University’s ‘futurists’ encourage audience to embrace curiosity during Imagine RIT symposium

Annual Futurists Symposium features industry experts on the blending of technology, the arts, and design

Elizabeth Lamark/RIT

The April 26 Futurists Symposium, the kickoff to Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival, featured an impressive lineup of alumni and faculty industry leaders. From left to right are Evan Dawson, moderator; Chukwuma Morah, chief marketing officer for FUT.GG; Jeyhan Kartaltepe, associate professor in RIT’s School of Physics and Astronomy; Robert Morreale, senior division chair for Immersive and Experiential Learning at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science; and Karen Roth, president of the Society of Women Engineers and deputy director for AFWERX.

Be curious because what if, said RIT alumnus Bob Morrealle, who shared stories of discovery, hope, and confidence during his presentation at the Futurists Symposium, a collection of alumni and faculty offering an insider’s look into the future of technology, the arts, and design. The symposium, held April 26 in the Wegmans Theater, MAGIC Spell Studios, was the official kickoff to Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival.

Joining Morreale ’92 (medical illustration) MST ’93 (visual arts-all grades), who is senior division chair for Immersive and Experiential Learning and assistant professor of biomedical communications at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, was Jeyhan Kartaltepe, associate professor, RIT School of Physics and Astronomy, and director for the Laboratory for Multiwavelength Astrophysics; Chukwuma “ChuBoi” Morah ’09 (industrial engineering), chief marketing officer for FUT.GG; and Karen Roth ’06 (software engineering), president of the Society of Women Engineers and deputy director for AFWERX.

The event was hosted by RIT President David Munson and moderated by WXXI Connections host Evan Dawson.

Morreale, who advised the audience to “keep technology close and expect the unexpected,” talked about how he uses advanced visualization techniques, AR/VR, and spatial computing to print 3D models of organs to help physicians plan for surgeries. “We are able to align the technology and create an experience to train in ways that don’t put patients at risk.”

Morreale showed slides of how his illustrations and innovative technology helped successfully separate conjoined twins and how the growing use of artificial intelligence, a recurring theme throughout the presentations, has great possibilities. He mentioned a future where realistic digital doctors will be driven by AI, enabling the work of thousands as opposed to a few.

Kartaltepe, who is the principal investigator of COSMOS-Web, the largest James Webb Space Telescope program, works with her students to ponder the extremes of the universe, with the goal of learning where we came from. She said that one of the project’s challenges is developing machine learning and analyzation techniques to understand the volume of data being collected.

“The James Webb Space Telescope is a marvel of technology and international cooperation as it collects data from across the spectrum,” she said. “It is designed as a dream. The day when we learn about the first black holes and supernovae of the first stars is within our reach.”

Fourth-year management information systems student Alric Amona came to the symposium to meet Morah, one of his heroes. He asked Morah, who is an expert in the future of gaming and the creator economy, about taking the leap of faith when executing ideas.

“If you have an idea—a gut feeling—go for it. Follow your curiosities, make content, and learn how to code,” said influencer Morah, who launched the gaming data startup FUT.GG. His company, which enables him to blend his love of playing video games and binge-watching soccer, has more than 7.5 million users with more than 1.1 million social media followers.

“RIT has proven that a career in gaming is 100 percent possible,” he said.

Roth, a 2024 Distinguished Alumni awardee representing the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, “lives the future every day” in her role that brings cutting-edge American ingenuity from small businesses and startups to address the most pressing challenges of the Department of the Air Force. She believes that it’s crucial to create technology that is applicable for the future, and to engage passionate people to build a technical ecosystem.

“For me, a key component is how to communicate technology to people who need it and to grow an opportunity space,” she said. “It’s important to take into account the human factor of what makes technology great. It’s diversity and differences in thinking that enable people to be innovative and imagine the future.”

Added Dawson, who facilitated a question-and-answer session: “RIT has such an impressive roster of alumni; people who are changing the world.”

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