Baylor prof’s studies on inclusion for visually impaired inspires blind student to attend BU
Navigating life as a first-year college student is hard enough — a new city, new classmates, new roommates, etc.
Now imagine what that’s like for someone who physically can’t see.
But that hasn’t deterred San Antonio native Noah Cook. At three months old, Cook was diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition where the fluid in the eye builds up pressure and causes vision loss. He lost sight in his right eye as a child, and in his left eye during his senior year of high school, leaving him completely blind going into his college career.
“Losing my sight at that time was really tough, because my friends went off to college while I was still adjusting to this new lifestyle,” says Cook. “But my parents taught me to be independent and courageous. I knew I’d have to find ways to manage.”
While taking classes at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Cook learned about Baylor professor Bryan Shaw’s research on increasing educational accessibility for the blind. Cook knew he had to reach out; this was his chance to pursue higher education.
“I’m passionate about STEM studies, but never felt I belonged in that field due to its lack of accommodations,” says Cook. “But that all changed once I met Dr. Shaw and, ultimately, came to Baylor. Everyone has been so accepting and helpful, making Baylor one of my favorite places to be.”
Now, Cook is studying biochemistry while helping Shaw with his research on how blind persons learn about science.
“Noah is extremely smart, and particularly excels at memorization and mental math,” says Shaw. “Since he can’t see, he has to utilize his brain power differently. From completing an analytical chemistry problem to walking across campus, he has to get creative with solutions. He’s capable of anything.”
Cook feels blessed to be at Baylor. “I can’t believe I am actually here,” he says. “We’re making the field better for everybody, and I get to be a part of that.”
Moving forward, Cook hopes to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry, but for now, he’s focused on experiencing his time at Baylor to the fullest.
“At the end of the day, I’m looking to just build relationships with people and just make friends,” Cook said. “I won’t let my disability get in the way of that.”
Sic ’em, Noah!