September 3, 2019

Organic chemistry leaves indelible mark on blind student

Permanent tattoo of the molecule retinal
Nicole Kada delivered on a promise she made to herself after acing Organic Chemistry II and now sports a permanent tattoo of the molecule retinal. Kada, who is blind, chose retinal specifically because it’s the molecule involved in seeing.

Last academic year, we ran a story about the Student Disability Services (SDS) office that featured a student, Nicole Kada, who uses its resources. Kada, who was born blind, impressed many by receiving an A in organic chemistry, a difficult class in which students must draw and interpret organic structures.

Nicole Kada received the tattoo at Tattoo 13 in Farmington Hills, where the artist was so impressed with her that he declined payment.

The article ended by noting that Kada was then taking Organic Chemistry II. At the time, Kada said, “If I get an A in orgo II, which I tell people I’m going to, I’m going to get a tattoo of a molecule and I’m going to draw it myself. In the future, when my kids tell me that can’t do something, I’ll show them my tattoo and say, ‘yes you can.’”

For those who have inquired, Kada, a Nutrition and Food Science major, delivered and now sports a permanent tattoo of the molecule retinal.

“I got retinal specifically because it’s the molecule involved in seeing,” Kada said. “I think that I do not produce enough retinal, which is why I’m blind. So I got this to symbolize being blind, but still having vision.”

She received the tattoo at Tattoo 13 in Farmington Hills, where the artist was so impressed with Kada that he declined payment.

Kada’s general chemistry tutor and friend, Julia Chase, a WSU honors chemistry student, helped with the final molecule drawing and went with her to get the tattoo.

Nicole Kada’s general chemistry tutor and friend, Julia Chase, a WSU honors chemistry student, helped with the final molecule drawing and went with her to get the tattoo.

Kada spent up to seven hours a day working on chemistry, but she is the first to admit that her success is in large part to the support she receives through SDS, lab coordinators, faculty and tutors.

“Wayne State is amazing,” said Kada. “I’ve never encountered a problem that we couldn’t solve. I would recommend Wayne State to any blind student — or any student with a disability, for that matter.”

Located on the first floor of the David Adamany Undergraduate Library, the Student Disability Services office provides reasonable and appropriate accommodations for any student with a disability documented by a medical doctor or psychologist. This often includes extended time to take exams in a distraction-free environment.

It is incumbent for students to register with the SDS and provide faculty with a copy of their accommodation letter each semester. Faculty are not allowed to ask a student what their disability is, but they are encouraged to include language about the SDS in their syllabus.