Naturally enough, after his son's diagnosis, Shaw's first thoughts were to do whatever it took to save his son's life.
But at some point, during the months of chemotherapy, radiation and ultimately surgery to remove his son's right eye to prevent the cancer from spreading to his brain, Bryan started thinking more like the scientist he is.
He wondered what would have happened if the family camera had been programmed with software that could recognize leukocoria automatically. "If I would have had some software in it telling me, 'Hey, go get this checked out,' that would have sped up my son's diagnosis and the tumors would have been just a little bit smaller when we got to them. There might have been fewer," says Shaw. And maybe Noah's eye could have been saved. But there was no software.
Now, for most of us, that would have been that. But Bryan Shaw, the inorganic chemist, figured what the heck, I'll become a software designer.
"I was trained in this funny lab at Harvard called the [George] Whitesides Lab, where we scoffed at specialization," he says. "If you were just an inorganic chemist, you weren't cool. You had to go make it in areas totally outside your field."I had to smile at that. (And I still believe in specialization, but in this context, there is always room for individuals to learn new things.)