#DeafSuccess: Eric Nooker, Soil Scientist

Oct 30, 2019

[Subtitles available in English & Spanish | Subtítulos disponibles en español y inglés]

Video description: https://tinyurl.com/yxt3zo8j


A middle-aged man, Eric, has dark shaved hair and sideburns. He wears a grey jacket over a black t-shirt. Eric has cochlear implants and uses sign language.

In the top right corner is the NDC logo. White text written across it reads #DeafSuccess.


I work for the state of Minnesota as a soil scientist. I would say I go back and forth between the deaf and hearing worlds, and then there is the scientific community.


Eric walks across a baseball diamond. He carries a large white bucket.

TEXT: Eric Nooker. Soil Scientist.

Eric kneels beside a hole in some lush green grass. He uses his hands to position a device in the hole. Eric walks across the baseball field.


I used to wear hearing aids on both ears. I’ve used interpreters, FM systems, I’ve tried it all. In 2014, I lost more hearing, so, as that happened, I knew I was missing out. I remember hearing things, plus I had tinnitus, so I read all the books doctors read to become an audiologist and decided to get a cochlear implant. I decided to get the implant on one side first, then when I liked it, I got one on the other side. At work, there are times when I remove my implants so I

can focus in peace. If my coworkers approach me, I’ll put the implants back on, because even one-on-one, I can’t depend on lipreading alone.

At work, I use a videophone, depending. I’ve moved over to using ASL on Marco Polo more often. Before, I would use VCO. If I am giving a presentation or running a meeting, my colleagues are used to hearing my voice, so I will talk on the phone. But I’m most comfortable just letting the interpreter do that work. Sometimes, my field has specialized terminology and the interpreters don’t translate it well. I want to make sure the correct words are used, so I will often speak for myself.


Eric crouches beside a deep hole in the grass. A small black tube, bottle and pump are attached to a device inside the hole.


I actually went to UW Madison to study horticulture, or plant sciences. I remember I kept a list of all the jobs I applied for. It was over 100, yet I only got a few interviews. Nothing panned out, so I decided to try to apply to deaf-related jobs. I applied for an internship at MNCDHH: the Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing.

It was a wonderful experience. I learned so much and then struggled with the decision to continue in that field or get back into science. An opportunity had presented itself as a nursery inspector, where you buy your trees and flowers. My job was to inspect and certify that the nursery was free of various types of insects and diseases. I accepted that job and it was a wonderful experience. Then the position I am currently in, in soil sciences, opened up. I work with farmers doing nutrient research.

I’m part of a local advisory team where we bring together farmers, their crop advisors, and outside agency partners such as the USDA and SWCD. The advisory team’s aim is to improve water quality across the state.


Eric use the pump and holds the bottle as he crouches above the hole in the ground.


I pull soil samples to test for nitrates. Nitrates in the water, if over 10 parts per million, become a concern for infants under the age of six months. It can cause what’s called “blue baby syndrome” which can be lethal, so we try to prevent that from happening.


Eric stands on the grassy baseball field and wipes his hands on a white towel. He holds the white bucket as walks back across the field.


Figure out what motivates you and what you truly enjoy doing. Try a variety of internships. Volunteer. Find a deaf professional in the field you want to study so you can talk to them about it. Don’t be afraid to try new things.


Eric walks across a ploughed field, bumpy with clods of dirt and littered with dried plant detritus.

TEXT: #DeafSuccess

The NDC logo. Black text reads nationaldeafcenter.org

Do you have questions? Email us at: [email protected]

© National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes
Video licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International

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