Category Archives: Student Life

RIT/NTID teams to compete for the chance to call their inventions ‘The Next Big Idea’

students presenting in front of large audience with two large display screens behind them.

Six teams of deaf and hard-of-hearing students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will go head-to-head May 4 during The Next Big Idea competition.

The contest—6:30 to 10 p.m. in NTID’s Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall—is an annual event where teams of students combine skills related to their individual majors to create products, technology or businesses that will be useful to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Teams work with mentors on their projects and compete before judges for cash prizes. The event is sponsored by ZVRS, a video relay company.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of The Next Big Idea.

Student teams are:

  • Anova— a voice-to-text translation system for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals that uses a mini processor and microphone.
  • Asymtotic—incorporates microphones, tactile feedback, pulsation and sound filters that vibrate to engage the wearer in important situations.
  • Dalmation—a software service that focuses on providing jobs, volunteering opportunities, networking and resources for the American Sign Language community.
  • Douror—a service app for deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons that helps with placing food orders.
  • Echo—a speech-therapy mobile app that allows users to practice speech and give instantaneous feedback to speech therapists.
  • Ugyo—an access-technology prototype for deaf-blind people with Usher Syndrome to improve communication with peers during meetings or other interactive settings.

“Every year the excitement around this competition builds,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Amazing projects are presented and some of them move quickly into the marketplace. We thank ZVRS for their support, and are grateful for the belief they have in our students.”

The event—free and open to the public—will be fully accessible for both deaf and hearing audiences. For more information, contact

2016 Leadership Award winners

Leadership Award winners

Elizabeth MacLaren is the recipient of the Joseph T. Ferraro Memorial Scholarship, and Jonathan Roman received the Alfred L. and Ruby C. Davis Leadership Award, which also includes a scholarship. Students must be nominated for these awards, which are given annually in the spring. Award recipients have a passion for their work, are involved in campus life and demonstrate leadership skills in their various activities.

RIT/NTID holds Student Research Fair

Photo by: Jorge Samper

Cody Cummings, a laboratory science technology student from Austin, Texas, is hoping that his research in the analysis of the sealant bitumen from objects will help archaeologists better determine when and where ancient artifacts were created.

Nicole Pannullo, a chemistry student from East Patchogue, N.Y., is using fluorescence to improve our understanding of what’s in our water.

On Friday, April 15, Cummings and Pannullo will join 27 other deaf and hard-of-hearing student researchers at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s Student Research Fair, 10 a.m.–noon, April 15, in Rosica Hall, Rochester Institute of Technology. This first-ever event at NTID will give undergraduate and graduate students, in partnership with faculty mentors, the opportunity to present posters or give demonstrations on topics related health science, communication studies, access technology and environmental research, among others. The Student Research Fair also coincides with National Undergraduate Research Week.

Todd Pagano, associate dean for Teaching and Scholarship Excellence and founding director of NTID’s Laboratory Science Technology program, is among the coordinators of the research fair.

“NTID has a history of providing our students with access to cutting-edge technology that helps enhance their research endeavors,” said Pagano. “Pair that with a top-notch core education and partnerships with faculty mentors who are experts in their fields, and it’s apparent that we are able to successfully deliver a strong research-based student experience.”

Jessica Contreras, an experimental psychology graduate student from Eagle River, Alaska, will also present her research. She has found that deaf people who are raised in impoverished language environments do not develop executive function skills—like focus attention, planning processes, remembering instructions and multitasking—as optimally as those who have had normal exposure to language since birth.

Lorne Farovitch, an environmental science master’s degree candidate from Tucson, Ariz., is studying the survival rate of various pathogens in surface water and sediments that will help him and others in the field understand the relationship between the evolution of antibiotic resistances and their capability to survive in environments where they don’t normally live.

“There are several ways to examine the pollution level in water,” explained Farovitch. “If the pathogens are able to survive in water and sediment samples for a long time, that tells me it is polluted with a high concentration of nutrients. The most polluted nutrients come from wastewater and drainage water from agricultural land.”

The Student Research Fair is funded by the NTID Office of the President and jointly sponsored by the associate dean for Teaching and Scholarship Excellence and the associate dean of Research.

RIT/NTID program encourages students to pursue doctoral degrees

Lorne Farovitch with lab coat, gloves and glasses holding bottle with other bottles around him.

A new program at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is helping 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 doctoral 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 gain 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 home 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.”

For more information on the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate program, visit:

RIT/NTID featured in Syracuse Post-Standard story on Rochester’s Deaf community

two students working in the Deaf Studies Lab with laptop in front of them and others behind.

The Syracuse Post-Standard’s Empire Magazine featured a cover story on Rochester’s vibrant Deaf community, including RIT/NTID. The multimedia story included a still photography slide show and video and featured several RIT/NTID students, faculty, staff and administrators, who discussed the high employment rate of RIT/NTID graduates; the growth of a “deaf middle class” in Rochester; the availability of deaf professionals in a variety of fields, including medicine, dentistry and more; and the willingness of hearing Rochestarians to learn sign language and engage with their deaf and hard-of-hearing neighbors and colleagues. The article refers to Rochester as a “tremendous model.”


Jeannette Vargas receives Outstanding Advisor Award

Jeannette Vargas receives Outstanding Advisor Award

Jeannette Vargas, senior staff specialist, development and alumni relations at NTID, was awarded the Outstanding Advisor Award by the Center for Campus Life, Fraternity and Sorority Life. She was nominated by the brothers of Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity, one of RIT’s Latino fraternities, to honor the work she has done with the group. She has been the fraternity’s advisor as well as the advisor for NTID’s Latin American Deaf Club for 20 years.    


RIT/NTID celebrates Black History Month with rare exhibit of black deaf artists, three-day symposium

“Dancing Lady with the Jazz” art features painting of three black musicians

In celebration of Black History Month, the Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf hosts a rare exhibit showcasing the work of black deaf artists around the globe.

“Unfolding the Soul of Black Deaf Expressions” runs through Feb. 27 and features more than 150 works of art from 30 black deaf artists. Pieces stem from a variety of artistic media including paintings, photography and drawings.

A three-day symposium will also be held Feb. 25–27 in the Dyer Arts Center. Many of the presentations are free including “Empowering Young Black Deaf Artists” by Emily Blachly; “Preserving the Legacy of Black Deaf Art,” by LeeAnne Valentine; “How to be an Art Patron,” by Fred Beam and Earl Terry; and “Success Stories of Black Deaf Artists,” presented by a group of participating artists. For a complete schedule of events, go to the Dyer Arts Center website.

“One of the goals of the Dyer Arts Center is to display exhibits promoting cultural groups at least once a year,” said Tabitha Jacques, gallery director. “This season, we are proudly featuring the magnificent work of black deaf artists. It’s important to us that Dyer Arts Center’s exhibits and programs encourage discussion on the myriad types of art that are found within the deaf community.”

For more information about the exhibit, go to the Dyer Arts Center websiteFacebook page or Instagram page, @dyerartscenter. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1–5 p.m., Saturdays.