Success Stories

Anthony Vodacek, Ph.D.

Anthony Vodacek, Ph.D.
Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science

Anthony Vodacek, RIT professor of imaging science who specializes in remote sensing, has received a $350,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in support of a multidisciplinary, collaborative project with the University of Rochester and University of Minnesota. As project director, he is leading the two-year survey of the Lake Kivu system in Rwanda to collect scientific measurements for benchmarking hazards threatening biodiversity.

The goal of the project is to understand the interplay and feedbacks between volcanism, faulting and biological processes and human activities on the Lake Kivu system over the past 5,000 to 10,000 years of volcanism, faulting and climate change. Vodacek's liaison in the Rwandan Ministry of Education has invited local scientists and students to participate in the study.

MacArthur is one of the nation's largest independent foundations. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows "genius awards," it works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

"Involving our Rwandan colleagues is important to us in terms of building long-term relationships there. Developing the capacity of Rwandan scientists to apply lessons learned from these research projects to other issues in preserving these unique environments will be a welcome outcome."
Anthony Vodacek - Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science

James Reilly, M.A.

James Reilly, M.A.
Image Permanence Institute

James Reilly, director of RIT's Image Permanence Institute, has received a grant of $600,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a project entitled "Continuation of Studies into the Preservation of Digitally Printed Materials in Cultural Heritage Institutions."

An earlier Mellon-funded project, The DP3 Project: Digital Print Preservation Portal was successful in determining the general types of environmental and handling risks that threaten digitally printed materials in cultural heritage collections. This new project will enable IPI to sufficiently quantify the specific levels of stress needed to initiate objectionable or irreversible damage to materials.

One of the nation's most prestigious private foundations, Mellon awards grants in five core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship , Scholarly Communications and Information Technology, Museums and Art Conservation, Performing Arts, and Conservation and the Environment.

"The Mellon Foundation's confidence in IPI is something that makes me very proud. I know that few organizations and individuals can look back on more than two decades of support from the Foundation, but that has been our good fortune. It's a validation that is meaningful in very powerful ways, and for which we are grateful every day."
James Reilly - Image Permanence Institute

James DeCaro, Ph.D.

James DeCaro, Ph.D.
Postsecondary Education Network (PEN International) at NTID

The Nippon Foundation of Japan has played a pivotal role in helping RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf improve education and career opportunities for deaf people around the world. Since 2001, The Nippon Foundation has awarded NTID $10 million to help colleges across the globe improve technological education for their deaf students through a program called Postsecondary Education Network International (PEN-International).

Deaf students attending specific colleges in Japan, China, Russia, the Philippines, Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and the Czech Republic will continue to benefit from PEN-International's expertise through improved curriculum, increased access, new technology, multi-media labs and trained faculty. More recently, PEN-International has been conducting training in the areas of sign language instruction, interpreter training, automation technology and counseling skills.

To date, more than 1,000 educators from partner countries have participated in PEN-International hosted workshops. A total of 52 workshops were conducted by partner institutions in their home countries as a result of skills learned through PEN-International training initiatives. The result is 900 new people being trained through their own exporting initiatives.

PEN-International's enormously successful efforts will improve the lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing students around the world indefinitely. Their accomplishments have resulted in the National Association of the Deaf (USA) nominating PEN for the prestigious 2007 World Federation of the Deaf Solidarity Merit Award.

"The dedication, enthusiasm and commitment of our partners and the NTID PEN team have resulted in PEN-International far exceeding the original expectations I had for this program."
James DeCaro, Director - PEN International

Don Figer, Ph.D.

Don Figer, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Detectors

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation recently awarded Rochester Institute of Technology $2.8 million to design, develop and build a zero-noise detector for the future Thirty Meter Telescope. Expected to be operational in the next decade, the telescope's light-collecting power will be 10 times that of the largest telescopes now in operation.

The detector's new sensing technology promises to penetrate the darkness of space with the greatest sensitivity ever. It could also have applications on Earth to improve everything from cell phone cameras to secure communications and surveillance systems. Imaging sensors produce their own "noisy" signal that often degrades images, especially under low-light conditions. The noise can sometimes be seen as the grainy, salt-and-pepper speckling found in pictures snapped in a dark room. In applications like astrophysics, that noise can do more than ruin a picture; it can mean the difference between making a discovery or not.

Figer leads a team of scientists from RIT and MIT's Lincoln Laboratories to create a detector unlike any available today. Figer and his colleagues will adapt prototype technologies developed at Lincoln Labs that already have some of the basic circuitry required to detect a single quantum of light. These circuits are currently used for LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) applications that detect pulses of light or bunches of photons.

"Development of the detector will enable us to quadruple the power of a telescope. The only other way to get that kind of power is by making a telescope twice the size, which would cost billions of dollars and would be a monumental engineering challenge."
Don Figer, Director - Rochester Imaging Detector Laboratory

Andrea Hickerson, Ph.D., College of Liberal Arts

Andrea Hickerson, Ph.D., College of Liberal Arts
Victor Perotti, Ph.D., E. Philip Saunders College of Business

RIT will help establish a model for journalism education through a new, multidisciplinary program that combines technology, design and entrepreneurial skills. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will support this Digital Journalism Incubator with just over $145,000 for RIT to pilot the model and share it with other journalism schools.

RIT initiated the approach in spring 2013 by bringing together journalism and technology students in one class, taught jointly by a journalism and a computing professor. The students worked together to develop online publications; journalism students learned technology skills, while computing students were introduced to journalism as a potential career path.

With Knight Foundation funding, the university will continue the program for three more semesters and add new courses on emerging technologies to the curriculum, along with real-world journalism projects that allow students to connect with the community. An added entrepreneurial component will allow students to explore the financial sustainability of their publications and receive coaching in marketing and business. Ultimately, the model and lessons from the program will be shared with other schools at events and through media partnerships with innovative newsrooms.

"By advancing a multi-skilled model of journalism education, Rochester Institute of Technology is not only preparing its own students for the journalism jobs of tomorrow, it is also among the few schools pushing for an essential transformation in journalism education," said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation. "Journalists of the future need a full range of business and technology skills to be successful and effective at meeting community information needs; this is a lesson that needs to resonate and spread."

The Digital Journalism Incubator will launch in spring 2014, led by RIT's Andrea Hickerson, assistant professor of journalism in the College of Liberal Arts, and Victor Perotti, associate professor of management information systems in the Saunders College of Business.

"I want to bring all the strengths of RIT-particularly in liberal arts, imaging arts, computing and business-to bear on the future sustainability of journalism," Hickerson said. "I hope that by fostering a collaborative, multidisciplinary space, students can work together to build new creative, sustainable modes of storytelling that benefit both our students working in media fields, as well as the greater public which needs high quality information to make informed decisions."

"Digital journalism is by nature multidisciplinary, blending the need for digital delivery with the interviewing, information sourcing and storytelling from journalism," Perotti said. "Business (specifically digital entrepreneurship) knowledge creates the opportunity to sustain ideas and projects to become ongoing profitable ventures. Even very well established digital news websites continue to learn and experiment with the business side of their organizations."

"Journalists who once had to focus only on finding and reporting good stories now must also be concerned with presentation and generate traffic for their work. It is unrealistic for journalists to be an expert at reporting, visuals, digital design and business, etc., so we believe it is important to expand the idea of storytelling beyond journalism to other fields such as computing and business," Hickerson said. "We hope that students from these new fields will consider careers in the news industry, and we hope that journalism students will understand the strength of approaching storytelling as a collaborative endeavor."

Perotti further highlighted that the incubator will "create a connected set of experiences"-including classes, visiting lectures and more-that support the exploration and development of digital news startups. A diverse team of students will become experts in identifying opportunities for innovation and gain experience working with modern newsroom tools.

This is the second Knight Foundation grant for this team. In 2011, they were awarded a grant to lead the Rise Above the Crowd project, an interactive crowd experiment in live event journalism and community engagement.

Support for RIT forms one part of Knight Foundation's effort to bring journalism into the digital age. Knight recently announced a $1 million challenge fund to encourage universities to experiment with new ways of providing news and information; the announcement was made in parallel with the release of Searchlights and Sunglasses, a new digital book written by Eric Newton, Knight Foundation senior adviser to the president, that calls for change in journalism education.

About the Knight Foundation
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

"This grant from the Knight Foundation is a benchmark for journalism education and demonstrates the innovations made possible through interdisciplinary partnerships."
Andrea Hickerson - College of Liberal Arts

Mark Miles, Ph.D., Counseling Center

Mark Miles, Ph.D., Counseling Center
Laurence Sugarman, M.D., Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation

Mark Miles, director of clinical services for the Counseling Center, and Laurence Sugarman, director of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation, have received nearly $58,000 from the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation for "The Minding Anxiety Project: Helping Students with Autism Help Themselves."

A common outcome for college students struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is to withdraw from both social and academic engagement, to not participate in co-op, and too often, to drop out of college. A collaboration of the Counseling Center and CAPS, the Minding Anxiety Project is teaching RIT's matriculated students with ASD the self-regulation strategies essential to successful social engagement, academic achievement, and career advancement.

The Golisano Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the nation devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with developmental disabilities so that they may achieve their maximum potentials by integrating independence, self-determination, and productivity into all facets of their lives. It was founded by Rochester philanthropist and chairman of Paychex, B. Thomas Golisano.

"We are aware of no other institution of higher learning with an initiative similar to the Minding Anxiety Project. Therefore, we expect it to be a demonstration project for colleges and universities nationwide."
- Laurence Sugarman