Being a scientist is hard. Being a scientist with a learning disability is harder, but it can be done.
Recently, astrophysicist and scientific communicator extraordinaire Neil deGrasse Tyson had a speaking engagement during which an eight-year-old girl named Lois asked him if there were any people in his field with dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a very common learning disability characterized by difficulties making sense of written language. Letters, words, and their representative sounds often get misinterpreted by the brain, making reading difficult. While there are no cures for the disorder, there are techniques that can make it more manageable and allow the individual to succeed in any field.
Given the challenges that inherently come along with the disorder, it's really no surprise that this girl would ask about her potential for a career in science.
Tyson gave the girl an emphatic "yes," noting that not only does he have colleagues with dyslexia, but various other neurological conditions as well.
The Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey host noted that he knows astrophysicists who also have Asperger's, Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, and other conditions that make learning more difficult. While there can be some notable social drawbacks to these disorders, Tyson notes that the "interesting thing about high-level science is you can just work at your desk… you don't have to be the life of the party."
He states that while his neurodiverse peers do have these issues that make their work more difficult, they simply allot themselves more time to work around their hindrances.
"It's a hurdle," Tyson conceded, "but in the Olympics, what do you do when you when you come up to a hurdle? You jump over it."
Listen to the full inspiring answer here:
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[Header image credit: NASA Ames Research Center]