DAVIS (CBS13) — He’s a fourth-year chemistry graduate student at UC Davis, but he’s never seen a chemical reaction take place.
That’s because Hoby Wedler was born blind. But that’s not stopping him from wanting to guide future college students through some of the most difficult scientific courses.
With every tap of his walking stick, Wedler uses sound to navigate his way to his chemistry lab at UC Davis.
“I don’t have to see things to really put them in my mind’s eye,” he said. “In fact ive never seen things in my eyes. I always visualize things.”
And with the help of a 3-D printer, he can use his sense of touch to teach himself about molecules.
“Your fingertips I don’t think are any more sensitive than mine, just like your hearing isn’t more sensitive than mine,” he said. “I’ve just been trained to use it more than you have, because you rely on your vision for, studies say about 85 percent to 90 percent of your information input.”
His peers usually can view the diagrams off a computer screen, but Wedler can turn the complicated molecular structures into something he can really get his hands on.
“It’s very exciting for me to be able to hold these structures and to be able to feel the differences in atom types and molecules and really ponder chemistry at my fingertips,” he said.
He says he’s not much different than his labmates, it just takes him a little longer to learn.
“Just the same way you might think its amazing that I can read braille,” he said. “I think its pretty cool you guys can read print.”
And he’s never let his blindness keep him from his goals.
“I like to work hard and hold my head high and believe in what I do,” he said.
He dreams of one day being a college chemistry professor himself. And his 3-D models are already helping his sighted peers see science in a new way.
“It’s fun when a tool that we build to make things accessible for me, really works to make science more accessible to everyone,” he said.
Wedler plans to graduate with his doctoral degree in chemistry in June 2016.
He’s been honored by the White House for a nonprofit he created to help other blind science students. He also hosts the popular “Tasting in the Dark” class at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County, where tasters are required to wear blindfolds.