RIT/NTID awarded $2.6 million for first large-scale study of language outcomes in young deaf adults

Matthew Dye, in blue suit and pink tie wearing glasses w/male in blue shirt and dark tie w/electrode cap and female student.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID) in Rochester, New York, has received a $2.6 million, five-year award from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to study the neurological, linguistic and behavioral outcomes for deaf individuals after childhood. It is the first study of its kind with college-age adults.

According to the latest data from the NIDCD, two to three out of every 1,000 children born in the United States are deaf or hard of hearing. For some of these children, being deaf can preclude typical acquisition of spoken language.

Some children use hearing aids, some learn sign language only, spoken language only, or a combination of sign and spoken language, with or without hearing aids. Still others use a cochlear implant (CI), an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the inner ear and can provide sound signals to the brain. Children with a CI may use sign language, spoken language or both. As of 2012, around 38,000 children in the United States had received a CI.

“For many of these children, a cochlear implant has permitted access to spoken language,” said Matthew Dye, an RIT/NTID researcher who is leading the grant. “However, what is perhaps most striking about spoken language outcomes following cochlear implantation is the variability.”

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there is wide variation in individual outcomes following cochlear implantation, and some CI recipients never develop useable speech and oral language skills. The causes of this variation in outcomes are only partly understood at the present time. 

“Understanding this variability is the first step in developing effective interventions to move a greater number of children towards better communication outcomes,” Dye said.

The research will be one of the first large-scale studies to examine spoken language outcomes in young deaf adults who received their implants in childhood and now are enrolled at RIT/NTID. The majority of these students will vary in terms of whether or not they use their CI, the age at which they received their CI and their primary mode of communication (spoken English, sign language, or other). The unique sample of young adults at RIT/NTID, many of whom learned sign language in infancy and use a cochlear implant, affords the possibility of examining how early exposure to American Sign Language (ASL) influences spoken language outcomes.

Dye will collaborate with researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder to establish norms for hearing college students.

“The overall aim of this project is to examine the effects of auditory development, cognitive function and multimodal language outcomes in a large group of young deaf adults,” Dye said. “The results of this study will provide much-needed and timely answers regarding the possible benefits of early cochlear implantation and early intervention with sign language that parents and policy makers seek as they determine how best to intervene with the next generation of deaf infants who are cochlear implant recipients or candidates.”

NIH grants $1 million to RIT/NTID scientists-in-training program for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduates

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The National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences has awarded a grant to Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf to provide $1.025 million in funding over five years to develop a scientists-in-training program for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduates. 

Funded through the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program, the grant is designed to increase the number of underrepresented students who enter Ph.D. programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. The RIT-RISE program is the first RISE program to specifically serve deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

The program will offer a suite of scientific enrichment workshops, presentations, and activities that are tailored to the needs of deaf-and-hard of hearing scientists and open to the entire university. These events are expected to attract students who wish to enrich their research skills, stay abreast of hot topics in biomedical and behavioral fields, sharpen their presentation skills, or get help applying to graduate schools. RIT-RISE also will provide faculty workshops to share best practices for promoting effective communication between hearing and deaf researchers in lab settings.   

Selected RISE scholars will receive intensive training and wage support for working in research laboratories with RIT researchers and, eventually, in the laboratory of a mentor from another institution.  The RIT-RISE leadership team will help match supported scholars with participating research mentors in their fields of interest. Scholars also will attend local and national conferences, present papers and posters and publish or co-publish their work. 

Scott R. Smith, a medical doctor, health scientist and research faculty member at RIT/NTID, who is deaf, will lead this program assisted by Paul Craig, a chemistry professor and the head of RIT’s School of Chemistry and Material Science, and Vincent Samar, an RIT/NTID cognitive science professor with many years of experience working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students. In addition, more than 40 deaf and hearing members of the RIT faculty have volunteered to serve as science mentors, and 15 deaf and hearing external mentors have already been identified for the summer research experiences that will take place after scholars complete their junior year.

RISE scholars will be selected from deaf and hard-of-hearing students in RIT baccalaureate programs that include biochemistry, bioinformatics, biology, biomedical engineering, biomedical sciences, biotechnology & molecular bioscience, chemistry, computing and information technologies, computer science, computing security, game design & development, human-centered computing, new media interactive development, psychology, and web and mobile computing.

RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is leading the RIT-RISE cross-college partnership that includes RIT’s College of Science, College of Health Science and Technology, College of Liberal Arts, Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, and the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. 

Smith cited the partnership among RIT colleges as one of the keys to receiving NIH support. 

“The strength of the mentor pool helped to distinguish the RIT application, and we are very grateful for faculty enthusiasm for this program,” he said. “We expect the RIT-RISE program to provide even greater opportunities so that deaf and hard-of-hearing students can engage in robust undergraduate research experiences that will enable them to become successful scientists.”  

Gerard Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean, praised RIT’s commitment to the program. 

“This is a historic development for deaf and hard-of-hearing scholars and for RIT,” said Buckley. “RIT is becoming known as the destination school for deaf and hard-of-hearing scholars who want to prepare for careers in biomedical and behavioral research.”    

The RIT-RISE program expands the Rochester training pipeline for deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists by connecting undergraduate research training with preexisting NTID-supported ‘Explore Your Future’ and ‘Health Care Career Exploration’ camps for high school students, the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate Program for graduate students, and the Rochester Postdoctoral Partnership Program for postdoctoral fellows.  

RIT College of Science establishes Integrated Sciences Academy

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Multidisciplinary science education and research is the focus of a new academic unit in RIT’s College of Science that brings together researchers with different expertise to invent new ways to approach challenges facing a global society.

The Integrated Sciences Academy will focus on implementing specific inter- and multidisciplinary programs within the College of Science and differs from custom-tailored programs offered through RIT’s School of Individualized Study. More.

RIT/NTID names Student Life Team director

Tim Albert in grey/white windowpane plaid suit jacket with lavender button down shirt and striped tie. Banquet tables in back.

RIT/NTID has named Marvin “Tim” Albert of Columbus, Ohio, as director of the college’s Student Life Team. 

Albert has more than 11 years of experience in the K-12 education field as a peer/school counselor, supervisor, student life coordinator and dean of students. He earned a diploma in applied computer technology and an associate in applied science degree in imaging technology from RIT/NTID, and went on to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Gallaudet University.

As president of National Black Deaf Advocates and board member of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), Albert worked to make improvements to educational programs and schools for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

“I’m pleased to welcome Tim back to the RIT/NTID community,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “His national leadership experience along with his love for the college and our students will usher in a time of renewed vitality to the Student Life Team.”

In his role as Student Life Team director, Albert will supervise and oversee co-curricular events, including clubs and Greek life for RIT/NTID’s 1,200 deaf and hard-of-hearing students. 

RIT/NTID names first director of diversity and inclusion

Stephanie Albert in blue v-neck top with short hair and silver earrings standing near flowers in front of a grey house.

Stephanie M. Smith Albert has been named the first director of diversity and inclusion at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Albert has more than 10 years of professional experience in the education field as a school counselor at the Georgia School for the Deaf in Cave Spring, Georgia, St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati, Ohio, Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia, and most recently was the director of Student Life at Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus, Ohio.

In her new role, Albert will be responsible for all NTID issues relating to diversity and inclusion, monitoring NTID’s progress on RIT-wide and NTID-specific initiatives and goals, and identifying issues to bring to the NTID president and his administrative council, as well as the RIT vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion.

She also will keep current on diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity and access regulations and issues in higher education, and present on these topics to internal groups of faculty, staff and students; and work with student leaders and other units within the college, including the NTID Diversity Group, to support diversity-specific initiatives.

Albert earned a master’s degree in school counseling at Gallaudet University, a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Wright State University, and an associate degree in accounting at RIT/NTID. Additionally, she has held secondary school counselor certification in the state of Georgia and an alternative administrative specialist license in the state of Ohio.

“We are pleased to have Stephanie ‘back home’ at RIT/NTID in this new and exciting role,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Diversity and inclusion are top priorities for both NTID and the greater university, and we look forward to what Stephanie will bring to these efforts.”

RIT/NTID names Gary Behm interim associate VP for academic affairs

Gary Behm wearing glasses and light button down shirt sharing information from poster behind him.

Gary Behm of West Henrietta, New York, has been named interim associate vice president for academic affairs at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.  

In his role, Behm will oversee NTID's academic departments, curriculum, course scheduling, degree certification, communication services and assessment, and faculty/staff professional development. NTID's academic departments include Liberal Studies, Business Studies, Science & Mathematics, Creative & Cultural Studies, Visual Communications Studies, Engineering Studies, Information & Computing Studies, American Sign Language and Interpreter Education, and the Master of Science program in Secondary Education of Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

Behm, an associate professor, currently serves as director of RIT/NTID’s Center on Access Technology Innovation Laboratory, and serves as an engineering lead for the faculty, researchers and students in the conceptualization, design, development, building and testing of engineering solutions that address the need of accessibility of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals primarily in the postsecondary educational environment.

He earned an associate degree in electromechanical technology and bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology at RIT/NTID, and a master’s degree in manufacturing systems engineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Prior to teaching, Behm worked for IBM in various locations throughout the country, serving as an engineer, project leader and project manager. He then moved into the IBM Faculty Loan program and served as a visiting scholar, lecturer, advisor and tutor in RIT/NTID’s Engineering Studies Department. 

“Gary has brought a wealth of practical and theoretical experience to RIT/NTID classrooms and the Center on Access Technology Innovation Lab,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “I’m certain he will bring the same innovative and energetic approach to this interim role as associate vice president for academic affairs.”