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RIT/NTID’s Nicole Pannullo named 2018 Goldwater Scholar

9 Apr

Light skinned female with dark hair and glasses wearing white lab coat standing in a science lab.

RIT/NTID’s Nicole Pannullo is among 211 students from across the nation to be recognized as Barry Goldwater Scholars. It is the highest undergraduate award of its kind for the fields of the natural sciences, math and engineering. She is the first deaf RIT student to earn the prestigious award.

Pannullo, a chemistry and materials science research scholar from East Patchogue, New York, was RIT’s only Goldwater Scholar this year. The university has had 34 recipients and honorable mentions since 2005.

Her research project title is “Probing the Two Orientations of Pal in Vesiculating E. Coli,” and her career goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in regenerative medicine and pursue a research career developing therapies for genetic disorders, preferably retinal diseases that have limited treatment options.

Her mentors include Lea Vacca Michel, associate professor in the School of Chemistry and Materials Science, RIT’s College of Science; Thomas Michael Redmond, section chief, and Eugenia Poliakov, staff scientist, National Eye Institute’s Laboratory of Retinal Cell and Molecular Biology; Morgan Bida, analytical instrumentation specialist, NTID Science and Mathematics Department; and Todd Pagano, professor of chemistry and associate dean for teaching and scholarship at NTID.

“Nicole is an incredibly talented young scientist, and we are so proud of her many accomplishments,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Being the first deaf RIT student to be awarded a Goldwater Scholarship is a great personal achievement for Nicole. She’s a trailblazer and role model for her deaf and hard-of-hearing peers.”

The scholarship recognizes exceptional college sophomores and juniors across the nation. This year, awardees were selected from a field of 1,280 undergraduates and were nominated by campus representatives from among 2,000 colleges and universities nationwide. They will receive up to $7,500 toward the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board.

Of this year’s Goldwater Scholars, 29 are mathematics and computer science majors, 142 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 40 are majoring in engineering. Many are majoring in a combination of mathematics, science, engineering and computer science.

The scholarship honoring Sen. Barry Goldwater was designed to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. Since its first award in 1989, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has bestowed 8,132 scholarships worth approximately $65 million.

RIT/NTID’s Ping Liu to receive leadership award

5 Apr

Young Asian woman with long dark hair wearing sleeveless black top.

When Ping Liu first arrived at RIT, she couldn’t speak English and didn’t know American Sign Language. Today, she is one of the most successful students in her major and is being recognized with the RIT Outstanding Service Award for International Students.

Liu, 24, is from a small village in northern China where her parents are farmers. Her dream school has been RIT since she was in middle school. An applied computer technology major, Liu hopes to earn her master’s degree in human-centered computing and eventually teach in China and one day work at the United Nations to help deaf people all over the world.

Like many international students, Liu arrived in the United States unaware of the hurdles she would have to overcome and adjustments she would have to make to be successful in the American educational system.

“I had a hard time communicating,” she said. “On the first day of class, I did not think I could stay in the United States for one more day. I felt so lonely and nervous.”

She soon joined RIT/NTID’s Asian Deaf Club as the cultural director and the Deaf International Student Association as the program director, and became an integral part of the college community.

But where Liu really shines is her passionate, enthusiastic promotion of RIT. She created a website to promote RIT among deaf Chinese students. She teaches ASL on the website, fields questions about RIT and applying to RIT, gives advice on taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), including feedback on student writing for the test. 

She also wants to establish a scholarship for Chinese students who are deaf. She is at RIT/NTID on scholarship and wants to give back.

“I want to do something good while I am here,” she said. “RIT has changed my life, and I want to do the same for others.”

The leadership awards and scholarship ceremony dinner takes place 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, in RIT’s University Gallery.

RIT/NTID and Microsoft launch partnership for AI-driven accessibility

5 Apr

Sandra Connelly and interpreter in biology class.

Today, Microsoft announced a partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which has piloted the use of Microsoft Translator language technology to transcribe lectures in real time to help students who are deaf or hard of hearing feel more engaged.

RIT/NTID’s Center on Access Technology initiated a pilot program that leverages intelligent technology built around Microsoft Translator to transcribe a presenter’s spoken words and display them onscreen as text captions in real time, and in a language of their choice on a personal device. This solution is not meant to replace sign language, but rather expand classroom offerings for deaf and hard-of-hearing students by providing multiple channels of access that can be particularly useful for math, science and technical classes with subject matter that can be difficult to interpret.

To learn more about this program, visit the Microsoft AI Blog or check out the Microsoft Customer Stories case study video.

Meet RIT/NTID student-athlete Ethan Ettienne

5 Apr

RIT/NTID student-athlete Ethan Ettienne is a “Big Tiger on Campus”! Watch his video.

RIT/NTID alumnus finds freedom in the skies

29 Mar

Male student with backpack standing outdoors in front of a lake, mountains and trees.

RIT/NTID mechanical engineering alumnus Asher Kirschbaum became fascinated with flying at a young age.

“I remember one of my first flights,” he said. “I was around six years old, and I was flying to Florida to visit my great-grandmother. I was amazed at how a device weighing tons is able to lift off the ground effortlessly. This amazement never wore off.”

Kirschbaum has been named to the Able Flight class of 2018. Able Flight, created by pilots “who believe that the life-changing experience of learning to fly is best shared,” designed the Able Flight Scholarship to enable people with disabilities to pursue that experience. There are eight members of this year’s class, who come from across the country and have a variety of disabilities.

“I went to RIT to study engineering so I could understand how planes and rockets really work,” said the Washington Grove, Maryland, native. “I never thought about flying one myself until I met a guy who told me about the program. I immediately realized that it was something I would love to do, and that ignited a new passion in me.” 

Kirschbaum learned about the Able Flight program when he went to an event called Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities. “They had break-out sessions, and I could pick which company’s session to attend. All of the sessions I went to were hosted by aerospace companies. One of the attendees was a student from Able Flight, and he is currently working for the program. He talked to me about the program and recommended it. I did not need to think twice before deciding that I wanted to do it!”

Kirschbaum starts training at Purdue University May 15, where a sign language interpreter will be provided for all of the courses. While flying, Able Flight has developed communication methods for the instructor to communicate with deaf students. The training is intensive—six to seven weeks without a break. The graduation ceremony is July 24. 

“I am looking forward to flying a plane. Not just to get the feeling of the wind under the wings, but so I can show everyone that deaf people are really capable of doing anything. People get surprised when I tell them that deaf people can drive, wait ‘til I tell them that we can fly too!”