia is widely recognized not only for her technical expertise, but also for her ability to mentor, support and inspire those on her team,” Carpenter said. “She is a leader in every sense of the word, and she is an asset to Southern Research. We are proud to see that others recognize her accomplishments as much as we do.”

Out to Innovate, formerly known as the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, is made up of professionals who work in science, engineering and other technical fields. The organization works to empower LGBTQ+ individuals in STEM by providing education, advocacy, professional development, networking and peer support.

The group provides scholarships for LGBTQ+ students to pursue degrees in STEM fields, with the goal of promoting academic excellence and increased visibility of LGBTQ+ students in STEM fields. This is the first year that the organization has awarded the Amy A. Ross Scholarship in Bioscience.