Saurabh Rastogi: Featured LGBTQ+ ChemE Professional

16/15   in the series AIChE Observes Pride Month

June is Pride Month in the U.S. This year, AIChE observes Pride Month by talking to LGBTQ+ chemical engineers and their allies to hear some of their individual stories, challenges, achievements, and more.  

AIChE began the series featuring LGBTQ+ engineers and their allies in addition to the Pride Month series as part of an ongoing effort to share stories of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Other related efforts include a variety of LGBTQ+ programs and events at last year’s Annual Meeting and this year's Spring Meeting. These programs and events are all supported by the AIChE Foundation’s Doing a World of Good Campaign.

In this installment of our series, AIChE Celebrates Pride Month, we interviewed Saurabh Rastogi, who shared his story as an LGBTQ+ ChemE professional and PhD candidate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Where did you complete your chemical engineering education?

I received my undergraduate degree in Biotechnology from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi. I am currently completing my PhD in chemical engineering education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

How many years have you been a member of AIChE?

I joined AIChE in September 2023, so, I’ve been a member for nine months.

Tell us a bit about your job and your job responsibilities. What is a typical day at work? 

As a PhD candidate at RPI, my days are far from routine. In fact, this journey is a blend of consistency and inconsistency, a perhaps relatable experience to fellow graduate students. On any given day, I could be doing any of the multiple tasks my job requires, such as attending meetings, planning and executing experiments, troubleshooting results, analyzing data, coordinating lab maintenance activities, placing and tracking orders for the lab, or navigating the ever-present influx of emails.

However, to combat the potential monotony that can arise from such a demanding schedule, I make it a point to take breaks and engage in lively conversations with my friends and colleagues. These interludes serve as a welcome respite, allowing us to bounce ideas off one another, share updates on our lives’ recent happenings, and support each other in this academic journey.

Beyond the confines of my research, I find great fulfillment in organizing events on campus. This involvement has afforded me the opportunity to partake in various student and administrative bodies, enabling me to forge connections with individuals from diverse fields. These experiences have not only broadened my perspectives but have also cultivated a strong sense of community.

Saurabh with other engineers at a Valentine's Day celebration, "Curing the Lovebug Infection".

Saurabh with other engineers at a Valentine's Day celebration, "Curing the Lovebug Infection".

Tell us a bit about your experience as an out LGBTQ+ professional working in engineering.

I count myself incredibly fortunate to have always been surrounded by a supportive and accepting environment. My colleagues and friends have welcomed my identity with open arms, creating a space where I can freely express myself without the fear of judgment or discrimination. Although, I would like to mention a few occasions when embracing my identity was met with a silence of dismissal in the room, perhaps due to personal discomfort.

I take pride in finding a way to seamlessly integrate my queer identity with my role as an engineer. I have been able to fully embrace my authentic self while being an active part of the engineering community. The presence of these inclusive spaces, where diversity is celebrated, has enabled me to excel in my field without ever feeling like an outsider.

The presence of these inclusive spaces, where diversity is celebrated, has enabled me to excel in my field without ever feeling like an outsider.

What are the most important issues that LGBTQ engineers deal with in the workplace today?

It is crucial to recognize that an individual’s various identities, such as gender, sexuality, race, and even profession, are inextricably linked and cannot be viewed in isolation. These core aspects of a person’s identity are not mutually exclusive but rather coexist and inform one another. Failing to acknowledge the intersectionality of identity can lead to a reductive understanding of the challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ engineers.

Moreover, the engineering curriculum often lacks a comprehensive exploration of social sciences and their relevance to the field. As members of society, engineers must consider the broader implications of their work and its impact on diverse communities. Incorporating interdisciplinary education that emphasizes social awareness, ethics, and inclusion can help cultivate a more well-rounded understanding of the engineering profession and its responsibilities.

Many LGBTQIA+ engineers harbor a deep-seated fear of rejection in the workplace, leading them to conceal their identity from colleagues and supervisors. This reluctance to be their authentic selves can hinder their ability to thrive and contribute fully to their work. Furthermore, discrimination against individuals who do not conform to cisgender norms can result in missed opportunities for growth and advancement, perpetuating systemic inequalities.

Ultimately, the cumulative stress and pressure of navigating these challenges can have a detrimental impact on the physical and mental well-being of LGBTQIA+ engineers. Anxiety, depression, and burnout can compromise their performance and overall job satisfaction. Addressing these issues at a systemic level is crucial to creating more inclusive and supportive work environments that prioritize the holistic well-being of all employees.

How can people (peers who are allies, and members of management and leadership who are allies) help foster a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ chemical engineers?

Saurabh enjoying a game of darts in downtown Troy.
Saurabh enjoying a game of darts in downtown Troy.

Appropriate education is key to fostering a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ chemical engineers. We can organize routine training and workshops to educate and sensitize the workforce on LGBTQ issues and challenges. We should put adequate support infrastructure in place for people seeking guidance and normalize calling out discrimination and microaggressions, empowering people to speak up against injustice.

Moreover, the lack of visible LGBTQ role models in leadership positions can be a significant barrier to inclusion. Having examples of successful LGBTQ engineers in prominent roles can inspire others to embrace their identities and take on greater responsibilities. Concerted efforts to improve representation, coupled with incentives for LGBTQ professionals to step into leadership roles, can help make these accomplishments more tangible and attainable.

Additionally, the reluctance to use preferred pronouns is a common issue that requires a shift in mindset. Using someone’s preferred pronouns is a simple yet powerful way to make them feel seen, respected, and valued as their authentic self. Practicing empathy and considering how one would feel in a comparable situation can help foster sensitivity and appreciation for the diversity that enriches the workplace.

Empathy is a crucial skill for allies to develop. By striving to understand the experiences and perspectives of LGBTQ colleagues, allies can become more attuned to the challenges they face and more effective in their support. Considering hypothetical situations and evaluating one’s own thoughts and reactions can help individuals recognize the inherent worth and dignity of each person, regardless of their identity. Nurturing a culture of empathy and allyship is essential for creating an environment where LGBTQ chemical engineers can thrive.

Nurturing a culture of empathy and allyship is essential for creating an environment where LGBTQ chemical engineers can thrive.

Tell us a bit about your personal life.

I currently reside in Troy, a quaint city in upstate New York. While I have yet to embark on a romantic journey, I am blessed to have several friends and a community here.

I find immense joy in the culinary department. I relish tackling diverse recipes, especially if I have the opportunity to share it with others. Baking also holds a special place in my heart, and I must remind myself to embark on another baking adventure soon, for I miss the aroma of baked goods filling my home.

Recently, I’ve taken up bouldering, and I eagerly anticipate each “climbing day.” It’s a time for us to destress, catch up with each other and get in some good physical activity.

One can also find me out and about with my friends, dancing the night away, exploring nature, or discovering new and exciting places. I absolutely love traveling and it really helps me unwind. I am always planning my next trip, be it within the US or beyond. I feel fulfilled with a getaway every few months. I consider myself an adrenaline junkie, constantly seeking out another exhilarating experience. In fact, bungee-jumping and skydiving are firmly on my agenda – I plan to take the plunge (quite literally) very soon.

Saurabh enjoying the outdoors while on a hike at Thacher Park.
Saurabh enjoying the outdoors while on a hike at Thacher Park.

Are there any LGBTQ+ inspirations, role models, or moments in history that are important to you?

Growing up in India, I spent the formative years of embracing my identity within the context of Indian society, its norms, and laws. However, one remnant of India’s colonial past was the criminalization of homosexuality under Section 377, even among consenting adults. This archaic law cast a long shadow over the LGBTQIA+ community, forcing people to live in constant fear of potential exploitation by the system and those in positions of power.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India delivered a groundbreaking verdict, decriminalizing consensual sexual activities among all adults. This momentous decision was a profound relief for the LGBTQIA+ population, who could finally live more freely and express themselves without the constant fear of persecution. While there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving full societal acceptance, this legislation stands as a landmark in the history of India’s queer diaspora, laying the foundation for a more inclusive and tolerant future. 

Do you have a coming out story you’d like to share?

When I was around 14, a profound conversation with my friend Simon (fictitious name) during our commute home from school sparked an introspective journey about my sexuality. Deep down, I had always felt an attraction toward men, but I brushed it aside as a passing phase. However, before I could fully process these feelings, Simon confronted me about it, and I realized with certainty that I am gay. Although pensive for some time after this revelation, I was teeming with a sense of liberation in finally acknowledging my truth.

The very next morning, Simon disclosed my sexuality to my sister, catching me off guard. It was an uncomfortable situation that I wasn’t prepared for. However, with time and education, my sister became one of my core pillars of strength, offering unwavering support. While initially upset with Simon for putting me in that position, I’m now grateful to him. Not only did he help me discover myself, but he also, in a sense, ripped off the band-aid regarding my sister, saving me from the daunting task of coming out to her by myself.

What is your dream getaway?

A recent solar storm lit up the skies of upstate New York and several other neighboring regions with aurora borealis. My friends and I set out two nights in a row to catch a glimpse of these lights, but the cloud cover beat us to it. This has fueled my desire to travel to Iceland and enjoy these spectacles, along with the ice caves, glaciers, whale-watching, and all the myriad experiences that the place has to offer.

Join AIChE’s LGBTQ+ & Allies Online Community

This community is open to professional AIChE members who are LGBTQ+ and allies. Topics of discussion will include the ongoing development of LGBTQ+ initiatives within AIChE, plus issues concerning, and opportunities for, LGBTQ+ chemical engineering professionals.

The LGBTQ+ & Allies Community supports the IDEAL path. 

Sign up 

Learn more about the community.

Learn more about AIChE's Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives.

Interested in helping?

Are you an LGBTQ+ chemical engineer and AIChE member interested in sharing your story to help create awareness around diversity and inclusion? Are you an LGBTQ+ ally interested in helping with diversity and inclusion efforts? Send us a note at with the subject “Diversity and Inclusion.”