The ugly side of science

Please let me start out by saying that I am not, repeat, NOT anti-science.

I worked in the biological sciences for years. I loved my science classes in high school and college, and went on to earn a master’s degree in biochemistry. I attended the March for Science in Washington, DC two years in a row (2017 and 2018–both of the years that it took place). I think science is essential for living. Think of all of the vaccines and antibiotics and antivirals that we wouldn’t have if it were not for science.

But science has an ugly side.

And I have experienced it.

Those of us with physical disabilities have a hard time doing it.

I have mild cerebral palsy. I am highly fortunate that I am able to walk, talk, write, and do so many things that people with severe CP cannot do.

However, my CP affects my hand and finger coordination–something essential to running many science experiments. I must work more slowly and more deliberately. This, when I was working in laboratories, did not endear me to some of my bosses, shall we say. In my last scientific research position, I was fired because I could not get the hang of restraining live laboratory mice.

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors flat-out told me that I am not good with my hands and that I should not be working in a scientific laboratory. (This professor also told me that I should “maybe” go into technical writing, which I find ironic, considering that I am now an editor who works in the sciences. Maybe I should have listened to him then?)

The ugly side of science is that it, by nature, makes it hard for those with physical disabilities to succeed in the laboratory. This is nobody’s fault. It’s just the nature of the beast.

If you, dear reader, have a physical disability and are pursuing a career in laboratory science right now, PLEASE don’t give up. You may be more successful than I was. I’m only writing from personal experience here. At the two Marches for Sciences that I attended, I listened to speeches given by scientists who were deaf or blind. I applaud those people immensely and wish I could sit down and hear more of their experiences.

Let me just add that I am still working in science–just not in the laboratory. Science embraced me after all.

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