Success in STEM

Dr. Andrew Cuddihy

Photo of Dr. Andrew Cuddihy

Dr. Andrew Cuddihy is currently a junior faculty member and research scientist at the University of California Los Angeles, where he does research involving stem cells. Before obtaining this position, he did four years of post doctoral work in Melbourne, Australia, and two in Toronto. Before this, he obtained a B.Sc in Biochemistry from Queen’s University and a PhD in Cancer Research from McGill University.

Andrew went deaf at the age of four, but he was integrated into regular-stream classrooms from the beginning of his education. As a result of his post-lingual deafness, he has excellent lip reading and language skills, and so has always been able to function well even in somewhat unaccommodating environments.

He realized his passion for science and scientific research in high school, and immediately began to fill his schedule with as many math and science courses as possible. The encouragement he received from his family, friends, and educators was universal, and Andrew has always been more than happy to let his CV and the quality of his publications speak for him.

The challenges he encountered throughout his education were purely physical, and mainly centred around the difficulty of reading a professor’s lips in a large lecture theatre or while the professor was turned away. Initially, he attempted to make it through university without any accommodations, but after some frustration, he decided to make use of in-class note takers. This arrangement wasn’t ideal, as many note takers’ personal interpretations of a professor’s words can be almost unintelligible. Eventually, Andrew worked with the Queen’s University Office for Students with Disabilities to develop a piece of software called C-Note, which allows two-way communication in class between a note taker and a deaf student. When this arrangement had been worked out, Andrew was able to make it through his undergraduate and doctorate programs with much less difficulty.

His advice to students is to take advantage of every available accommodation. Education is a costly endeavour, and you should do everything you can to shift the odds of doing well in your favour. He also advises students to network as much as possible with people in their fields, to ensure having contacts and being able to find employment down the road. “Let your merits and academic accomplishments speak for themselves,” advises Andrew. “You may be a student or researcher with a disability, but the disability isn’t what you’re trying to advertise.”

Andrew hopes to work for a biotech or pharmaceutical company at some point in his career, but so far he has found that industry somewhat more challenging to break into than academia.