Category Archives: Academics

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

Young man with red hair and beard wearing safety glasses and white lab coat works with lab instruments.

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

Headshot of woman with short blonde hair and glasses wearing a black blazer, printed blouse and necklace.

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 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.”