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Disabilities do not stop these experts in science and tech

From blowing things up to listening to bugs, there is a STEM career for everyone

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Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is probably the most famous scientist with a disability, but he is far from alone. Meet some of the many other scientists and engineers who have hurdled physical or medical barriers to find rewarding careers in research.


This is the second in a two-part Cool Jobs series on the value of diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It has been made possible with generous support from Arconic Foundation.

As a combat engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2011, Neil Altomare’s job was to detect unexploded home-made bombs known as IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. Many were hidden throughout Afghanistan’s Sangin Valley, where he was deployed. Once he found an IED, Altomare would destroy it often by blowing it up. This work helped keep his fellow Marines safe.

But neither his equipment nor visual scans could detect all hidden bombs. And one day, Altomare stepped on an IED. He survived. But the explosion destroyed his right leg below the knee. Shrapnel hit him almost everywhere else. Yet despite the pain and injuries, he was able to direct rescue troops to carry him along a safe path out of the field and to the helicopter that would airlift him to medical care.

His job falls within a broad field known as STEM. Its short for science, technology, engineering and math. These research disciplines attract all types of women and men. They may be young or old, short or tall, come from any nation and sport skin of any color.)

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