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Oral history interview with Collin R. Diedrich

  • 2017-Jun-19
  • 2017-Jun-22

Oral history interview with Collin R. Diedrich

  • 2017-Jun-19
  • 2017-Jun-22

Collin R. Diedrich was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1983. His parents were originally from Kansas, and they settled in St. Louis to help Diedrich’s grandfather with his wholesale business. Diedrich grew up in a close-knit family with an older brother and a twin sister. His family lived on the same street as his mother’s extended family, and they typically ate dinner together on Sunday nights. When Diedrich was in first grade, his teacher approached his parents about tutoring him in the summer because he was not reading at grade level. He was officially diagnosed with a learning disability in third grade, and his parents hired a tutor, Kathy Clayman, who worked with Diedrich from third to twelfth grade. His mother had to fight for him to receive an individual education plan (IEP) because the school administration did not want to make accommodations for him because he was receiving good grades. In high school, Diedrich planned to become a physical therapist and decided to attend Bradley University, which had an excellent physical therapy program and a good disability resource office. At Bradley, Diedrich focused on running and studying and fell in love with biology in his first biology class, where he received a 96 percent on the first test. After taking a “weed-out” biology class during sophomore year, Diedrich decided to become a biology major and later refined his focus further, desiring to become an HIV researcher. He applied to the University of Pittsburgh for graduate school on a whim and ultimately attended there.

As part of his Ph.D. program, Diedrich had to take a two-part examination during his second year. Although he passed the written part, which was the thesis proposal, he failed the oral part. He then went to the Disability Resource Office to learn about techniques he could use to pass the oral portion on his second try. He passed after studying for several months and was able to use his notes for material in a review article. When Diedrich finished his Ph.D. in 2012, he had lined up a postdoc at the University of Cape Town in South Africa to research the immunology of HIV and tuberculosis. The move was a rough adjustment for Diedrich and his wife, Robin Hitchcock, but slowly, he started to see progress in his work. After three years in Cape Town, he returned to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to look at HIV/TB co-infection under an R01 grant. In addition to his work in the lab, Diedrich volunteers his time with the International Dyslexia Association. He expresses appreciation for technological tools and a supportive community of family and friends that helped him succeed with a learning disability.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 67 pages
  • 3 h 12 m 55 s
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewers

Jessica L. Martucci earned her master’s degree in bioethics and her Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of numerous scholarly and popular works, including her book Back to the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding America (University of Chicago Press, 2015). She was the lead researcher behind the Science History Institute’s Science and Disability Project, which is part of her broader interest in understanding the mechanisms and effects of exclusion and inclusion in science, medicine, and public history.

Gregory S. Waters was a program assistant in the Center for Oral History. He received a BA in history and American Studies and a master’s degree in American history with a concentration in public history from Arizona State University. He now works as a curator at the National Medal of Honor Museum.

Institutional location

Oral history number 1064

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • August 20, 1983
  • St. Louis, Missouri, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
2006 Bradley University B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology
2012 University of Pittsburgh Ph.D. Molecular Virology and Microbiology
2017 University of Pittsburgh. School of Law Certificate of Advanced Study Disability Law

Professional Experience

University of Cape Town

  • 2012 to 2015 Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine

University of Pittsburgh

  • 2015 to 2020 Postdoctoral Associate, Children's Hospital of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Disease
  • 2020 to present Infectious Disease Research Staff Scientist


  • 2017 to 2019 Founder and CEO

Learning Disabilities Association of Pennsylvania

  • 2018 to present Founder and President

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PDF — 612 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

4 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads