Neurodiversity is inconvenient in a classroom; George Church knows firsthand. But in the latest episode of the BioIT podcast hosted by Stan Gloss, founder of BioTeam, Church mentions: “I’m interested in overcoming the inconvenience of having people who are a little bit out on the bell curve… You don’t want necessarily to train everybody in your lab to be as close to the ideal citizen as possible. You just want them to be comfortable enough that they can deal with their diversity.”
Church goes on to talk about how neurodiversity shaped his education and scientific career, the mental tricks he used to survive school with dyslexia, why being neurodiverse is an asset, and how personifying ideas lets him champion the underdog. “It’s not just dyslexic thinking, it’s thinking in any way differently,” he said. “If you think differently on any axis… then that means you become more self-reliant… When everybody in the middle of the bell curve is stuck on a problem, you’re going to give a new solution.” When hiring or forming collaborations, Church says he looks for the ability to deal with ambiguity and contradictions. He shares how a neurodiverse workplace leads to innovative discoveries, and his advice to early scientists navigating traditional work environments.
George Church, Genetics Professor, Harvard Medical School and Founder, Wyss Institute at Harvard University
George M. Church, PhD ’84, is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, a founding member of the Wyss Institute, and Director of PersonalGenomes.org, the world’s only open-access information on human genomic, environmental, and trait data. Church is known for pioneering the fields of personal genomics and synthetic biology. He developed methods for the first genome sequence and dramatic cost reductions from $3 billion to $600, contributing to nearly all “next generation sequencing” methods and companies. His team invented CRISPR for human stem cell genome editing and other synthetic biology technologies and applications–including new ways to create organs for transplantation, gene therapies for aging reversal, and gene drives to eliminate Lyme Disease and Malaria.
Church is the Director of IARPA and NIH BRAIN Projects and National Institutes of Health Center for Excellence in Genomic Science. He has co-authored more than 625 papers, 156 patent publications, and one book, “Regenesis”. His honors include the Franklin Bower Laureate for Achievement in Science, being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 “Most Influential” People, and election to the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.