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This Is What Science Looks Like at NC State: Sean Mealin

Photo courtesy of Sean Mealin.
Photo of Mealin at his work station with guide dog Simba. Photo courtesy of Sean Mealin.

Editor’s note: This post comes from Sean Mealin, a Ph.D. student and NSF graduate research fellow in the Department of Computer Science at NC State. The post is part of an ongoing series that we hope will highlight the diversity of researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The series is inspired by the This Is What A Scientist Looks Like site.

My name is Sean Mealin, and I am a completely blind graduate student in the Department of Computer Science here at NC State. My research focuses on using technology to enhance communication between dogs and their handlers. Right now my focus is on working dogs, such as guide dogs for the blind and search and rescue dogs, but in the future I could see my research expanding to encompass pets and their owners. I love my research since I get to work and play with dogs every day, such as my guide dog Simba, and I get to come up with new technology that blurs the boundaries between software and the physical world.

When not in the lab, I enjoy hanging out with friends, watching movies, and finding the places with the best food. When I have the money, I also love traveling and exploring, whether that be a different state from North Carolina, or a completely different country. When I’m feeling more creative, I take a lot of pleasure in coming up with ways to do fun activities which may be considered more difficult for someone who is blind; for example, one hobby of mine is to develop a system that will allow me to go skydiving on my own.

Being a grad student can be stressful, but it is also wonderful since I get to experience things that I may not have even known existed otherwise. Since I work in an area of computer science that has not been explored before, my research is pretty much limited only by my creativity. And after I come up with and implement a new idea, I usually get to see it used to help people in their jobs and their day-to-day lives.

Being blind can sometimes make certain things difficult, but there’s a real feeling of pride when I find a way to do the things I want to do both within and outside of the lab.