Blog Team

Ana Caicedo

Co-director & Contributor
Ana’s Web page
twitter: @AnaCaicedoS

Ana is a professor in the Biology Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Since she was an undergraduate at La Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, the topics of evolution and genetics have fascinated her. Her research centers on plant population genetics, and she is particularly interested in plant domestication and how some plants evolve to become problematic weeds for humans. She is very fond of working with plants she can eat.

Ana has unexplained progressive sensorineural hearing loss, currently somewhere in the range of severe to profound. Her hearing loss was diagnosed in her early teens, and she took the diagnosis as gracefully as you might have predicted for a teenager. As a native of Colombia, her first language is Spanish, but she also grew up speaking English; however, she has not yet had the chance to learn any country’s sign language. Ana muddled through high school and college in Colombia, and graduate school in the U.S. profoundly ignorant about the existence of any resources or accommodations that might help mitigate the challenges of hearing loss. Copying class notes from other students and eventually wearing hearing aids helped. The first time she heard of a disability office was when she started her faculty position at UMass. Ana currently relies on her hearing aids, FM systems, and rough speech-reading skills to work with her hearing students and colleagues.

Ana most often refers to herself as “hearing-impaired,” though she understands the discomfort others may feel for this term. She also frequently explains that she is “hard of hearing” and will use the initials HoH as a descriptor. Ana is not convinced she ever has any free time, but what time she does have she spends with her spouse and kids and three cats. She loves to hike, bike, travel, read fiction, and bake bread. Ana is very grateful to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the National Science Foundation for supporting The Mind Hears.

Michele in colorful rain outfit on an outcrop

Michele Cooke

Co-director & Contributor
Michele’s research web page
twitter: @geomechCooke

Michele is a professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA. Her research expertise is fault and earthquake mechanics. Experiencing a M 6.9 earthquake in northern California convinced Michele to switch her career from civil engineering to earthquake geoscience.

Because Michele’s severe high-frequency hearing loss is pre-lingual, she was a bit language delayed both in speaking and reading. A perceptive kindergarden teacher noticed that Michele was speech-reading her and recommended testing. This led to speech therapy and hearing aids—though not at first. Michele went to mainstream schools until middle school when she struggled, leading her mom to enroll her in a private school. The small classrooms with desks arranged in a U shape was the welcome change that allowed Michele to thrive. She didn’t use accommodations in college (though should have and stories of that may serve as blog fodder!) but did in graduate school. Since graduate school Michele has used FM systems, oral interpreters, CART and ASL interpreters once her signing skills were sufficient.

When asked how she identifies, Michele typically uses neither the terms ‘deaf’ nor ‘hard of hearing’ but ‘partially deaf.’ Because she functions in the hearing world, teaches hearing students, works with hearing colleagues, and has a hearing family (though they are very deaf-friendly), ‘partially deaf’ conveys Michele’s comfort in both hearing and d/Deaf spaces.

When not analyzing geologic faults or professing, Michele likes to take long walks with some combination of her dog, two kids, and husband, bicycle, throw pots, garden and watch silly television shows (captioned!). Michele heartily thanks UMass Amherst and the National Science Foundation for their support of The Mind Hears.

White woman with bandana around her hair leans near the ground just behind a stack of rocks and sea glass. She wears glasses and outdoor gear.

Steph Flude

Contributor & Social media
twitter: @thenoblegasbag

Steph is an Earth Science researcher turned portfolio career entrepreneur. She has had an eclectic research career that includes dating volcanic eruptions and the ancestors of Homo floresiensis (“The Hobbit”), mineralogy, noble gas geochemistry, carbon capture and geological storage (CCS) and exploration for geologically produced native hydrogen. After more than 15 years as a postdoc and many permanent job rejections, she finally realised that it wasn’t the case that she wasn’t enough for academia, but academia wasn’t enough for her, and it was time to find a career path that would give more variety, a better work life balance, and allow her to pursue her passions for combining geology and art. Now she is a freelance research and training consult (with university clients, so still moving in academic circles), jewellery designer, charity trustee, bellydance teacher, and is working on some cool plans to set up a hybrid geochemistry facility / art gallery.

She was diagnosed with high frequency hearing loss in her mid twenties, shortly after finishing her PhD, when she realised she could no longer hear her watch alarm beeping. She has progressive bilateral sensorineural hearing loss that is “most likely genetic but not any of the genes that are easy to test for”. Having lost her hearing as an adult, she misses the sound of birdsong and is sad that she can no longer dance to some music that she used to perform to because she can no longer hear half of the melody. She relies on lip-reading and hearing aids with varying degrees of success, but has completely lost the highest frequencies in one ear. Her hearing profile is difficult to correct with hearing aids, a problem that hasn’t been helped by moving city or country every few years to start a new postdoc, and losing the continuity of audiology care. She describes herself as “part deaf” or having hearing-loss.

When not wading through her massive to-do list, she enjoys walks in nature with her geocacher husband and playing epic board games.

left half of man's face shown.

Ryan Seslow

Ryan’s web site
twitter and instagram: @ryanseslow

Ryan is an artist, a graphic designer, a sometimes curator, and a professor of art & design living and working in New York. Ryan is Deaf and Hard of Hearing and has been writing and making art about what that means in his most recent series of works. Ryan is passionate about art, design, technology, teaching, learning, writing and helping his fellow human beings better understand Deaf and hard of hearing culture.

As a visual artist, Ryan is often working with a synthesis of applied arts, new media, digital and Internet-art. He likes to show his work both on and off the web. He shares a lot of his current projects, exhibitions and collaborations on his website.

As a professor of Art & Design Ryan teach various hybrid studio art, digital art, graphic design, digital storytelling, communication technology & web design courses for graduate and undergraduate level programs simultaneously in NYC at CUNY BMMC, QCC & York college, He also teaches courses at LIU Post & Iona College since 2004.  Ryan specializes in teaching students how to create a thriving presence and identity here on the web.

Circe Verba

Contributor & Social media
Twitter: @circe_verba

Circe Verba, PhD, is a research geologist, science communicator, and STEMinst at a government lab. She earned her doctorate in geology and civil engineering at the University of Oregon. Dr. Verba specializes in using advanced microscopy (petrography and electron microscopy) and microanalysis techniques to tackle challenges facing the safe and efficient use of fossil energy resources. Outside of the lab, Dr. Verba is an avid LEGO buff, even designing her own set featuring field geology and a petrographic laboratory.

Megan Maxwell 

Copy editor
Megan’s web page

After 30 years of reading college dormmates’ papers, colleagues’ reports, and grad school classmates’ theses, I went pro and have been a freelance copyeditor since 2014. I began reading at 3 and haven’t stopped yet. I have a bachelor’s degree in history from Stanford and recently earned a history master’s degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. In my professional life I’ve served time as an archivist, a historian, a high school history teacher, a paralegal, and a probation officer. I know a little bit about a lot of topics and am always soaking up more information. I am a master at Trivial Pursuit, but perhaps more importantly, I know where to put and delete commas. In a sense, I’ve always been a copyeditor and researcher, trying to discover more facts and enter new worlds; I’m loving working with Michele and Ana because I get to peek into yet another world. In the few hours a week I’m not reading or editing, I’m probably playing with my dog. Or knitting or making jewelry while watching British mysteries.