The Team

Katta Spiel

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I am a PhD student at the Vienna University of Technology. My research topic deals with the experiences of autistic children with technologies. Through my work as well as privately, I fight for an understanding of neurodiversity. Before coming to Vienna, I studied Cultural Studies and Computer Science at the Bauhaus-Universit├Ąt Weimar. During my second degree, I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease after several stays at the hospital. The diagnosis is constantly confirmed and contested. I love working according to the scientific method and don't want disability and/or chronic illnesses to hinder anyone else from doing it.

Maria Niedernhuber

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I am a PhD student in cognitive neuroscience, working on distortions of somatosensory awareness and pain perception to aid the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities. I am based at the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, and the Addenbrookes Hospital. My goal is to rigorously push forward the representation of disabled individuals not only in my research, but also by supporting scientists with disabilities and chronic conditions to succeed in academia. To this end, I founded Chronically Academic.

Hazel Lowe

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Having completed my PhD in Plasma Physics in 2017, I am now working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Japan. I believe that academia should become more diverse and that the institutions funding research need to review how they support individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses, who have the necessary skills to become great researchers but need reasonable adjustments and flexibility to achieve that goal. I became part of Chronically Academic to raise the profile of this community with a view to campaigning for changes to the culture in academia and the available funding opportunities.

Carsten Dethlefs

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I am a former PhD scholar of the Konrad-Adenauer foundation, economist and I have been fully blind since I was four. Currently, I am based at the Konrad-Adenauer foundation, a German political foundation and think tank, which supports students and doctoral researchers, working in the area of political education. I joined Chronically Academic to pass on my own experiences in academia and to promote the inclusion of individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses in academia. Inclusion is only truly successful when ones own impairment becomes a side issue.

Aaron Schaal

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I am a PhD student in mathematical physics at LMU Munich. My PhD is about the direction of the arrow of time. I am affected by a generalized dystonia, meaning that I am reliant on a wheelchair and can only communicate via my eyes. My aim when founding Chronically Academic was to improve the international and interdisciplinary exchange concerning all issues regarding a successful career for academics with disabilities.

Inga Scharf da Silva

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I am an ethnologist and a visual artist based in a studio of the BBK Berlin (Association of professional artists). I am doing a PhD in Berlin and Rio de Janeiro on the Brazilian religion Umbanda in Central Europe, funded by PROMI of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Germany. At the same time, I am working as a research assistant at the Institute of European Ethnology at the Humboldt University of Berlin. I have been severely hearing impaired on both sides since the age of two, and I also have multiple chronic illnesses due to a tumor. I am committed to enabling disabled academics to display their own perception of the world.

Karen Nakamura

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I am a cultural and visual anthropologist and the Haas Distinguished Chair in Disability Studies at the University of California Berkeley. My research is on disability, sexuality, and other minority social movements in contemporary Japan. In 2006, I published Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity, an ethnography of sign language and deaf social movements. My second project on psychiatric disabilities and community based recovery resulted in two ethnographic films and a book titled, A Disability of the Soul: An Ethnography of Schizophrenia and Mental Illness in Contemporary Japan (2014). My books, films, and articles have resulted in numerous prizes including the John Whitney Hall Book Prize, the SVA Short Film Award, and David Plath Media Award. I am currently working on the intersections of sexuality, disability, and eugenics.

Stephanie Coen

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I am a Postdoctoral Associate in health geography at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. I am broadly interested in the role of place and environment in shaping health inequalities. My current research explores the role of place in understanding how physical activity becomes gendered (e.g., boys and men are more active than girls and women). While completing my PhD I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). As an academic who has now recovered from OCD, I feel compelled to share my experiences and help to normalize conversations about mental health in academia and beyond. I became connected with Chronically Academic over Twitter through in a discussion about #AcademicSelfCare. I now co-manage the @chron_ac Twitter account with other team members.

Alyssa Hillary

I am a PhD student in neuroscience, an Autistic activist, and a disability studies scholar. I am interested in assistive technology that is not about imitating the standard ways of doing/being, and which addresses the mismatch between a person's abilities and environment rather than considering the problem to lie entirely within the person. My art features on the covers of Typed Words, Loud Voices and The Real Experts: Readings for Parents of Autistic Children.

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

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I am Professor of English and bioethics at Emory University, where my fields of study are disability studies, American literature and culture, bioethics, and feminist theory. My work develops the field of critical disability studies in the health humanities, broadly understood to bring forward disability access, inclusion, and identity to communities inside and outside of the academy. I am the author of Staring: How We Look and several other books. My current book project is Habitable Worlds: Toward a Disability Bioethics.

Collin Diedrich

I am a 5th year post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, researching the immunological interaction between HIV and the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. Before my current position, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town, for almost 3 years, studying the clinical aspect of this co-infection. I have multiple learning disabilities and have always struggled in school, work, and everyday life. But with the right encouragement from my family, friends, and professors/teachers, I have overcome significant failures in my life and have pursued my dream of becoming a biomedical scientist. I believe that with the right support, people with learning disabilities can pursue whatever academic and work dreams they have, even when those dreams seem impossible to fulfill at first.

Jennifer Mankoff

I am a full professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the School of Computer Science (in the Human Computer Interaction Institute). I have had Lyme Disease since 2006 (and blog about it at and repetitive strain injuries on and off since the mid-1990s. At times, I have been on partial leave due to disability, used a cane, and currently I have to restrict my travel to help manage my disease. I have also done research on Lyme disease and Assistive Technology and am familiar with disability studies literature. I also head the accessibility community within my field (Human Computer Interaction). I am happy to help any disabled academic trying to balance the competing needs of work and life in the context of disability, and could be especially helpful to those with invisible disabilities

Terry-Lee Marttinen

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In 2015, I graduated from the History of Medicine Program at Oxford Brookes University and I am set to start my PhD research. Caring for a family member with schizophrenia, informed by a chronic illness, and recovery from cancer led me to consider the social dimensions of schizophrenia in an innovative maternal-fetal risk approach. I will evaluate the historical link between eugenics and genetics in the prevention of mental disability in ethnic minority immigrants. This involves looking at the 20th-century sterilization of women to regulate genes and informs a socio-environmental model of inflammatory schizophrenia founded on the discovery of human endogenous retroviruses (Type-W). I joined Chronically Academic to support the group in promoting diversity in academic research.

Becky Linnett

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I am a PhD student at the University of Leicester in the UK, exploring how psychological constructs such as self-compassion and perfectionism influence the self-management of chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes. I am currently working with Chronically Academic in an editorial role, and along with Steph and Hazel I also maintain the @chron_ac Twitter account. I believe that academia, and the workplace in general, benefits from having a diverse workforce, but that policies and procedures put in place by many workplaces sometimes make it difficult for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to succeed. My hope is that, through my work with Chronically Academic, I will be able to help bring about much-needed changes to how workplaces manage and support their employees, particularly those with additional needs. In my free time I am passionate about board gaming, reading, Labradors and cake - a perfect day will include all of them! I am an occasional blogger at and you can also find me on Twitter @rebeccalinnett.

Lisa Matthias

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I recently finished my MA in North American Studies at Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin. My primary research interest is media studies. However, I am currently taking a break from academia to reenergize and to support causes I care about more intensely. These include raising awareness for academics with disabilities, as well as chronic and mental illnesses. To this end, I joined Chronically Academic and the Academic Mental Health Collective. Feel free to get in touch with me on twitter @l_matthia.

Farah Mendlesohn

Professor Farah Mendlesohn is an associate dean at Staffordshire University. She is a research Professor in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Children's Literature. She has coeliac, impaired mobility, and a progressive and hereditary hearing impairment.

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Stephanie Zihms

I am a postdoc at Heriot-Watt University researching rock deformation most of my research is based on lab experiments and some field work in Brazil. I want to understand why rocks deform the way they do and how this can scaled up from lab experiments to be more representative of large-scale deformations e.g. related to oil fields or Carbon Capture & Storage sites. I joined Chronically Academic after my MS diagnosis in Nov 2016. This network has made a huge difference to me and I want to make sure others benefit from it as well by sharing my experience and being open about being academic life with MS. If you want to know more about what I get up to follow me on Twitter (@GeomechSteph) or have a look at my blog:

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Hannah Percival

I am a PhD student in Fine Arts and Music Theory at Texas Tech University. My research focus is on music cognition, specifically how musical bonding among humans can be used as therapeutic interventions. I am also a Graduate Part Time Instructor for the freshmen and sophomore music theory courses at TTU. Having experienced the dark side of academia, I believe academia should become a place of inclusion for students with physical and psychological disabilities. I'm excited to advocate for this through my role on the editorial board of Chronically Academic.