Famous TRiO Achievers
Aberdeen Allen, Jr.
Research Scientist, Colgate–Palmolive,
Global Technology Center
Alumnus, McNair Program, University of Massachusetts–Boston
During my junior year, majoring in chemistry at UMass-Boston, my professors
began to notice something unusual about me. In the lab, the work I was doing was
excellent. But in the classroom, I was struggling. Sometimes my written answers
to exam questions lacked key words, or the sentence structure was backwards.
After being tested, I was diagnosed with a severe form of dyslexia.
“I understood that…my destiny was to finish the race that I had begun
and to blaze a trail for others—no matter the obstacles in my way.”
At that point I was already involved in a phenomenal new science initiative
called the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. No worries
about tuition or books, and I had a chance to do the thing I loved…science.
Immediately after learning of my disability, I considered quitting the McNair
program and dropping out of school. But I remembered a story about how Dr.
Ronald E. McNair lost his research notebook along the banks of the Charles River
in Boston. Instead of giving up, he went back to the lab and painstakingly
replicated all of his graduate work. Dr. McNair did not let that mishap stop him
from fulfilling his destiny to earn a Ph.D. from MIT or his dream of becoming an
I thought about how Dr. McNair persevered, and I recognized that by quitting, I
would be wasting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I realized that a learning
disability was something that I could overcome with hard work and support from
the McNair TRIO program. I understood that, like Dr. McNair, my destiny was to
finish the race that I had begun and to blaze a trail for others—no matter the
obstacles in my way.
I did not let my learning disability disrupt my dream of completing college and
earning my Ph.D. in chemistry from Brandeis University. And to this very day…I
think of Dr. Ronald E. McNair and the McNair program and remind myself to reach
for the stars.