Jason Arday is only 37 years old but will start a professorship at the prestigious University of Cambridge this month. There he will take over a chair in sociology. That alone is remarkable, but this personality becomes even more astonishing when you know his career.

Arday was diagnosed with autism as a child and had a severe developmental delay. Experts told his family he will need support throughout his life. He didn’t start speaking until he was eleven. He didn’t even learn to read and write until he was 18. But although he could hardly express himself, he was very aware of the world, Arday told the BBC. So he thought about social issues such as wars or homelessness from an early age.

It stands to reason that Arday was moved by these themes: he himself grew up in a hotspot in south-west London. His mother encouraged him by introducing him to different styles of music in the hope that her son could find expression in them. After learning to read and write, Arday studied and worked as a physical education teacher.

Above all, however, he was interested in the inequalities in society, some of which he was able to observe very closely at his school. At the age of 22 he decided to start another degree, this time in sociology. Encouraged by his mentor, he told the BBC: “That was the first time I really believed in myself. A lot of academics say they stumbled into their line of research, but I was focused and focused. I knew that was mine The aim was.”

He also pursued this goal with corresponding ambition. During the day, Arday continued to teach physical education, and in the evenings he occupied himself with his studies. But there were also setbacks: His first submissions for scientific articles were all rejected. The peer review process, in which work is checked by a scientific committee before publication, was “brutal”. But Arday fought his way through, first doing his master’s and then his doctorate.

Most recently, Arday held a chair at the University of Glasgow, making him one of the youngest professors in the UK. Then came the call to Cambridge, one of the most famous universities in the world. There, the 37-year-old will be the youngest black professor in the university’s more than 800-year history – and one of only six black professors. In doing so, he sets a milestone in the area that is the core of his research work: the social participation of disadvantaged population groups and the democratization of the education system, especially at universities.

Sources: BBC / “The Guardian”