RIT is home to Ms. Wheelchair New York

Student Spotlight Luticha Doucette, fourth-year bioinformatics


Luticha Doucette, a fourth-year bioinformatics student, is the reigning Ms. Wheelchair New York 2011 and won second runner-up at the 40th annual Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant.

Luticha Doucette wants to show that people with disabilities can live active lives. Whether it be her passion for science, her activism in the Rochester community or her run to the finals of the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant, she is always involved.

Question: Where are you from?
Answer: I consider Rochester home. I grew up in Fairport, N.Y.

Q: What types of things do you do around RIT and Rochester?
A: I am a member of the professional chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma. I’m also co-founder and co-president of Rochester Young Professionals with Disabilities, as well as a member of the Roc City Coalition. We adopted Rochester’s School 5 and are trying to get iPads for the kids to use.

Q: What brought you to RIT?
A: Well, first I went to Drexel University because I wanted to get out of Rochester. Philadelphia was a great city, but the school didn’t treat me very well for someone with a disability. I transferred here to be closer to home and for the bioinformatics program.

Q: Why bioinformatics?
A: I am able to get both the lab experience and the computer science side of things. If for some reason I can’t get to the lab, I can work from the computer. It makes me more flexible for an employer.

Q: What kind of projects are you working on here at RIT?
A:I am working with a group that is developing a motorized wheelchair app for the Android phone. I’m also doing a research project on protein algorithms that determine the surface area of proteins. I am really excited because I’m finding new things that I haven’t found in the literature. I’m on the cutting edge of something; I don’t know what it is, but it’s something.

Q: What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever done?
A: Becoming Ms. Wheelchair New York 2011 and being named second runner-up at the 40th annual Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant, of course. I didn’t even wear a dress during the competition like the other girls. That’s just not my style.

Q: How did you get into the pageant?
A: The former Ms. Wheelchair New York, Michelle Fridley, whom I met at a Rochester National Spinal Cord Injury Association benefit dinner, sort of volunteered me to do it. I was reluctant at first, but then I figured it was another way to be involved and have a voice for people with disabilities.

Q: You traveled to Grand Rapids, Mich., for the national event. What was that like?
A: When flying from Baltimore, I was on the same flight with Ms. Wheelchair Maryland, Florida and Maine. The pilot made an announcement saying, “Congratulations to our Ms. Wheelchairs and good luck!” While there, I participated in scavenger hunts, workshops to promote healthy living and really bonded with the other girls.

Q: Any advice you would give to other RIT students?
A: Be your own advocate and make connections with your professors. Always know that you can ask for help.

Scott Bureau covers student affairs for University News. Contact him at sbbcom@rit.edu with “Student Spotlight” suggestions.

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