WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A former Wichita Falls hairstylist is now on track to become one of Midwestern State University’s top scientists.

Leslie Cook suffered a severe allergy to hair dye that ended her career as a hairstylist. Cook said she was a single mom and at a loss, but it was her mother’s voice in her head telling her to continue to learn. From this point, Cook decided STEM was the next option because she wanted to confidently discern online misinformation and be empowered by trusted, evidence-based resources. 

She began undergrad at MSU, where she was involved in the American Chemical Society chapter and worked in research under a professor’s advisement. During this time, her career path turned for the best; she enrolled in a computer science course and knew that was the kind of research she was destined for. She interned with the National Institute of Environmental Health Science and was part of the Biomedical Informatics Section. The NIH is one of the top research programs in the United States.

Cook began to get the attention of the top professors and administrators at MSU as she continued to research and conduct experiments. Over the summer, she worked on high-performance computing, with the current fastest supercomputer in the world, Frontier.

Cook’s research project focused on power flow analysis for the Eastern US, Western US, and Texas power grids. Finding sustainable ways to protect the power grid from not just environmental attacks but cyber as well.

“I hope to start a career in HPC at a national laboratory where I can continue learning through scientific research,” Cook said.

Now Cook is in her last semester at MSU, with two research publications underway, and will graduate with a Master of Science in Computer Science in December 2023.