I thought I couldn't be a scientist because I stammered. I was wrong
2nd February 2023
Gianfranco Matrone tells us how his passion for science trumped his fear of presenting, and how he shared his experiences with other scientists who stammer.
My name is Gianfranco and I have been stammering since early childhood. Last October I published an article on the Science magazine website where I discussed how I cope with my stammer when becoming a scientist.
As I say in the article, I always wanted to work in science but being bullied at school because I stammered made me abandon academia to go to cooking school. However, whilst there, learning about nutrition, protein and nucleic acid reminded me of my love for science. So I changed paths again and went to university to study biology.
A life in scientific research is difficult for anybody, let alone for someone who stammerers. There's having to deal with oral presentations and discussions, etc. So, among the aspects of my personal story, in the article I highlighted the difficulties I faced in overcoming the fear of delivering scientific presentations and public speaking in general.
In fact, now I no longer avoid public speaking; instead, I actively seek opportunities to be on the stage whenever I can.
"As soon as the moderator invited me on stage, I felt like I was walking the plank". I wrote this to describe the dreadful feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability that I experienced every time I was called to speak to an audience. But I also discussed how I eventually learnt to reduce this fear by focusing on the value of what I was saying rather than whether I was saying it perfectly smoothly.
I decided to write the article to raise awareness among the scientific community on what I see as a handicap and to shout out that although the stammering experience can be awful, it is not a sentence. In fact, now I no longer avoid public speaking; instead, I actively seek opportunities to be on the stage whenever I can. Above all, my article was targeted to students and early career scientists who stammer or have other impediments that appear to them insurmountable to pursue a career in science.
Since publication, I have received enthusiastic comments from peers and students from lots of different countries. Most of them stammer and they shared their experiences with me on how they cope with it.
A passion for science and the desire to be a scientist have been great motivations to cope with my stammer. I started to get rid of the fear of stammering when I realised that I am unique with my diversities and it's something that everybody should respect.
Read other Your Voice articles from people who stammer and their allies. Would you like to write something about your experiences or opinions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or see our Share Your Story page.