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Ph.D. student receives prestigious Microsoft Research grant for diversity in computing

25 Jun

Close up portrait of Larwan Berke, a young white professional male.

Larwan Berke is one of 11 best research students in North America selected for award

 

Larwan Berke, a computing and information sciences Ph.D. student at Rochester Institute of Technology, was one of only 11 outstanding doctoral students selected to receive the 2019 Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant.

Each dissertation grant provides up to $25,000 in funding to doctoral students who are underrepresented in the field of computing. The funding helps students at North American universities complete research as part of their doctoral thesis work and aims to increase the pipeline of diverse talent receiving advanced degrees in computing-related fields.

Microsoft Research reviewed more than 200 proposals for students and awarded 11 grants.  

“All 11 of these students are doing fascinating research, and we’re thrilled to support these rising computing stars in ways that will truly help them advance their work,” said Meredith Ringel Morris, principal researcher and research manager at Microsoft Research, in a statement.

“This is a big honor for me, and I am thrilled to receive the support from Microsoft to push me to reach the finish line for my dissertation,” said Berke, who is from Fremont, Calif.

Inspired by his own experiences as a person who is deaf, Berke is working to improve the usability of captions produced by automatic speech recognition (ASR) for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Berke explained that ASR technology is improving and may some day become a viable method for transcribing audio input in real-time. However, current ASR is imperfect.

Berke’s research explores adding markups to the captioning, so that deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers are able to discern when the ASR may be erroneous, by utilizing the confidence values in the ASR output. He completed his proposal defense in fall 2018.

“My goal is to empower the deaf or hard-of-hearing individual with greater autonomy in scenarios such as one-on-one meetings with hearing people when in-person interpreters are not available,” said Berke.

The funding will cover the cost of a Microsoft Surface laptop and study participant fees for an experiment to evaluate methods of representing potential errors in ASR captions. The funding will also allow Berke to pay for two undergraduate research assistants.

“This will give me an opportunity to mentor them and hopefully push them toward advanced degrees in computing,” Berke said.

In addition to the funding, grant recipients will travel to attend the Ph.D. Summit—a two-day workshop held in Redmond, Washington, in the fall. Grant recipients can present their research, meet with Microsoft researchers in their research area and receive career coaching. The winners of the Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship, including RIT student Danielle Gonzalez, will also be in attendance.

Other students selected for the 2019 grant are from University of California, San Diego; Princeton University; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Carnegie Mellon University; University of Southern California; Stanford University; and University of South Florida.

This is the third year Microsoft Research has offered this research funding opportunity for doctoral students who are underrepresented in the field of computing, which include those who self-identify as a woman, African American, Black, Hispanic, Latinx, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and/or people with disabilities.

Partnership brings free computer science career exploration program to deaf, hard-of-hearing students in California

14 Jun

Two dark-skinned female teens looking at laptop computer screen.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the California Department of Rehabilitation have partnered to provide a free, one-week computer science career exploration program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in California, June 23-27.

Hosted on the California State University, San Bernardino, campus, “Computer Science Week” provides up to 25 deaf and hard-of hearing California high school students interested in studying computer science and technology in college with a week of activities and learning opportunities to gain experience and explore their personal interests in the field.

Activities include hands-on experience in computer science and specialized skills, exploring coding while programming a device, and determining interests in a variety of computer science and technology-related careers.

The sessions are run by deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing faculty and staff who serve as role models, introduce students to life after high school, and provide support for students who may be away from home for the first time.

For more information about the career exploration program partnership, contact DJ Monahan, RIT/NTID assistant director for Outreach & Special Projects, at dxmnca@rit.edu.

Partnership brings free health science career exploration program to deaf, hard-of-hearing students in California

13 Jun

Students in lab setting wearing lab coats and looking into microscopes.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the California Department of Rehabilitation have partnered to provide a free, one-week health science career exploration program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in California, June 16-20.

Hosted on the Sacramento State University campus, “Health Science Week” provides up to 25 deaf and hard-of hearing California high school students interested in studying the health sciences in college with a week of activities and learning opportunities to gain experience and explore their personal interests in the field.

In addition to the programs offered, Joe Xavier, director of the California Department of Rehabilitation, will be visiting the camp at 10 a.m., Monday, June 17, to meet with participants and observe them in action.

Activities include hands-on experience in health science and lab procedures, attending medical demonstrations and facility tours, participating in group activities and discussions and taking part in a variety of health science programs.

The sessions are run by deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing faculty and staff who serve as role models, introduce students to life after high school, and provide support for students who may be away from home for the first time.

For more information about the career exploration program partnership, contact DJ Monahan, RIT/NTID assistant director for Outreach & Special Projects, at dxmnca@rit.edu.

RIT/NTID graduates advised to “Find the joy in being you”

11 May

large screen showing action on stage - Gerry Buckley and student hug while other faculty and trustees look on.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf wrapped up celebration of its 50th anniversary year with a commencement ceremony Saturday, May 11, in RIT’s Gene Polisseni Center.

A total of 350 students graduated, including 308 undergraduates and 42 graduate students. Among the undergraduates were 114 with associate degrees and 194 with bachelor’s degrees, including 33 from NTID’s ASL-English Interpretation program. The college’s master’s degree program in Health Care Interpretation graduated 12 students, and seven graduated from the master’s program in secondary education along with 23 students who graduated from master’s degree programs in the other colleges of RIT.

Israelle Johnson, a laboratory science technology major from Baltimore, Ohio, the college’s undergraduate delegate shared her experience with her fellow graduates.  

“Through my education, I found this quote by Theodore Isaac Rubin, ‘Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.’ I started with the laboratory science technology program just to try science and see what would happen. Well, it stuck. I learned so much; normal science things and the complexity of science in the world. It has taught me many different perspectives. It taught me friendship, dedication, team work, independence, how to ask questions and find confidence in who I am.

“So be proactive, meet people, do self-care, volunteer, find your balance, explore your world, find the joy in being you. Do not let the challenges limit you.”

Jeanne D’Arc Ntiguliwa, a master’s in secondary education major from Rwanda and RIT/NTID’s graduate delegate, reflected on her academic journey.

“My ambition to be useful in this world led me to RIT/NTID. At RIT/NTID, for the first time in my academic journey, I had direct communication with my professors, asked questions, participated in group discussions and activities. It was a whole new experience. I am deeply indebted and thankful to NTID for all those experiences, and for exposing me to what a genuine inclusive world looks like.

“What dream can you accomplish now with your degree? Believe in yourself, be bold and creative and go make a difference! It is my hope that we all leave well-equipped to begin new chapters and that one day we will proudly look back and nostalgically say, ‘Yes, I made it, thank you RIT/NTID for empowering me.’”

Prior to graduation, 24 students and three faculty members were inducted into the Epsilon Pi Tau Honor Society, an international honor society for professions in technology. RIT/NTID has the first deaf chapter of this society. 

Historically, 96 percent of RIT/NTID graduates, who work in all economic sectors, have found employment in their chosen fields within a year of graduation. Associate and bachelor’s degree graduates earn 95 and 178 percent more, respectively, than deaf and hard-of-hearing graduates from other postsecondary institutions. 

RIT/NTID graduates advised to “Find the joy in being you”

11 May

LaDasha Williams on commencement stage

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf wrapped up celebration of its 50th anniversary year with a commencement ceremony Saturday, May 11, in RIT’s Gene Polisseni Center.

A total of 350 students graduated, including 308 undergraduates and 42 graduate students. Among the undergraduates were 114 with associate degrees and 194 with bachelor’s degrees, including 33 from NTID’s ASL-English Interpretation program. The college’s master’s degree program in Health Care Interpretation graduated 12 students, and seven graduated from the master’s program in secondary education along with 23 students who graduated from master’s degree programs in the other colleges of RIT.

Israelle Johnson, a laboratory science technology major from Baltimore, Ohio, the college’s undergraduate delegate shared her experience with her fellow graduates.  

“Through my education, I found this quote by Theodore Isaac Rubin, ‘Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.’ I started with the laboratory science technology program just to try science and see what would happen. Well, it stuck. I learned so much; normal science things and the complexity of science in the world. It has taught me many different perspectives. It taught me friendship, dedication, team work, independence, how to ask questions and find confidence in who I am.

“So be proactive, meet people, do self-care, volunteer, find your balance, explore your world, find the joy in being you. Do not let the challenges limit you.”

Jeanne D’Arc Ntiguliwa, a master’s in secondary education major from Rwanda and RIT/NTID’s graduate delegate, reflected on her academic journey.

“My ambition to be useful in this world led me to RIT/NTID. At RIT/NTID, for the first time in my academic journey, I had direct communication with my professors, asked questions, participated in group discussions and activities. It was a whole new experience. I am deeply indebted and thankful to NTID for all those experiences, and for exposing me to what a genuine inclusive world looks like.

“What dream can you accomplish now with your degree? Believe in yourself, be bold and creative and go make a difference! It is my hope that we all leave well-equipped to begin new chapters and that one day we will proudly look back and nostalgically say, ‘Yes, I made it, thank you RIT/NTID for empowering me.’”

Prior to graduation, 24 students and three faculty members were inducted into the Epsilon Pi Tau Honor Society, an international honor society for professions in technology. RIT/NTID has the first deaf chapter of this society. 

Historically, 96 percent of RIT/NTID graduates, who work in all economic sectors, have found employment in their chosen fields within a year of graduation. Associate and bachelor’s degree graduates earn 95 and 178 percent more, respectively, than deaf and hard-of-hearing graduates from other postsecondary institutions.