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Changing the Research Environment

Research Strand Focus: This key focus area engages faculty in discussions about identifying, recruiting, and mentoring a diverse student population in their research, in and out of the lab. Faculty workshops discuss both general mentoring strategies (e.g. setting goals) as well as topics specific to the target populations (e.g. DHH communication strategies or mentoring across gender and racial divides). Engaging faculty in discussions is our means to the end—helping faculty create more inclusive research lab environments and more welcoming mentoring experiences.  Read More

Research Cohorts

The Research Cohorts meet bi-weekly and discuss readings, share experiences, and take part in short activities—all strengthening their sills and awareness pertaining to diversity, inclusiveness, and building a welcoming environment in the classroom, laboratory and on campus. The cohorts are led by the Inclusive Excellence Initiative co-director, Dina Newman and Research Strand leader, Lea Vacca Michel. Each year a new group of faculty research members are added to the project.

2017-18 Research Cohort
Year one engaged ten faculty members from Thomas Gosnell School of Life Sciences, School of Physics and Astronomy, and School of Chemistry and Materials Science. The academic year transitioned to a highly successful fellowship program for seven students matched with seven faculty mentors, carrying out research throughout the summer of 2018. The students performed research in their mentors' labs, participated in professional development activities, and presented their work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in August. Read More

2018-19 Research Cohort added 9 additional faculty to the project, expanding faculty training and offering new areas of research. Summer 2019 will build on the fellowship program encouraging new undergraduates from nontraditional and underrepresented groups to get involved in research. The program continues to connect students in their 1st year at RIT, including transfer students, with College of Science Faculty mentors. It provides a $4,500 stipend for full-time research over the summer at RIT, as well as additional funds for supplies and travel to conferences. Read More

To learn more about all inclusive Excellence Research faculty cohort members click on the links below.

2017-18 Faculty Research Mentors

Dr. Christopher Collison
Associate Professor
School of Chemistry and Materials Science
(585) 475-6142
Profile

Dr. Collison's group works chiefly with Squaraine molecules, synthesized at RIT by Dr. Jeremy Cody, where we look to control structural morphology to form aggregates. The excited state properties and spectroscopic features of these aggregates can be predicted computationally through essential states modelling in a collaboration with Frank Spano at Temple University. The group looks to determine how the various aggregation states influence exciton dissociation at the bulk heterojunction interface in our devices; the group models the materials properties and measures the performance of devices made in its state of the art lab to validate its hypotheses.

Dr. Moumita Das
Assistant Professor of Physics
School of Physics and Astronomy
(585) 475-5135
Profile

"From embryogenesis, to osteoarthritis, to cancer, physical forces and mechanical properties of tissues play a key role in health and disease. Many physical models of tissues largely focus on a single level of complexity e.g. individual cells or large collections of cells. A multi-scale approach is critically needed to address the complex interplay of mechanisms at each level, and bridge the gap between models at different levels. My long-term goal is to use multi-scale modeling to explain how mechanical forces are sensed and transmitted from molecules to cells to tissues, and how these processes impact tissue dynamics, properties, and biological functions. To this end, my group uses a combination of analytical theory and computer simulations to investigate time-dependent mechanical properties of tissues based on interplay of mechanics, geometry, and statistical physics of underlying components. Our models are informed and tested via close collaborations with experimental labs.

Dr. Michael L. Gleghorn 
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
School of Chemistry and Materials Science
(585) 475-5528
Profile

Dr. Edwin Hach
Assistant Professor of Physics
School of Physics and Astronomy
(585) 475-4537
Profile

Dr. Jeyhan Kartaltepe
Assistant Professor of Physics
Astrophysical Sciences and Technology Program Faculty
(585) 475-7514
Profile

Jeyhan Kartaltepe is an Assistant Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy and in the Astrophysical Sciences and Technology program. Her work focuses on understanding how galaxies formed and evolved to become like the ones in the nearby universe. She is particularly interested in the role played by galaxy mergers and interactions and how that role changed over time. She is involved in a number of large multiwavelength surveys that make use of major facilities all around the world, including Keck, Hubble, and the soon to be launched James Webb Space Telescope.

Dr. Kartaltepe's research interests are in the following areas: Galaxy Formation and Evolution, Galaxy Mergers and Interactions, Infrared Galaxies, Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), Galaxy Morphology Education and Public Outreach.

Dr. Lea Vacca Michel
Associate Professor
School of Chemistry and Material Science
(585) 475-4273
Profile

Lea Vacca Michel, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the School of Chemistry and Materials Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Currently, her work is focused on dual oriented bacterial lipoproteins and crystallin proteins which are localized in the eye lens. Dr. Michel is the Chair of the Women in Science program at RIT, Director of the Rochester Project SEED program, and Director of the Research Strand for the HHMI-funded Inclusive Excellence @ RIT program; she strives to increase the participation of women and minorities (including those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing) in science and math. Her research interests include: Biochemistry, Biophysics, Vaccinology, Immunology, and Structural Biology.

Dr. Hans Schmitthenner
Research Professor
School of Chemistry and Materials Science
(585) 749-4705
Profile

Dr. Schmitthenner is the lead in the Schmitthenner Research Group. The philosophy in the lab is to apply fundamental aspects of chemistry and imaging science to practical applications in medical imaging and cancer research. Their research involves a mix of peptide, dye and organometallic chemistry combined with fluorescence, photoacoustic, MRI and PET imaging. The goal is to transform screening and early diagnosis of cancer by creating novel imaging agents that specifically target cancer cells.  Our strategy incorporates new synthetic methods which we developed at RIT for preparing single and multi-modal imaging agents. 

Dr. Kaitlin Stack Whitney
Visiting Assistant Professor
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Science
(585) 475-5966
Profile

Dr. Stack Whitney is environmental scientist who uses insects to ask: can we make human-dominated landscapes more friendly to wildlife?  She has conducted ecology research in a wide variety of landscapes, from tundras in Alaska to mountains in Uganda to farms in Wisconsin and India.  Before coming to RIT, Dr. Stack Whitney worked for the US Department of Agriculture's Farmer to Farmer Program, as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency Office of International & Tribal Affairs and Office of Pesticide Programs.​  Her research is interdisciplinary and highly collaborative, incorporating environmental humanities and social science often in partnership with historians, state agencies, and theoreticians. 

Potential Projects:
- Evaluating novel urban ecosystems (e.g. solar arrays) as habitat for wild
bees and other insects
- "Global Urban Evolution" collaborative international survey of urban
plant adaptations 
- Applications of machine learning for conservation and climate adaptation
planning along roads
- Developing practices for more accessible field-based research

Dr. Hyla Sweet
Associate Professor
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences
(585) 475-5143
Profile

Dr. George Thurston
Professor of Physics
School of Physics and Astronomy
(585) 475-4549
Profile

In cataract, the leading cause of blindness worldwide, concentrated mixtures of eye lens proteins can undergo liquid-liquid phase separation, and can also aggregate so as to scatter light, clouding the lens and degrading vision. Chemical inhibition of the responsible interprotein interactions could, in principle, delay visual impairment from cataract. To make an informed search for cataract inhibitors, it is important to understand the molecular basis of eye lens protein solution phenomena.

Dr. Thurston's current aims are to help develop the needed basic understanding of realistically concentrated fluid mixtures of eye lens proteins, including their phase transitions, equations of state, light scattering, and aggregation kinetics. He and his colleagues are using static and quasielastic light scattering, small-angle X-ray scattering and neutron scattering, Monte-Carlo simulation, and statistical thermodynamic models to develop this understanding.

Dr. Christy Tyler
Environmental Science Graduate Program Coordinator
Professor of Environmental Science
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences
(585) 475-5042
Profile

Dr. Tyler's research interests: Aquatic Ecology and Biogeochemistry, Wetlands, Invasive Species, Ecosystem Restoration

The Tyler Aquatic Ecology Lab @RIT research concerns the interaction between aquatic organisms and their biological and physico-chemical environment.  Their work takes a two-pronged approach towards the interplay between organisms and their environment. The first asks fundamental questions about how organisms affect and are affected by their environment. The second investigates how these relationships change with anthropogenic disturbance. Past projects have evaluated a variety of primary producers, including native and invasive wetland plants, benthic microalgae and nuisance macroalgae. More recently, they are investigating the linkages, direct and indirect, among biodiversity (primarily of invertebrates), plant productivity, and biogeochemical processes.  

As a result of increasing human populations in the coastal zone, both marine and freshwater, land-margin ecosystems are among the most heavily impacted ecosystems on Earth; human-associated pollution, destruction, and introduction of non-native species cause drastic perturbations from steady-state ecosystem structure and function. Understanding how aquatic organisms respond to, or create, perturbation and thereby affect biogeochemical cycling, water quality and higher trophic levels under these changing conditions is imperative to predicting future changes and dictating appropriate management strategies. 

Potential Projects:
Remote sensing innovations to assess carbon sequestriation and resilience of coastal salt marshes
Impacts of herbivores on plant community structure and nitrogen removal potential of created freshwater wetlands
Innovations at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus: Ecological implications of food waste disposal technologies

Contact Us

Email: InclusiveExcellence@rit.edu

 

2018-19 Research Mentors

Year two of the 5-year Inclusive Excellence project added nine new faculty research mentors to the initiative. Click on each of them to learn more about their research.

 

Dr. Nathan Eddingsaas

Dr. Nathan Eddingsaas
Assistant Professor
School of Chemistry and Materials Science
(585) 475-4605
ncesch@rit.edu
Profile

Nathan Eddingsaas is an Assistant Professor in the School of Chemistry and Materials Science and is an analytical, atmospheric, and environmental chemist. His work focuses on the chemical and physical characterization of aerosols including atmospheric aerosols and aerosols generated from nicotine delivery devices. For atmospheric aerosols his group studies the thermodynamics of phase separation, and how aerosols evolve over time including chemical reactions that occur within aerosols and what happens to semivolatile compounds. For aerosols generated from nicotine delivery devices his group studies how user puffing profiles and product characteristics influence the production of aerosols, and the amount of nicotine, volatile aldehydes, and other harmful or potentially harmful compounds introduced to the user.

Dr. Carrie McCalley

Dr. Carrie McCalley
Assistant Professor, Environmental Science
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences
(585) 475-6258
ckmsbi@rit.edu
Profile

Carrie McCalley is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Science Program in the School of Life Sciences. Her work investigates how ecosystem responses to environmental change will impact the atmospheric chemistry of climate. She is particularly interested in the mechanisms underlying methane emission from wetlands; studying the impacts of management and land-use on local wetland habitats and the role of permafrost thaw in changing carbon metabolism in northern peatlands. She is involved in interdisciplinary collaborations that combine molecular, geochemical, remote sensing and modeling approaches to understand feedbacks between human activity and ecosystem function. Dr. McCalley’s research interests are in the following areas: Biogeochemistry, Ecosystem Ecology, Global Change Biology, Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions, Wetlands, and Isotope Geochemistry.

Dr. Suzanne O'Handley

Dr. Suzanne O'Handley
Associate Professor
School of Chemistry and Materials Science
(585) 475-2741
sfosch@rit.edu
Profile

Our research entails the discovery and characterization of new enzymes. The enzymes either come from model bacteria such as E. coli or pathogenic bacteria such as M. tuberculosis M. leprae, Y. pestis, or Staph. aureus. The enzymes from pathogens are potential novel antibiotic targets. We study members of either the Nudix hydrolase superfamily or the HAD superfamily; in this way we can understand family relationships as well. Students in the lab do bioinformatics to uncover new enzymes, clone the genes, and express, purify, and characterize the proteins. We also do knock-out mutagenesis to determine the role of these enzymes in the cell.

Dr. Michael Pierce

Dr. Michael S. Pierce
Director, MSE Graduate Program
Associate Professor of Physics
School of Physics and Astronomy
(585) 475-2089
mspsps@rit.edu
Profile 

Michael S Pierce, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Director of the MS Materials Science and Engineering program within the School of Chemistry and Materials Science.  He is an experimental condensed matter physicist, with interests in surfaces & interfaces, nanomaterials, magnetic systems, and more.  The materials studied often have application for energy storage, conversion, or cleaner production through catalysts.  This research is often at the boundary between physics and chemistry, giving students from a variety of backgrounds an opportunity to contribute.  His laboratory maintains an ultra high vacuum surface science instrument, along with a customized
x-ray diffraction hutch.
 

Dr. John-David Rocha

Dr. John-David R. Rocha
Assistant Professor
School of Chemistry and Materials Science
(585) 475-5150
jrrsch@rit.edu
Profile

As a Postdoctoral Researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Dr. Rocha investigated the hydrogen sorption capacity of novel carbon-based nanomaterials using optical spectroscopic methods, and he also expanded studies of fundamental SWCNT photophysical properties and changes due to refined separation techniques. During his doctoral studies at Rice, he advanced the use of SWCNT fluorescence emission spectroscopy as an analytical characterization method through the design and assembly of a unique real-time fluorimetric analyzer for SWCNTs, now sold commercially as the NanoSpectralyzer (Applied NanoFluorescence, Houston, TX).

Before coming to RIT, Dr. Rocha was a Research Scientist at SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT, Norman, OK).

Dr. Gary Skuse

Dr. Gary R. Skuse
Professor
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences
(585) 475-6725
grssbi@rit.edu
Profile

Gary R. Skuse, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences.  His current research builds upon his long standing interests in human cancer genetics and it is being performed both in vitro and in silico. The wet-laboratory component is looking at the demonstrated ability of a synthetic dye to selectively kill cancer cells while sparing normal cells. His research group is exploring its use as a chemotherapeutic agent in a number of cancer and non-cancer cell lines while developing an effective means of delivering the agent to where it is needed. The computer-based component uses natural language processing software, and a significant amount of human curation, to identify interactions between genes and environmental factors that play a role in the progression to metastasis in ovarian cancer. 

 

Dr. Julie Thomas

Dr. Julie Thomas
Assistant Professor of BIotechnology
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences
jatsbi@rit.edu
(585) 475-2375
Profile

Julie Thomas is an Assistant Professor in the School of Life Sciences. Her research focuses on viruses that infect bacteria (called phages), in particular “giant” phages that have complex virions and long genomes.   Her lab mainly conducts research on a phage that infects the food-borne pathogen, Salmonella enterica.  They study this phage as a model “organism” for related phages that are used for phage therapy and biocontrol purposes.  Dr. Thomas is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms by which this virus infects, replicates within, and ultimately kills the Salmonella cell.  She is particularly interested in understanding virion assembly and determining which virion proteins have roles in host takeover, and their functions. 


 

Dr. Michael Zemcov

Dr. Michael Zemcov
Assistant Professor
School of Physics and Astronomy
(585) 475-2338
Profile

Michael Zemcov is an Assistant Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy, the Center for Detectors, and the Astrophysical Sciences and Technology program.

His work focuses on measuring the large scale structure of our universe, and understanding its constituents, evolution, and ultimate fate. He is particularly interested in building small-scale experiments devoted to understanding the history of light production and matter in the cosmos. He is involved in a number of large experimental programs, including CIBER, TIME, SPHEREx, and other NASA missions devoted to better understanding our place in the universe.
Dr. Zemcov's research interests are in the following areas: Cosmic Backgrounds, Galaxies and Galaxy Clusters, the History of Star Formation in the Universe, Dark Matter, Technology Development, and Science Education.