Growing up, Catherine Drennan would have never imagined herself as a professor in chemistry and biology at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In her youth, she was told that she was probably not even going to graduate high school because of her dyslexia. This learning disability has put many obstacles in her path, but she has conquered each one while also discovering that being different is a good thing.

Although she was placed in a remedial class and had to repeat a grade, Drennan was determined to work hard to prove to herself and others that she was more than the label of “learning disabled.” Instead of learning to read the traditional way, she memorized the shapes of words and matched them with their meaning. Despite what she had been told all her life, she graduated high school, and was at the top of her class. She then went to Vassar College where she was determined to not be defined by her dyslexia like she was in her childhood. She earned her degree in chemistry, and continued to defy the limits that had been set for her by attending graduate school at the University of Michigan. Soon thereafter, she was asked to join the teaching staff at MIT, a complete surprise to Drennan. However, she strongly believes there is no ceiling to what a dyslexic can accomplish, and has the life experience to prove it. She has even found her dyslexic mind to be a huge asset for her research because she is able to visualize molecules in a different way than others on her team. Although dyslexia has made her path difficult at times, she now values the way her brain works. Above all, her greatest advice is to “don’t listen to what anyone tells you, you can or cannot do,” because in the end, there is no limit to what anyone, even a dyslexic, can accomplish.

Watch a video of Catherine Drennan giving a speech about her experiences with dyslexia here. Also, you can visit her research lab website to explore the work she is doing at MIT.