Dr. Zaghi’s Research on Neurodiversity

Dr. Arash Zaghi pictured above.

Note: Audio transcript located below

The INCLUDE project had to start somewhere. That start had much to do with Dr. Arash Zaghi, an associate professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Identifying as a neurodiverse researcher, he has poured his blood, sweat and tears into redesigning education for divergent thinkers. “The INCLUDE project was inspired by the promising results we got from the data collected through other research projects that I have funded by the National Science Foundation through which we monitor engineering students. We try to find correlations between different levels of ADHD characteristics, and creative potential.”

Some of his research, which can be viewed here, has found that while the cognition of those with ADHD are correlated with higher levels of divergent thinking (i.e. thinking outside of the box), those same characteristics are negatively associated with engineering GPA. Taylor et al conclude that an individualized curriculum would serve to benefit students with ADHD and to extrapolate their full potential.

This thinking dated back to when he got his diagnosis at the age of 32. When he found out, he was naturally curious about the way his brain worked. “I read more and I even started reading more technical articles, like research articles on this. Naming big names like they have textbook characteristics of ADHD, and yet they are super successful. They are innovators.” According to ADDitude, Johnny Depp, Simone Biles and Solange Knowles are big names with ADHD.

In order to draw out these innovators, Dr. Zaghi recommends approaching the classroom with a strength-based mindset. Instead of sitting down and taking notes passively, students should be learning experientially. They should be supported in real-world environments and be learning how to utilize resources effectively.

He hopes that the university will change and realize that with a better curriculum comes better outcomes. “I can foresee innovative tech companies actually will take over some of the educational responsibilities and people will realize that they can get the same value and things will change. The universities should be smart. And if they want to stay relevant and competitive, they should start thinking about that now because tech companies are doing this.”


Listen to more of Dr. Zaghi's interview and story below.