Science is still a pretty male dominated field, which makes it doubly hard for women to contribute to their highest potential. As we know, primary schooling is notoriously tough for people with any kind of learning difference/disability to get through.
Between those two factors, and the pressure girls get to lead a more “appropriate” lifestyle, LD girls seem to get the brunt of the whole “avoid science” vibe. Too many who may have pursued a scientific path otherwise give up on their dreams before they could even really pursue them.
The thing is, there are plenty of women in science. Since I’ve started taking part in the awesome #womenslives initiative, I’ve come across some pretty neat stories about women’s contributions to science, but I thought I’d highlight one particular lady here, who also happens to have dyslexia.
Carol Greider is the joint Nobel prize winner for 2009, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak. She and her team found that as cells divided, chromosomes actually got shorter. That lead to the question, “If chromosomes keep shrinking, how can cells keep dividing?” Eventually, they discovered an enzyme called telomerase, which attaches to the ends of chromosomes and adds a little bit more length back to them.
That realization is very interesting in and of itself, but the true value is in how it can be used in discovering new disease treatments and obtaining a deeper understanding of the aging process.
Now, she’s a professor at John’s Hopkins University, and has continued with her research.
As a child, though, no matter how hard she worked, she still failed her classes in school. At that time, dyslexia wasn’t routinely tested for, so she had to struggle along on her own in remedial classes. Like many dyslexics, she thought of herself as stupid.
Those struggles, although difficult, did nothing to stem her natural curiosity, which led her to discover new ways of learning that worked for her. In many ways, her dyslexia helped her become the accomplished scientist she is today.
By the way, she’s also a mom and wife, so she’s had to deal with the whole life-work balance so many women do today. There’s no reason anyone should have to choose between a career or a family.
She’s a living testament to her quote, “Just because you’re dyslexic, doesn’t mean you can’t do anything you want to do.”
So, this one’s for my fellow LD ladies. We can reach for our dreams, and we can turn our difficulties into triumphs, regardless of what others may tell us.
Here’s Carol talking a little about her personal scientific process.