A new program at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is helping to fill the gap that exists when it comes to deaf and hard-of-hearing students earning doctoral degrees in science disciplines.
The Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate program, in partnership with University of Rochester and funded by a grant from the National Institute for General Medical Science, helps eligible students enrolled in master’s programs at RIT prepare and apply for doctorate level programs in behavioral or biomedical science.
Up to three graduate students are selected each year for entry into the Bridges program. Most of their tuition is paid and they also earn experience—and earn a paycheck—working in laboratories at RIT and UR. Throughout the program, they meet regularly with mentors who help prepare them for the academic rigors of earning a doctorate, attend at least two professional conferences and complete three research rotations at UR laboratories. Currently, there are six students enrolled in the Bridges program, and potential students are encouraged to apply.
“This is an amazing opportunity for aspiring deaf and hard-of-hearing scholars who have long been underserved and under-recognized,” said Peter Hauser, principal investigator for RIT and director of the Deaf Studies Laboratory at NTID. “To date, this is the first educational program specifically tailored to deaf and hard-of-hearing scholars who want to pursue advanced degrees. We are proud to have started this program in Rochester, a community characterized by a well-educated and large deaf population, with a unique and collaborative atmosphere.”
Lorne Farovitch, an environmental science master’s degree candidate from Tucson, Ariz., is completing his second year in the Bridges program at RIT/NTID. While he always knew that he wanted to earn his Ph.D., he needed expert advice to help him hone in on his specialty.
“Before I entered the Bridges program, I enjoyed internship experiences in polymer science, neuroscience and marine biology,” said Farovitch. “But I was able to find my passion for microbiology and immunology through the Bridges program. I worked with Professor Martin Zand at UR to study lymphocytes and their capability to migrate through the body. My research with Professor Jeff Lodge at RIT allowed me to analyze water samples from Lake Ontario to determine pollution levels from medications that are distributed through open water. I studied how pathogens in water help spread disease, and how these diseases impact our health. My eyes were opened to a variety of skills, all of my questions were answered and I was able to determine the path that I wanted to take.”
Scott Smith is a research associate professor at NTID and the Bridges program science mentorship director.
“Our Bridges students realize that deaf scholars can be scientists and work successfully with their hearing counterparts,” said Smith. “From professional development and training opportunities to support-group discussions with their peers and mentors, this program provides a personalized education plan to lead them on the path to earning that coveted doctoral degree. We’re teaching them how to become professional scientists.”