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.
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.
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