In the Experimental Histopathology team, we prepare both human and animal tissues for further microscopic analysis. In my role, I optimise antibodies to create an enhanced microscopic image that makes it easier to see different components of cells. I also train new staff to use our staining platforms and advise researchers on their individual projects.
My deafness is a hidden disability – you cannot see my cochlear implant – so those who don’t know me will see me as a hearing person. I use lip-reading as my main source of communication, so if you do meet me, full face-to-face communication is best. If a deaf person hasn't heard or understood, shouting will not help, but repeating again and/or re-phrasing may do. Normally my deafness doesn’t bother me, but with more people wearing facemasks, not being able to have a casual chat feels very isolating. I’m not nervous about telling people that I’m deaf, so if someone tries talking to me with their mask on now, I kindly ask them to step back to a safe distance and lower their mask.
The advancements in technology have greatly improved things for me over the last few years, ever since I had my cochlear implant. When I first started at the Crick, I used a minicom, which would relay what was being said into text. Now I use the app on my iPad and the voice can stream directly into my implant at the same time. Other less techy things that help me are a vibrating timer, which I use for my timed experiments, and I’ve asked to receive a text when the fire alarm is sounding. I should point out that each deafness is different, so what works for me might not work for someone else. What is important is that an organisation highlights what they can offer and that everyone feels confident asking for what they need.
Last year, I was asked to model for the Deaf-Mosaic exhibition. Its purpose is to portray stories and passions within the deaf community, and show parents and children what we can do! I was picked for my passion for vintage styling and since then, two schools have approached to interview me about my scientific career. My aim is to raise disability awareness everywhere, especially in the workplace, and I want the next generation to be able to settle into a scientific career easily.
In the Advanced Sequencing team, I work with our research scientists to process samples of DNA or RNA that have specially been produced for experiments through our sequencing platforms. This shows us the sequence of bases in the DNA or RNA and tells scientists, for example, about a new mutation in a cancerous tumour, or the identity of a COVID-19 strain.
I was born with a neurological condition and I identify as neurodivergent. Among other symptoms, I experience hypersensitivity, meaning I am highly sensitive to light, sound, touch, and other stimuli. On a normal day, I like to work in a relaxed environment and have the freedom to manage my own time to get my work done. You could say that a scientific career has suited me because I am very logical and enjoy the process of problem-solving.
My career challenges have all been social in nature and I do worry that I appear unfriendly because I tend to avoid noisy situations. You might think that scientists spend all their time working away in the lab, but you hear a lot about the importance of networking. This means meeting new people from other institutions and going to conferences with hundreds of scientists attending. I have trouble separating different sounds, so a drinks reception with multiple people speaking at once is very challenging. So, I was really glad to find that the Crick has some alternative options for socialising in quieter environments (shout out to our staff board gaming club and craft club!)
I have hope for the future that societal changes, such as working from home or flexible hours to avoid busy transport, will become more common. We need to create an environment where people are comfortable letting you know what their individual needs are, and make an effort to meet them. A more welcoming and inclusive society benefits us all and a one-size-fits-all approach will never work well for everyone. I’d definitely like to raise more awareness of invisible disabilities. Anyone you know could have a disability that isn’t obvious from just looking at them. I usually don’t talk about my disability at all, so most people who know me probably have no idea, but if it helps any other people to read about my experience then I’m happy to share.