31 Days of SMA: Learning About the Wonders of the World

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by BNS Staff |

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sma type 3 | SMA News Today | George Wang poses in a physics lab at the university

Photo courtesy of George Wang

Day 9 of 31

This is George Wang’s story:

The late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once advised us to “concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”

I have SMA type 3. As a kid, I enjoyed playing sports, particularly dodgeball and hockey (given my upbringing in Canada). It eventually became too difficult to perform such rigorous activities, so I altered my hobbies. I moved on to less physically demanding endeavors like music, art, reading, and writing. I also immersed myself in the world of science fiction and fantasy, and identified with the geeks, goths, and gamers.

SMA can be onerous. It can cause one to lose the ability to do things that they like doing. But in today’s world, there’s something out there for people with any level of ability. I never felt dejected — I simply viewed my evolving level of physical ability as a paradigm shift in my hobbies and personality. This shift was instrumental in molding me into the individual I am today — one I am proud of.

Realizing that I wasn’t well suited for a physically demanding career also provided me the motivation to knuckle up on academics, something I wasn’t keen on earlier. In doing so, I went to college and discovered the beauty of scientific research. I enjoyed learning about challenging problems, the laws of the universe, new treatments for neurodegenerative conditions like SMA, and improving the world little by little.

Today, I’m at Cornell University working toward a doctoral degree. I use experimental physics to investigate the structures and dynamics of tiny molecules within cells, such as RNA and proteins.

Without SMA, I never would have found my passion for research. I wouldn’t have many of the terrific friends that I do. I likely would not be in as good a place academically as I am now. And I never would have been as captivated as I am by the wonderment of things like painting, music, and literature.

You are only as “disabled” as you perceive you are.

SMA News Today’s 31 Days of SMA campaign will publish one story per day for SMA Awareness Month in August. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofSMA, or read the full series.