Team Members

leadership team organization


Headshot of Vincent Samar. Dr. Vincent Samar
Department of Liberal Studies
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of Paul Craig. Dr. Paul Craig
School of Chemistry and Materials Science
College of Science

Headshot of Kit Kenyon. Mx. Kit Kenyon
Office of the Associate Dean of Research
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of Richard Doolittle. Dr. Richard Doolittle
Vice Dean for College of Health Sciences and Tech
Institute of Health Sciences and Technology

Headshot of Kim Kurz. Dr. Kim Kurz
Department of ASL and Interpreting Education
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of Jason Listman. Dr. Jason Listman
Department of ASL and Interpreting Education
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of David Martins. Dr. David Martins
Department of English
College of Liberal Arts

Headshot of Todd Pagano. Dr. Todd Pagano
NTID Office of the President
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of Amanda Piciolli. Dr. Amanda Picioli
Communication Studies and Services
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of Annemarie Ross. Dr. Annemarie Ross
Department of Science and Mathematics
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of TJ Sanger. Mr. TJ Sanger
Counseling and Academic Advising Services
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of Deirdre Schlehofer. Dr. Deirdre Schlehofer
Department of ASL and Interpreting Education
National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Headshot of Kat Womack. Ms. Kat Womack
Center for Culture and Language
National Technical Institute for the Deaf


RIT-RISE Leadership Team
Director: Dr. Vincent Samar
Co-Director: Dr. Paul Craig
Program Coordinator: Mx. Kit Kenyon

Operational Teams
Recruitment Team: Dr. Paul Craig, Dr. Jason Listman, Dr. Deirdre Schlehofer, Ms. Kat Womack, Mx. Kit Kenyon
Co-Curricular and Curricular Planning Team: Dr. Vincent Samar, Dr. Paul Craig, Dr. Jason Listman, Mx. Kit Kenyon
Research Training Team: Dr. Vincent Samar, Dr. Paul Craig, Dr. Annemarie Ross, Dr. Richard Doolittle, Dr. Todd Pagano
Predoctoral Advising Team: Mr. TJ Sanger
Professional Communication Access and Training Team: Dr. Jason Listman, Dr. Kim Kurz, Dr. Amanda Picioli, Ms. Kat Womack, Dr. David Martins
Mentor Training Team: Dr. Jason Listman, Dr. Annemarie Ross, Dr. Deirdre Schlehofer, Dr. Richard Doolittle, Dr. David Martins

Advisory Board

The RIT-RISE Advisory Board oversees the RIT-RISE Program to ensure that the program meets its stated objectives and benchmarks. The Advisory Board meets twice a year and provides the RIT-RISE Leadership Team with valuable feedback to help ensure the success of our program.

advisory board organization


Robert Pollard, Ph.D. Associate Dean for Research, NTID

Steve Barnett, M.D. Director of the National Center on Deaf Health Research
Gerard Buckley, Ed.D. President, NTID
Diane Clark, Ph.D. RIT-RISE External Program Evaluator, Lamar University
Ellen Granberg, Ph.D. Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, RIT
Anne Haake, Ph.D. Dean of B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences
Edward Hensel, Ph.D. Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Kate Gleason College of Engineering
Sophia Maggelakis, Ph.D. Dean of the College of Science
Laverne McQuiller, Ph.D. Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts
Ryne Raffaelle, Ph.D. Associate Provost and Vice President for Research, RIT
James Raynor, Ph.D. RIT-RISE External Advisor, Fayettville State University
Tomicka Wagstaff, Ed.D. Assistant Vice President for Academic Access and Success, RIT
Yong Tai Wang, Ph.D. Dean of the College of Health Sciences and Technology
Holly Elder RISE Trainee Elected Representative

RIT-RISE Organizational Structure
RIT-RISE Organizational Structure graphic demonstrated the positioning of the advisory board regarding its role in the RIT-RISE program.
(Top tier of the organizational structure) Rochester Institute of Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf. RIT President, Dr. David Munsen; NTID President, Dr. Gerard Buckley.
(Middle tier of the organizational structure) Office of the NTID Associate Dean for Research (OADR). Associate Dean for Research, Dr. Robert Pollard; Research Administrator, Ms. Mary Lamb.
(Bottom tier of the organizational structure) RIT-RISE Leadership Team: Director, Dr. Vincent Samar; Co-Director, Dr. Paul Craig; Program Coordinator, Mx. Kit Kenyon.


Current Trainees
Headshot of Rowan Christie.

Hometown: Eugene, OR
Major: Bioinformatics/Computational Biology
Mentor: Dr. Kaitlin Stack Whitney

Rowan’s research is focused on environmental drivers of insect populations and communities across large temporal and spatial gradients. Currently, Rowan is part of an NSF-funded collaboration between RIT (under Dr. Kaitlin Stack Whitney) and Kent State University (under Dr. Christine Bahlai) examining population stability trends in deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) populations, which are the main vector of the Lyme disease pathogen. Understanding how tick populations are changing over time, using long term datasets collected using different sampling methods, can help contextualize risks to human health and inform public health policy. Rowan also continues the research they began in the summer of 2018 with Dr. Stack Whitney, focusing on patterns of freshwater aquatic macroinvertebrates across North America. These macroinvertebrates are considered critical bioindicators of water quality and ecosystem health. Rowan has examined associations of the density of 28 taxa and 5 functional groups with water temperature, elevation, canopy cover, land use, and soil imperviousness -- the results thus far indicate a possible correlation between functional group diversity and land time.

In Summer 2020, Rowan completed an REU on wolf conservation genetics in the ULCA B.I.G. Summer Undergraduate Research Program. Rowan presented their research at the virtual Ecological Society of America meeting in August 2020, entitled Long term data required to establish trajectories of populations in Lyme disease transmitting deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis).

In the future, Rowan wants to do bioinformatics work involving ecological data and data analysis using various software tools such as R, Python, and ArcGIS. They would also like to become more involved in fieldwork and data collection

All presentation materials are available on Rowan’s FigShare: https://figshare.com/authors/Sofie_Christie/6912605

View Rowan's Presentations and Publications

Headshot of Holly Elder.

Hometown: Irwin, Pennsylvania (outside of Pittsburgh)
Major: Biomedical Sciences
Mentor: Dr. Elena Fedorovskaya

Holly began her research in the summer of 2019 with Dr. Robert Osgood in the Biomedical Sciences Program. Under his guidance, Holly's research involved the observation of biofilm production of Streptococcus mutants when exposed to various environmental factors, specifically when it is exposed to diabetic-friendly artificial sweeteners. In Dr. Osgood's lab, Holly learned basic research-laboratory techniques including spectroscopy, microscopy, and gram staining. These techniques and others have been used to continue to advance her studies in other areas of interests, with a long-term goal of studying neurodegenerative diseases using brain imaging methods. She studied EEG data acquisition and imaging techniques in Dr. Matt Dye's lab at NTID in Spring 2019-2020.

In Summer 2020 after RIT labs closed due to the pandemic, Holly turned to online survey techniques under the direction of Dr. Paul Craig to study the possible association of neurodegenerative diseases with hearing loss based on DHH and hearing yound adults' self-reports of their first- and second-degree relatives' health histories. Holly presented a poster on her findings entitled Neurodegenerative Diseases and Hearing Loss at the online November 2020 AMBRCMS conference.

Holly is now working with a new mentor, Dr. Elena Fedorovskaya in a neuroscience lab. In Spring 2020-2021 she began a study related to EEG markers of familial susceptibility to neurodegenerative disease which she will continue through the summer semester.

In her spare time, Holly enjoys playing a variety of instruments, especially cello and viola.

View Holly's Presentations and Publications

Headshot of Daniel DiMartino.

Hometown: Centerport, New York
Major: Biomedical Technology
Mentor: Dr. Tom Gaborski

Daniel's research interests lie in cellular chemistry, neuroscience, and neurotechnology. During Summer 2020 and Fall 2020-21 he worked with mentor Dr. Hans Schmitthenner to learn basic chemistry lab techniques by participating in a project on targeted molecular imaging of breast and prostate cancer cells. Daniel reported the project results in a presentation entitled A Modular Approach to High Relaxivity MRI Contrast Agents at the online RIT Undergraduate Research Symposium in July 2020. In Spring 2020-21, Dan worked with a new mentor, Dr. Tom Gaborski, focusing on the development of an in-vitro blood-brain barrier tissue-on-a-chip.

Apart from academic life, Daniel is an avid runner and holds a personal record for a 5 minute 23 second mile.

View Daniel's Presentations and Publications

Headshot of Mikayla Fors.

Hometown: Gales Ferry, Connecticut
Major: Biomedical Sciences
Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Houston

Mikayla's research interests lie in cognitive neuroscience. She completed a summer REU at the University of Houston entitiled Neurotechnologies to Help the Body Move, Heal, and Feel Again, where she had team leadership roles in state-of-the-art data-science technologies sections. She presented a poster about her research results entitled The Neural Basis of Neuroaesthetics (Your Brain on Art) at the University of Houston REU's final poster session.

During Fall 2020-21, Mikayla worked with mentor Dr. Iris Asllani learning basic neural imaging principles and techniques. Starting Spring 2020-21, Mikayla conducted research with mentor Dr. Rebecca Houston focusing on the neurobiological basis of mental health in the DHH community using psychometric and neuroelectric imaging techniques.

Mikayla is passionate about increasing the number of women in STEM fields and is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers and WE@RIT. She also competes on the RIT swim team as a diver in 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events.

View Mikayla's Presentations and Publications

Headshot of Anna Kasper.

Hometown: St. Loius Park, Minnesota
Major: Biochemistry
Mentor: Dr. Tom Gaborski and Dr. Lea Michel

In Summer 2020, Anna worked with mentor Dr. Lea Michel focusing on antibody suppression by protein D. Anna reported research results at the RIT Undergraduate Research Symposium in July and at the 2020 ABRCMS conference in November in a presentation titled Antigenic Competition in Protein D Antibody Suppression by OMP26.

Anna has continued to conduct research with Dr. Michel in Spring 2020-21 and has added a neuroscience rotation under the mentorship of Dr. Tom Gaborski.

Outside of the laboratory, Anna enjoys creative writing and Chinese dancing.

View Anna's Presentations and Publications

Headshot of BO ALLABY.

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Major: Psychology
Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Houston

Bo is the newest addition to the RIT-RISE Trainee group and will begin mentored research with Dr. Rebecca Houston in Fall 2021-22. Bo is interested in exploring areas of research interest while also working on team projects in Dr. Houston's lab.

Welcome to RISE, Bo!

View Anna's Presentations and Publications

Graduated Trainees
Headshot of Stephen Dahlstrom.

Hometown: Southborough, Massachusetts
Major: Criminal Justice, with an immersion in Psychology
Mentors: Dr. Rebecca Houston and Dr. Irshad Altheimer

Stephen was selected as an RIT-RISE scholar in the spring of 2019. His research interests lie at the intersection of criminal justice and mental health. To forge this unique research path, co-mentors Dr. Irshad Altheimer and Dr. Rebecca Houston have accepted Stephen as a mentree in their respective areas of expertise. Beginning his work with Dr. Houston in the summer of 2019, Stephen contriubuted to ongoing lab studies of relationships among drug use, impulsivity, and aggression. In Dr. Houston's lab, Stephen continuously developed basic skills in experimental psychology laboratory techniques including administration of neuropsychological assessments and the collection of event-related brain potential data. In the fall of 2019, Stephen began his work with Dr. Altheimer in the Center for Public Safety Initiatives (CPSI) learning basic community survey-research techniques.

In his final year at RIT, Stephen presented posters at three conferences including an RIT Undergraduate Research Symposium poster entitled Intersections between Mental Health, Crime, and the Criminal Justice System; a 2020 Association for Psychological Science Virtual Poster Spotlight poster entitled Mentored Undergraduate Research on Impulsivity, Self-control, and Delinquency: Sponsored by the RIT-RISE Program for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Undergraduates; and an ABRCMS 2020 poster entitled Factor Analysis of Self Control and Associateions with At-Risk Behavior.

Stephen continues to collaborate with Drs. Houston, Altheimer, and Vince Samar on a manuscript for publication regarding the construct validity of two popular psychometric measures of self-control and their predictive validity for delinquent behavior in young adults.

Stephen graduated from RIT in June 2021 and has been accepted into the Vanderbilt University master's program for educator preparation. He intends to continue his journey as a social studies teacher.

Stephen's hobbies include a love for strategy games including board games such as chess, backgammon, and Risk as well as other military strategy games.

View Stephen's Presentations and Publications

Headshot of Xinbei Liu.

Hometown: New York City, NY
Major: Biochemistry
Mentor: Dr. Lea Michel

Xinbei conducted original research under the direction of Dr. Lea Michel from 2017 to 2020. This research focuses on understanding the structure-function relationship of peptidoglycan-associated lipoprotein (Pal) and its role in the clinical condition of sepsis, which is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Throughout her experience in Dr. Michel's lab, Xinbei learned how to conduct Pal release experiments with Pal mutants and enjoyed this experience immensely due to the changes easily seen from the Pal-peptidoglycan interaction.

In the summer of 2019, Xinbei received a competitive University of Rochester Summer Scholars Program award to intern in Dr. Michelle Dziejman’s microbiology lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Dziejman’s lab researches cholera, a severe gastrointestinal illness which is caused by infection with the Gram-negative bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Xinbei’s project focused on strains of V. cholerae that cause sporadic diseases and utilize a unique "needle-like" mechanism to inject bacterial proteins into host cells during infections. During this time, Xinbei learned many new lab techniques such as Gateway cloning technology to recombine genetic sequences of interest into a plasmid.

In her senior year, Xinbei earned a position in Dr. Michel’s lab as a project team leader. Xinbei was very productive as an RIT-RISE scholar, with two local undergraduate research symposium presentations and six poster presentations at national conventions of the American Chemical Society, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and ABRCMS.

In Fall 2020-21 Xinbei entered the PhD program in biomedical sciences at the SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Xinbei’s advice to future RIT-RISE scholars is: "Be open-minded to any opportunity given to you because you never know if, someday, you might need it. For instance, if you are given an opportunity to work in a lab outside of RIT, take it. That way, you have more experience for your future.”

View Xinbei's Presentations and Publications


The RIT-RISE Research Mentors are RIT faculty who are committed to providing research opportunities to students, especially Deaf/hard-of-hearing undergraduates. RIT-RISE will help pair RIT-RISE scholars with research mentors, but we are also committed to helping connect any RIT/NTID students with potential research mentors. Please contact us for more information at ritrise@rit.edu.

Headshot of Elena Fedorovskaya. Dr. Elena Fedorovskaya
Integrated Sciences Academy

Area of Mentorship: Neuroscience
Current RISE Mentee: Holly Elder
Dr. Fedorovskaya is a research professor in the Integrated Sciences Academy and an advisor for Applied Cognitive Neuroscience minor. She is a cognitive neuroscience with broad interdisciplinary research experience and specific training and expertise in using methods of psychophysics, eye tracking, electrophysiology, and computational modeling, as well as neuropsychological assessment. Her research focuses on visual perception and cognition of color images and multimodal interaction between color and other sensory modalities.
Headshot of Dr. Tom Gaborski. Dr. Tom Gaborski
Kate Gleason College of Engineering

Area of Mentorship: Neurotechnology
Current RISE Mentees: Daniel DiMartino, Anna Kasper
Dr. Gaborski has a technical background in both cellular biophysics and materials science. He leads a collaborative biomedical research laboratory supporting and training undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral researchers. Undergraduates in his lab work alongside senior graduate students in addition to opportunities to lead their own research projects. His lab at RIT focuses on membrane-supported cell culture, biomolecular separations, and fabrication scale-up of nanomaterials.
Headshot of Dr. Rebecca Houston. Dr. Rebecca Houston
College of Liberal Arts

Area of Mentorship: Psychology
Current RISE Mentees: Mikayla Fors, Bo Allaby
Past Rise Mentee: Stephen Dahlstrom
Dr. Houston's area of expertise is in applied biopsychology, specifically the clinical applications of psychophysiological functioning (e.g., electroencephalography, event-related brain potentials, heart rate variability), psychiatric and neurological symptomology, and self-report of mood and personality. She has extensive experience as a mentor on a variety of projects spanning several areas related to neuroscience, clinical psychology, social psychology, and human factors. her laboratory operates using a team approach in which all lab members contribute to data collection for a central project. Select mentees (such as those in the RIT-RISE program) also develop their own independent research projects more tailored to their interests.
Headshot of Dr. Lea Michel. Dr. Lea Michel
College of Science

Area of Mentorship: Biochemistry
Current RISE Mentee: Anna Kasper
Past Rise Mentee: Xinbei Liu
Dr. Michel is an Associate Professor of biochemistry in the RIT school of Chemistry and Materials Science. She is not only a first-rate biochemist but is also a champion for diversity and inclusion at RIT and leads several programs to advance educational and career opportunities for women, economically disadvantaged students, and underrepresented minorities of many backgrounds. These include the Women in Science program, the Rochester Project C program, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence Initiative. Through her project with the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, "Quiet Science: Working with Deaf Students in a Chemistry Research Laboratory," she has been able to train Deaf and Hard-on-Hearing undergraduates with a particular focus on learning the best way to mentor them within a research setting.
Headshot of Dr. Kaitlin Stack Whitney. Dr. Kaitlin Stack Whitney
College of Science

Area of Mentorship: Environmental Science
Current RISE Mentee: Rowan Christie
Dr. Whitney is an Assistant Professor in Science, Technology, & Society with a joint appointment in the Environmental Science program. Her research is focused on environmental science and environmental studies and she mentors students on a variety of ecological bioinformatics projects. Her broad background includes specific training and expertise in empirical fieldwork. She serves as PI and co-PI on several university and National Science Foundation (NSF) funded grants as well as a federal contract, and her work has deepened the understanding of highway roadsides as ecological habitats, and of methods for studying insect populations over time. She conducts research on disability access and performs service focused on broadening participation in the sciences.
Mentor College Recent Mentors Mentee
Dr. Irshad Altheimer College of Liberal Arts Criminal Justice Stephen Dahlstrom (2019-2021)
Dr. Iris Asllani Kate Gleason College of Engineering Neuroengineering Mikayla Fors (2020-2021)
Dr. Paul Craig College of Science Biochemistry Holly Elder (2020)
Dr. Matthew Dye National Technical Institute for the Deaf Neuroscience Holly Elder (2020)
Dr. Robert Osgood Institute of Health Sciences Technology Biomedical Sciences Holly Elder (2019)
Dr. Hans Schmitthenner College of Science Chemistry Daniel DiMartino (2020)
Dr. Kaitlin Stack Whitney College of Liberal Arts Environmental Health Rowan Christie (2018-2020)

All Participating Mentors