RIT’s Native Innovation Day explores scientific contributions of faculty, students

NASA-sponsored event will be held Jan. 18

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Roger Dube

Rochester Institute of Technology’s Native American Future Stewards Program celebrates the scientific contributions and research of faculty and students, as well as through the science of the Three Sisters, or the combined intercropping of corn, beans and squash, during Native Innovation Day, 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, in RIT’s Student Innovation Hall, room 1600.

The keynote speaker for the event is Jane Mt. Pleasant, associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and director of the American Indian program at Cornell University. Mt. Pleasant’s research focuses on indigenous cropping systems, plants and human wellbeing. She frequently lectures on indigenous agriculture and its link to contemporary agricultural sustainability and is an expert in Iroquois agriculture.

Roger Dube, research professor and director of RIT’s Science Exploration Program in the College of Science, will be presenting on the Ganondagon White Corn Project, which resurrects an ancient farming practice growing traditional “white corn” previously grown by the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. White-corn farming was abandoned by European settlers in favor of growing sweet corn. Unlike readily available sweet corn, Native white corn has a low glycemic index quality, which according to researchers, helps prevent the onset of diabetes.

In addition to faculty presentations and a student brainstorming session about the White Corn Project, several RIT students will share their research results.

Benjamin Quanah Parker, a second-year graduate mathematics student from Seattle, Wash., and president of RIT’s Native American Student Association, will present his research in multi-grid methods, but hopes his listeners will walk away learning something equally as important.

“I always try to lead by example,” Parker says. “It’s good to be able to inspire students while learning from others who are in prominent positions within our Native community. I hope to inspire young students and Native Americans to stay true to themselves and their identities.”

The free event, sponsored by NASA, is open to the public, with special invitations to area Native American high school and university students.

For more information, contact Nizhoni Chow-Garcia at 585-475-6446 or ncgfsp@rit.edu.