Being dyslexic, I was never naturally good at science and math in school because I wasn’t
being taught in a style that worked for me. I am a visual learner and not being able to physically see how what I was learning in my “real life” hindered my academic career. When I got scuba certified in high school, I was given these visual representations because scuba is physics, chemistry, and biology all in one. I remember in a physics lab I had in high school, there was an equation referring to Boyles Law which is a topic related to diver physiology and safety. As a kid, when you see something you are familiar with and recognize, you will be much more confident going into it.
Now as a PhD candidate in marine biology and genetics, I can say that the key to succeeding in math and science is simply thinking that you can do it. I was a math tutor at Lincoln Middle School for a while and the biggest problem I saw was kids don’t think they can’t
do math. They are then embarrassed to try and fail so they don’t even try, and it turns into a cycle. Scuba became a tool to almost overcome my dyslexia because there’s no “cure” for it. It just takes working a little bit harder and having this passion makes working harder natural.
When it came time to apply for college, I knew I wanted to study marine science and wrote
my college essay about scuba diving bringing out a personal and academic passion which
helped me overcome this learning disability barrier. When I went to the University of Florida, I ended up being a teaching assistant my freshman year of college up until my senior year because they had a 3-credit scuba diving course. Because I entered college as a dive master (someone who can aid in teaching scuba), I was given this experience early on which helped me stand out when applying to graduate school. Science can be hard and especially now that I focus mainly on genetics I’m not in the water as much. But knowing that the big picture of my research is going to help marine conservation, which is protecting my passion, is what pushes me through even the long nights studying.