New College of Engineering Graduate Is on a Mission To Break Barriers to Space Travel for People With Disabilities

Ever since Eric Shear was a child, he has looked up to the sky, watching the stars and wondering “what’s out there.” With a curious brain wired for space exploration and degrees in physics, planetary science and, as of Friday, a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Florida, it seems natural that Shear pursues his lifelong dream to travel into space. There’s only one problem. Shear was born profoundly deaf, meaning he can only hear random sounds — like a dog’s loud bark or a jet engine — that are at least 80 decibels, and that bars him from flying to space with NASA or any other space agency, for now. “My ultimate goal is to be an astronaut,” Shear said, “but if I can’t journey into space, I want to be involved from the ground and develop life-support technologies that assist those who do fly.”

UF Scientists Probe the Cosmos With the New James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope launched on Christmas Day, 2021, and the instrument was so complex that it took months for us to peer through the new telescope. Then in July of 2022 we got our first look at images from the most advanced space observatory ever made. The telescope’s data will transform how we understand our universe, and University of Florida astronomers and physicists are on the vanguard of these discoveries.