Revisited: Debacles of a Disabled Scientist.

Bold black letters reading "revisited" in the centre of a circular black stamp, surrounded by ink splatters. The background is a pale photograph of a woman using a laptop while sat in a manual wheelchair.

Parts 1 and 2 of the Revisited series are available by clicking the numbers!

A lot has changed in the five years since I first created Diary of a Disabled Person, so I decided to take a look back at content produced in my first two years of writing and update some of my earliest articles. So, in no particular order, let’s revisit Debacles of a Disabled Scientist (originally published 12th February 2017).

When I originally wrote this piece I was still in my final year at university, and as such had adapted to working in a laboratory on a regular basis. This resulted in everything from humorous miscommunications to outright ableism, even being questioned as to why I chose to study science in the first place when I was disabled, as if Stephen Hawking wasn’t alive and well at the time.

Five years on and, after a brief stint in administration I’m back doing science, only this time I’m being paid for the privilege. The science I do now looks very different to my time in the laboratory; I’ve swapped uncomfortable wooden stools for a comfortable spinny chair, and an oversized lab coat for an oversized cardigan. Despite being predominantly sat behind a desk rather than at a workbench, I still get to put the principles I studied to use every day in the data sciences, and while a scientific background is not essential for the role of Clinical Trial Coordinator, I certainly think it helps to understand why certain tasks are performed in such a specific way, and to understand the impact of the work I contribute to.

I’m not sure how 20-year-old me would have reacted to my current employment. Indeed, despite my final year research project being on a real clinical trial with real patients and data, a privilege I underestimated the significance of as an undergrad, I never anticipated a career in clinical trials. My original plans of progressing into dietetics were thwarted by changes to the funding for the necessary qualifications, although in light of my administrative role in the NHS and their current status, I quite possibly dodged a bullet there. I looked at going straight onto a PhD but without confirmed grades or work experience under my belt, I never got past the application stage. I even considered moving into writing instead, but the few places that didn’t require expensive qualifications wouldn’t have me either. I eventually settled for an administrative role in the NHS simply so that I had work experience, and kept developing my writing portfolio in the meantime.

After several months I was let go from the NHS, and now that I had even a small amount of work experience, I managed to land a role in clinical trials relatively quickly. It took a little while for me to settle into the role, but I soon established myself within the department, and a couple of years later I would even be promoted to my current role. I may not be conducting complicated experiments in a laboratory, and I may not be in a patient-facing role, but I’ve come to learn that the sciences are a much more diverse field than we are led to believe during education. Many roles within the sciences emphasise computing over chemical analysis, and with each technological advancement it is becoming more and more important to utilise computing in the sciences. Despite the unplanned turn my career has taken, it would appear that I have remained something of a disabled scientist all along.

Parts 4 and 5 of the Revisited series are available by clicking the numbers!

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