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New York backs RIT’s life science initiative to upgrade Genomics Research Lab Cluster

3 Jan

A tan-skinned female w/white lab coat and safety goggles holds two discs while dark-skinned male in coat and goggles looks on.

Rochester Institute of Technology has received $1.5 million from New York state to equip its Genomics Research Lab Cluster, a suite of laboratories aimed at expanding industrial partnerships, commercialization and entrepreneurship activities, talent development and academic programs in the life sciences.

The funding was included in the $86.5 million awarded to the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. The award is part of the eighth annual round in which 10 regional councils competed for $763 million in state funding.

The $1.5 million in Empire State Development grant to upgrade RIT’s Genomics Research Lab Cluster will support and strengthen the growing life sciences industry sector in the Finger Lakes region by enabling RIT to expand its research, technology transfer and talent development capabilities in this field.

“We are thankful to the Council and Governor Andrew Cuomo for this significant support and for recognizing the contribution that the Genomics Lab Cluster will make to the state’s assets in the life sciences,” said RIT President David Munson. “Research and tech transfer in the life sciences represent a significant segment of the regional and state economy, spanning applications in multiple medical, energy, environmental and agricultural fields.”

The grant will help increase faculty research in the life sciences and enrollment capacity in RIT’s life sciences academic degree programs, producing graduates skilled in genomic data acquisition and analytics. The state award will support RIT’s $10 million investment in life sciences equipment. Matching funds will come from a combination of RIT resources and industry funding.

Access to sophisticated analytical and modeling tools will enhance research addressing antibiotic resistant bacterial strains and regional agricultural challenges related to crop development and production techniques and remediation of contaminated soil and water. The Genomics Research Lab Cluster will also promote on-site research collaborations with industrial partners. 

The lab cluster will occupy 8,000 square feet within the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences in Gosnell Hall on the RIT campus.

RIT officially opens new MAGIC Spell Studios building

30 Oct

Night shot of two-story brick building with front sign that reads

Rochester Institute of Technology opened the newest building on campus—the 52,000-square-foot MAGIC Spell Studios. The building brings together RIT’s academic strengths in game design and development, film and animation, and digital media. The new facility—the only one of its kind in the Northeast—boasts the latest in technology and design, rivaling media production studios in New York City and Hollywood. More.

Imagine RIT highlights academic and artistic creativity

30 Apr

Two young females display their names in American Sign Language.

Tens of thousands of visitors came to Rochester Institute of Technology on April 28 to see the latest in technology, the arts and design. This year the festival featured a record 438 exhibits. More.

Researchers at NTID demonstrate accessible rower at Imagine RIT festival

24 Apr

Male student with beard and glasses writes on a clipboard while working on rowing skull.

As part of Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, researchers at NTID’s Center on Access Technology will demonstrate an accessible rower that enables deaf and hard-of-hearing rowers to follow verbal coxswain instructions during competitions. Festival visitors can sit in a canoe and test their reflex response times by using a game pad to reply to visual cues displayed on a smartphone.       

The idea for the accessible rower came about in 2016, with the addition of a deaf rower to the RIT men’s rowing team roster, with the possibility of other deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes joining the squad. In rowing competitions, rowers are required to follow commands from the coxswain, who determines the speed of the boat.

According to Wendy Dannels, a research faculty member in NTID’s Center on Access Technology and one of the project coordinators, the solution provides a visual display showing transcription and/or illustration of the coxswain’s commands. The application was developed to help the athletes synchronize with the coxswain by using a custom Automatic Speech Recognition engine. The engine is offline so the deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes can utilize the technology without internet connection.

In addition to Dannels, project team members are Steven McClusky, a fourth-year software engineering student from Blue Springs, Mo.; Joseph Stanislow, instructional/support faculty member, NTID Information and Computing Studies; and Brian Trager, associate director of the NTID Center on Access Technology.

Deaf undergrads from across the country to conduct research at RIT/NTID this summer

23 Apr

Light skinned male and female in lab coats, safety goggles and blue gloves work on science experiments.

For eight weeks this summer, Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will be home to the first all-deaf cohort of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), bringing deaf and hard-of-hearing students from across the country together to do research. 

The cohort of three RIT/NTID students, and one student each from the University of California, Berkeley; Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida; Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.; Ohlone College in Freemont, California; Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio and Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon, includes six women and three men, all of whom are deaf or hard-of-hearing. 

“Students were selected in a competitive process on the basis of who showed strong potential for research and fit in well with our current projects,” said Bonnie Jacob, assistant professor in the mathematical modeling program. “The projects are all from science and math, and include graph theory, astrophysics, biochemistry and analytical chemistry this year. There have been other REUs that invite one, two or a few deaf students each year, but we are the first REU to host a full cohort of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.” 

A Research Experience for Undergraduates program generally runs in the summer for eight to 10 weeks. Undergraduate students come from different universities, along with some from the home university, to be immersed in a research experience with guidance from a faculty mentor. 

This particular REU is a three-year award from the NSF, and will run for three summers, with the grant totaling $303,000. Students are paid a stipend, receive housing and some meal support and travel. They also have an opportunity to present their research at a conference. In addition to the research experience, RIT/NTID is adding writing coaching, a research boot camp that involves mathematical and scientific training and professional development sessions tailored specifically to students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. They also will have presentations by invited guests. 

“REUs are exciting programs because faculty mentors and students work side-by-side on original research,” Jacob said. “The opportunity to simultaneously make scientific discoveries while watching the students transform themselves into researchers is awesome. A full-time research experience over the summer often is a critical part of an undergraduate student’s preparation to go to graduate school or enter a career in a scientific or mathematical field. We are very excited about our group of students this year: they come from all over the country, have a diverse set of backgrounds, and also have a variety of career goals. They will come together this summer with the common thread of being undergraduate students who are deaf or hard of hearing and are eager to do science and math research. Several students have told me that they’re excited about the program. I know I am!” 

For more on the project, visit the RIT/NTID REU website: https://people.rit.edu/bcjntm/REU.html.