RIT/NTID Diversity Spotlight
[ID: RIT National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Women’s History Month Spotlight. Background is a gradient of gray to purple. Baby blue triangular vectors are placed on the image. Pictured in a purple circle is Rain Bosworth, a white woman with blonde hair, a red jacket and white undershirt. Quoted is “My peers at RIT/NTID frequently let me know that my views are important. I love that feeling. Rain Bosworth. Assistant Professor. RIT/NTID Department of Liberal Studies.” Multiple white circles of different opacities are found on the photo's bottom border.]
NTID Department of Liberal Studies
Rain is an Assistant Professor in the NTID Department of Liberal Studies.
If you could describe being a woman in one word, what would it be? No explanation needed.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
I think about my graduate mentor, Karen Dobkins, an experimental psychologist, who is an amazing woman, wonderful friend, and successful scientist. This month, I thank other female trailblazers who set the path for me. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.
Name a woman or heroine who inspires you and why?
Karen Emmorey, a cognitive scientist, and another great woman, who has changed how people think about Deafness, and even changed how we deaf people think about ourselves as having a valid language and cognitive strengths. She studies how being deaf impacts the brain and how we think and communicate. She set up a cognitive neuroscience lab based on deaf ecology, where she hires many deaf people, which I applaud her for. She studies deaf people; therefore, she includes them in the research. Sadly, that is not always the case with other labs or scientists. She inspired me to pursue cognitive science as a deaf scientist.
What assumptions about women would you like to see change?
When I talk about my research, often I get, “Oh, nice, you’re helping deaf children.” I don't see my male peers get that remark. People assume that women do science to “help” out. We are more than helpers. We’re gathering data to create scientific knowledge to inform society, and yes, that helps our communities.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I study visual attention and perception in deaf and hearing infants, children and adults, particularly when they view sign language. My research is about how children and babies discover language cues in their environment. For instance, how do they figure out what’s important to pay attention to and learn? I use eye tracking to analyze their cognitive processes and it’s something I’m very excited about.
I’m proud of persevering with long research projects that take years to complete. I never feel satisfied with the amount of data I’ve collected or the number of publications, I always feel I want to do more! The research I do has a narrative about how humans adapt to their sensory and language experiences. One study leads into the next. One set of findings relate to another. I don’t find something and just put it down. It’s not isolated work and isolated publishing. I want my work to tell a story where one finding links to another. When an answer is formulated, I develop another research question—maybe not right away, but over time.
It’s exciting because we will have a Cognitive Science Ph.D. program here at RIT and I would help to teach graduate students about deaf cognition and sign language psycholinguistics.
I am also involved in the NSF-funded program called AWARE-AI NRT (NSF Research Traineeship for graduate students). The Principal Investigator is Dr. Cecilia Alm. The AWARE-AI NRT Program is committed to training an inclusive and diverse AI scientific workforce. Women, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, and African American, Latino/a American, or Native American graduate students are especially encouraged to apply. The project anticipates training 75 master’s and Ph.D. students, including 25 funded trainees, from computing and information sciences, engineering, mathematics, psychology, and imaging science.
My future involves running the new cognitive development lab called the Perception, Language and Attention in Youth (PLAY) Lab. My vision is that kids think science is fun and “play”! We have three women coming to work in the lab now… I’m so excited that we’re growing!
What can our community do to better support women?
It’s important to let women know that we value them and that their contributions to science are meaningful and impactful. That, I think, would inspire more women to join more STEM fields.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Slow down! Breathe ideas in. Allow time to take in ideas and develop hypotheses. There really is no need to rush; in time, long projects will get done. Coming up with ideas, gathering data, analyzing, writing, publishing, going to conferences, and training students all take so much time and patience. Often in academia, professors – women especially – feel the need to show the world that we are on top of it all, we don’t need help, and we feel the need to get all these things done by next week. This mentality can backfire in getting things done the right way and be hurtful in the sense of appreciating the scientific journey…. It won’t be fun if you are stressed out and forget to enjoy the view during the long journey.
How has RIT/NTID aided you in your professional journey?
I have been a scientist for many years and I’ve worked in different universities. I spent four years at the first university, ten years at the second, and another for six years. I’m able to sit back and compare experiences. At my prior universities, I felt like a small fish in a giant sea there. In those settings, I was the only deaf person in my department or maybe even in the whole school. I guess I didn’t feel that my deafness was valued and there was little interest in me as a deaf woman. Here at RIT, I feel my presence, work and my contributions are valued. My peers at NTID frequently let me know that my views are important. I love that feeling. I learn a lot from my deaf and hearing peers and students here. It inspires me to continue working hard and give back to RIT and NTID.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
I grew up in San Francisco, Hollywood, Los Angeles and San Diego, all popular tourist destinations in California. When people find out that I live in Rochester—you know, it’s snowy and it’s cold—they think I am crazy to have left California. And they think I am crazy when I say the weather here is better! I moved here about 3 years ago, and I had never seen these colors. Exploding red or pink on the trees in the spring time or fall, and such deep greenness in the summer, and the whiteness of snow looks so pure and clean. California has the same warm weather year-round, but here, I think the variation is beautiful; and it makes me think about the cycle of life. It grows, and goes away, and comes back throughout the seasons and I think that’s beautiful.