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Diversities in the lab | Lab news

Just because someone can’t do everything doesn’t mean they can’t be a great scientist. The inclusion of diverse people, experiences, and ideas in our labs drives advances in multidisciplinary science and superior solutions to global challenges.

Picture: Wanda Díaz-Merced during the inauguration of the Inspiring Stars exhibition at the IAU General Assembly in Vienna, Austria. Credit: IAU/M. Zamani

The business case for inclusion goes far beyond mere compliance. Diversity facilitates specialization and balances prejudices. People from different backgrounds choose to investigate different issues and approach the same question from different perspectives. People with disabilities offer special abilities, perceiving sensory stimuli in different and helpful ways.

In a recent webinar presented by the American Chemical Society [] [1], Missy Postlewaite, president of the Disability Out Reach Inclusion Community (DORIC), focused on what people can do in the lab, rather than what they can’t. Inspired by his speech, it was not difficult to find inspiring examples of these awesome people.

Deaf or hard of hearing

People who are deaf or hard of hearing can eliminate background noise and have high levels of concentration. As a result, they tend to be thoughtful, adaptable, attentive to detail, and very good listeners. According to himself, a high level of concentration resulting from his silent existence benefited Thomas Edison [2]. More recently, Melody ‘Pepsi’ Holmquist did her graduate research in mass spectrometry and is now an assistant professor at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology.[1]

Blind or visually impaired

People who are blind or partially sighted can mentally imagine structures and reactions invisible to the working eye. They pay attention to auditory cues and learn to use them more effectively. As such, they make great scientists. Geerat Vermeij relied on tactile sensation to inspect the relics while bringing what his colleagues described as “singular perception” to our understanding of evolution.[2] When she lost her sight, Astronomer Wanda Diaz Merced developed sonification, a system that converts astral data into sound.[3]


Picture: Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, on November 17, 2007 in Istanbul, Turkey

People with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are daydreamers, creative, spontaneous, highly energetic, resilient, risk averse, and natural problem solvers. Many famous entrepreneurs, such as Sir Richard Bransonhave ADHD.[4] Samantha (Sam) Athey ( is a PhD candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto. She studies the sources and pathways of anthropogenic microfibers, microplastics and associated chemical contaminants into the environment.[5]

Picture: Samantha (Sam) Athey

Those who carry the schizophrenia gene are on constant alert. They are less prone to viral infections and offer mathematical reasoning, high IQ, increased creativity and divergent thinking. Just ask the famous mathematician and Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash Jr.[2] Talented writer and former editor of Ophthalmology Times Europe, Erica Crompton has a history of paranoid schizophrenia and is now speaking out publicly on the subject.[6]

Picture: Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian mathematician, a true Renaissance genius

Dyslexia and learning disabilities often cause people to become gifted storytellers and inventors. If nurtured in the workplace, someone with a dyslexic brain will not only see things differently, but will quickly grasp new concepts, spot patterns and connections, and spur innovation. Albert Einstein and Leonardo DeVinci are both considered neurodiverse. Microbiologist, Nathalie Lamb may not be able to spell without help, but is a PhD researcher in civil engineering and microbiology with Anglian Water and the University of Sheffield.[5]

Picture: Nathalie Lamb

Autistic people are very logical, ethical, honest and persistent. They are not socially motivated and tend to notice small details that others miss. animal behaviorist, Grandin TempleThe personal perspective of inspired his groundbreaking work in the livestock industry.[2] quantum physicist Daisy Shearer was diagnosed with autism and now celebrates it in her “Neurodivergent in STEM” project.[5]

Picture: (Left) Temple Grandin at the 2010 Emmy Awards on August 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California (Right) Daisy Shearer

People with Down syndrome are punctual and motivated. They are very good at thinking outside the box and bring good vibes to any workplace, helping to establish a good work/play balance. Many great artists and actors have Downs Syndrome. Judith Scott was internationally renowned for her fiber sculpture. spanish actor Pablo Pineda Ferrar was the first European with Down syndrome to graduate from university.[7]

Physical and motor impairments

Picture: Farida Bedwei is a Ghanaian software engineer and co-founder of fintech company, Software

Physical and mobility impairments such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, spinal cord injury and amputation can cause incredible adaptations and encourage increased memory abilities. Software engineer, Farida Bedwi was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of a still pioneering cloud platform.[2] Marine geologist and computer scientist Sang-Mook Lee was an assistant professor at Seoul National University when an accident left him a quadriplegic. Now he is using his position and circumstances to influence major change.[3]

Picture: Sang Mook Lee 2019 Credit: Zyzzy2

Neurodegenerative disease

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and motor neuron disease affect both the brain and the nerves, but those diagnosed can still share their unique perspective, have new ideas and pass on the knowledge gained. throughout their career. stephen hawking was one of the most famous scientists of modern times. Although he had to give up his dream of becoming a doctor when he was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, Hamid Haroun now has an exciting research career in biomedical MRI at the University of Manchester.[3]

Watch the full ACS webcast: “You Can’t See It All: Invisible Disabilities and Special Abilities” at

If you would like to share a story about a STEM superhero in your lab, please contact us via [email protected]

The references:

1 Webinar, It’s Not All Seen: Invisible Disabilities and Special Abilities,, December 16, 2021

2 Rossen, J., 12 Disabled Scientists Who Made the World a Better Place,, October 2016

3 Tribute to Disabled Scientists,

4 Archer, D., ADHD; The Entrepreneur’s Superpower,, May 2014


6 Why schizophrenia shouldn’t rob us of an academic life,, February 2017

7 Reyero, D., Pablo Pinea, unlimited talent,