Unique Scientist: Samuel J. Dymerski

Time to meet Samuel J. Dymerski (They/them or He/him)! Samuel‘s background is in English and systems sciences and is currently interested in plant bioinformatics!

What kind of scientist are you?
This is a tough question, because I’m currently between fields. I received my bachelor’s degree in English and systems sciences, where I focused heavily on sociology and anthropology–specifically as they relate to neuroatypical and otherwise-abled communities, as I have a vested interest in those particular intersections.

However, toward the end of this degree I became enthralled with plant sciences–specifically plant bioinformatics–and am now looking to pursue a higher degree in that field.

What made you want to become a scientist?
Interesting a question as that is, I don’t know if I can provide a satisfactory response to it. I only remember actively wanting to be a scientist when I was the young son of two analytical chemists. Generally, regardless of which field I pursue, I tend to develop a potent interest in the latest and most recently developed research. So in a way, ‘science’ as an abstract concept I feel is the inevitable endpoint of whatever I pursue.

With Botany specifically, I think it had a lot to do with my personal development; as I grew up and into young adulthood, I found plants to be very affable organisms in spite of their deceptively quiet nature. It’s a je-ne-sais-quoi that I can’t pinpoint, but I think their diversity and omnipotent role in larger biotic processes to be intensely charming.

“Academia tends to champion its atypical members upon their success and contribution, but until that point we’re all but invisible, and our varied needs more or less disregarded.”

Samuel J. Dymerski

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I’ve lived with disability my entire life, and am only now being awakened to how pervasive a presence it has been.

Back when I was eleven, I was found to have a matrilineal condition which results in hearing loss. At seventeen I was fitted for hearing aids, and it’s entirely likely that in the future I may need surgery for cochlear implants. Alongside that, I’ve been grappling with the recognition that I have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which was only diagnosed within the last year.

Given that ASD can profoundly impact one’s theory of mind–in part, one’s own internal ability to recognize the variety of human experience–I haven’t until now really considered myself to be ‘unique’, but coming to terms with who I am has been a very freeing experience.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
Funny that should be a question here; people with autism tend to be seen as having a very narrow selection of interests, and I suppose I do little to assuage that stereotype. As you might expect, my two biggest hobbies are gardening and writing, so the line between work and play is sort of nonexistent for me. I’ve been branching out a lot lately, though; I’ve really gotten into exercise and cooking. I also used to play jazz guitar, and have been meaning to get back into it.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
STEM, as part of academia on the whole, has this sort of reputation as being a sort of neuroatypical haven, and I don’t think this is true. Academia tends to champion its atypical members upon their success and contribution, but until that point we’re all but invisible, and our varied needs more or less disregarded.

This idea–that everyone in academia is a little outside the norm–can be so damaging for the disabled and otherwise-abled: it presents atypicality as an ultimately empowering factor, and in turn negates the immense variety of atypical needs, challenges and, ultimately, assets posed upon and offered by atypical people. I find that very troubling.

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
There have been so many, I wouldn’t know who to choose specifically. Right now, however, I owe a great debt to the general and plant biology professors at MSU Denver for honing my love for the subject, as well as the herbarium staff at the Denver Botanic Gardens for housing and fostering my interests in the interim.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
Switching fields so dramatically during my last year of school required a lot of finesse and trust in all my given skill sets. I’m proud of myself for having stuck the landing, and hope that success is an indicator of things to come! 🙂

#DisabledInSTEM, #AtypicalInSTEM

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