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RIT’s record 4,200 graduates challenged to ‘enrich the world’

10 May

Students dressed in graduation caps, gowns, hoods and stoles line up as three females get their photo taken by male with phone.

More than 4,200 students graduated today at Rochester Institute of Technology, an all-time high. The graduates include 41 Ph.D. students – also a record high – and graduates at international RIT campuses in Croatia, Kosovo, Dubai, and for the first time, Weihai, China.

Keynote speaker John Seely Brown, former chief scientist of Xerox Corp. and director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), told graduates they are entering “The Imagination Age, an age that calls for new ways to see, to imagine, to think, to act, to learn and one that also calls for us to re-examine the foundations of our way of being human, and what it means to be human.”

RIT President David Munson said the imagination shown on the RIT campus is a result of RIT leveraging its strengths in technology, the arts and design to produce graduates in every discipline capable of practicing transformative innovation that serves the greater good.

“Today’s world needs people who know how to create and innovate, analyze and implement, collaborate and lead,” Munson said. “Creativity begins with people, and at RIT, we have an unusual assembly of exceptional minds.”

Munson said RIT intends to capitalize on the distinctiveness of RIT to further cement its role in higher education.

“We represent creativity and innovation in all fields, with a strong culture of making,” he said. “We make things that never existed before, whether those things are physical objects, digital media, original processes or breakthrough concepts or ideas. And we put those things into use. That’s called innovation.”

Munson told the graduates they should “wake up tomorrow not solely focused on how to earn a living, rather that you go out to do your best to enrich the world. RIT alumni – now 130,000 strong with you included – are emblematic of goodness.”

Munson presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Brown, “for his inspiration through leadership in the fields of information technology, innovation and organizational learning; for his research in the fields of deep learning, digital youth culture and digital media; and for championing the spirit of innovation, creativity and disruptive thinking that has impacted and inspired so many.”

Brown’s history with Xerox dates back decades, and he witnessed the advent of the ethernet, personal computing, graphical user interfaces and more.

“Those were truly exciting times,” he said. “I feel fortunate to have been part of it. Quite honestly though, I now feel a bit envious for those of you graduating today. Back then, nearly 50 years ago, it was the beginning of the Information Age and it wasn’t that hard to invent or build super-cool things. … Your learning has just started as you graduate here today.”

Brown gave graduates a quote from Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

He left them with a final thought: “It is my hope that those of you graduating today will not forget the gift of the intuitive mind that is the playground of the imagination.”

Student Government President Bobby Moakley, who received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, told a personal account of his parents being told that he was deaf when he was a year old.

“The doctors had told them that I was never going to live a ‘normal life,’ that I was going to live in exclusion from society and that I would likely never graduate from high school,” he said. “Now, here I am graduating from college, along with hundreds of other deaf and hard-of-hearing students, thanks to my parents and everyone who worked for us to succeed. As youth, we have depended on leaders to guide us through life. As we graduate, we become the generation to run the world – the generation to define the world. It is now our time to become the leaders, to become the ones inspiring future generations to build upon our work and thrive.”

Jordan Shea, a computer science major from Tolland, Conn., gave the undergraduate student address. He credits RIT’s policies of inclusiveness for allowing students to be themselves.

“I could see a person juggling, people tightrope walking, or even someone strutting around as a dinosaur and it wouldn’t even faze me,” he said. “To live in such an environment is a luxury. There are not many places that give you the opportunity to re-invent yourself or embrace who you are like RIT does. No one seems to be afraid of themselves.”

He said by only associating with people like himself, he’d “lose out on all the other perspectives that I knew other RIT students had to offer. … Wherever you end up going, I ask that you continue to celebrate this inclusiveness, the inclusiveness that is RIT.”

Mastering microbes: RIT/NTID student combines engineering, bioscience to decrease infections from medical devices

10 May

Male professor with glasses and mustache next to male student with short dark hair in black golf shirt.

Samuel Lum found several things in common with his faculty mentor, Robert Osgood, including excitement about research and a project that could save lives.

Osgood, an associate professor of biomedical sciences, and Lum have been working to decrease the incidence of hospital-associated catheter infections after each lost a family member to a preventable infection not long ago.

Lum’s background in mechanical engineering technology and Osgood’s microbiology expertise in studying biofilms provide the kind of multidisciplinary approach that could lead to identifying the genes most likely responsible for catheter infections. Knowing this could improve how future engineers like Lum produce better materials for devices. Their working relationship set Lum on his career path.

“Vascular and urinary catheters are the two most common types of catheters that are focal points in terms of healthcare infections,” said Lum, who is from New York, N.Y., and who will graduate this May from RIT’s College of Engineering Technology. “Engineers have tried to design antimicrobial catheters, but in reality, they are not working as well as they should be, regardless of funding dollars. What we have is a lack of understanding of the biology behind this, the pathogens themselves. We are asking how do we disrupt the infection process? We know something more about these challenges because of the interdisciplinary work we have done together.”

Lum has been very active in different research projects while at RIT, participating on teams consisting of engineering technology, chemistry and biomedical and chemical engineering students and faculty. Work on projects, such as the one with Osgood, could shift the way people think about processes in the healthcare industry, a career area he is intent on entering after graduation.

“This work is a combination of medicine, science and engineering. Many genes have been studied extensively in the past decade. I think this could be a major contribution to understanding how bacteria attach to other surfaces in general, and there are implications all over the place,” explained Lum.

“In microbiology, controlling contamination is everything,” said Osgood, who also serves as director of the biomedical sciences program in RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology. “Having someone like Sam who has a high level of critical thinking, enthusiasm and is not afraid to be wrong about something is refreshing. Enjoying science means learning from the mistakes. If you come to see mistakes as opportunities to learn, whatever you are seeking to accomplish, will eventually happen.”

“Professor Osgood is one of the best mentors I’ve ever had, and has basically transformed my career,” said Lum. “I have taken bold risks, and part of our discussions together enabled me to think that I could change the world. I’ve always wanted to do something like that, and we have had some of the boldest thoughts imaginable.”

 

Mastering microbes: RIT/NTID student combines engineering, bioscience to decrease infections from medical devices

10 May

Male professor with glasses and mustache next to male student with short dark hair in black golf shirt.

Samuel Lum found several things in common with his faculty mentor, Robert Osgood, including excitement about research and a project that could save lives.

Osgood, an associate professor of biomedical sciences, and Lum have been working to decrease the incidence of hospital-associated catheter infections after each lost a family member to a preventable infection not long ago.

Lum’s background in mechanical engineering technology and Osgood’s microbiology expertise in studying biofilms provide the kind of multidisciplinary approach that could lead to identifying the genes most likely responsible for catheter infections. Knowing this could improve how future engineers like Lum produce better materials for devices. Their working relationship set Lum on his career path.

“Vascular and urinary catheters are the two most common types of catheters that are focal points in terms of healthcare infections,” said Lum, who is from New York, N.Y., and who will graduate this May from RIT’s College of Engineering Technology. “Engineers have tried to design antimicrobial catheters, but in reality, they are not working as well as they should be, regardless of funding dollars. What we have is a lack of understanding of the biology behind this, the pathogens themselves. We are asking how do we disrupt the infection process? We know something more about these challenges because of the interdisciplinary work we have done together.”

Lum has been very active in different research projects while at RIT, participating on teams consisting of engineering technology, chemistry and biomedical and chemical engineering students and faculty. Work on projects, such as the one with Osgood, could shift the way people think about processes in the healthcare industry, a career area he is intent on entering after graduation.

“This work is a combination of medicine, science and engineering. Many genes have been studied extensively in the past decade. I think this could be a major contribution to understanding how bacteria attach to other surfaces in general, and there are implications all over the place,” explained Lum.

“In microbiology, controlling contamination is everything,” said Osgood, who also serves as director of the biomedical sciences program in RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology. “Having someone like Sam who has a high level of critical thinking, enthusiasm and is not afraid to be wrong about something is refreshing. Enjoying science means learning from the mistakes. If you come to see mistakes as opportunities to learn, whatever you are seeking to accomplish, will eventually happen.”

“Professor Osgood is one of the best mentors I’ve ever had, and has basically transformed my career,” said Lum. “I have taken bold risks, and part of our discussions together enabled me to think that I could change the world. I’ve always wanted to do something like that, and we have had some of the boldest thoughts imaginable.”

 

No longer lost in translation: Videos depicting complex scientific concepts break barriers for deaf STEM students

4 Apr

On the left, a light skinned male in suit and tie, at right a light skinned female with long red hair in black sleeveless dress

Research has revealed that people who learn English as a second language, including deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, are underrepresented in STEM fields because of academic language abilities required to compete in those disciplines. A new project at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is helping to break down those obstacles specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Researchers at RIT/NTID will create and test a solution that addresses the academic language barrier in physics by producing a comprehensive series of short, conceptually accurate, signed videos, each of which is focused on a singular physics concept. As part of this process, the team will vet and share conceptually accurate signs for technical vocabulary. The project is funded by a $295,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

“Participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in STEM fields is limited due to the presence of significant academic language barriers,” confirmed principal investigator Jason Nordhaus, a theoretical astrophysicist and assistant professor at RIT/NTID. “In the college classroom, American Sign Language interpreters must choose the correct signs to indicate meaning of the concept being taught. At the same time, most interpreter training is focused on acquiring American Sign Language. It is rare for interpreters to be an expert in the language and STEM concepts. However, being experts in both is necessary to properly translate. Compounding the issue is a lack of conceptually accurate technical signs in STEM disciplines. Quite literally, information is lost in translation.”

Conceptual understanding will first be measured in RIT physics classrooms and then at two external partner universities. The result of the project will be a sustainable online repository where the videos are freely accessible and will be shared with national interpreting organizations and universities that have interpreter training programs.

“It is our hope that this project results in a template that can be repeated for any discipline, thereby permanently eliminating the academic language barrier and increasing deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals’ engagement in STEM disciplines,” said co-investigator Jessica Trussell, assistant professor in the Master of Science in Secondary Education for Students who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing teacher preparation program at RIT/NTID.

Nordhaus is committed to increasing the participation of deaf individuals in physics and routinely involves deaf students in research work, including 11 undergraduate students and one doctoral student, thus far. He serves on, and is a founding member of, the executive committee for the American Astronomical Society’s Working Group on Accessibility and Disability.

Trussell, a member of RIT/NTID’s Center for Education Research Partnerships, has 12 years of experience teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students from preschool age to adulthood. Her goal is to grow the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing people entering STEM fields by enhancing their discipline-based reading and writing skills.

RIT/NTID student Bobby Moakley and RIT’s James Myers to receive this year’s Alfred Davis awards

2 Apr

On left, a younger light-skinned male with brown hair and beard, on right an older light-skinned male with brown hair.

A graduating RIT/NTID student leader who has been engaged in public service, student government and environmental stewardship has been named a winner in this year’s Alfred L. Davis Distinguished Public Service Awards. Bobby Moakley, of Boston, a fourth-year environmental science major and graduate student in science, technology and public policy, will receive the 2019 Bruce R. James Award.

The awards will be given at a public ceremony at 4 p.m. Wednesday in University Gallery in Booth Hall.

Moakley, who serves as president of RIT Student Government, has been an avid participant in leadership and community service projects. Last month he participated in RIT’s Alternative Spring Break, traveling to Florida, where his group did disaster relief from Hurricane Michael and helped with coastline reparations.

Kaitlin Stack Whitney, visiting assistant professor in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, submitted a nomination for Moakley, saying he used project opportunities in her class “to learn more about Rochester’s environment and human communities. He is a thoughtful and engaged student who wants to learn more about the world around him and seizes those opportunities. This work connects to his goals as a student and future professional – he works at the intersection of environmental and social justice issues.”

Moakley also has been a pioneering member of Into the ROC, an RIT program that connects students with city communities, learning experiences and service opportunities.

“Bobby is motivated by what connects people and changes the world,” Stack Whitney said. “He does so much community service to and for RIT because he’s committed to the campus people and to making this the best campus experience for everyone, not just himself. He clearly enjoys getting to think and do with so many people around campus—students, faculty, staff and administrators. Being a collaborator and succeeding at it, as a true peer—with those diverse teams helps remind him that he can do anything once he graduates.”

David Bagley, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said Moakley, as Student Government president, “has already tackled several campus issues and has created a collaborative culture and positive environment. His personal experiences and passion for the Rochester area have greatly impacted his endeavors as an agent of public service. He truly understands the importance of public service and constantly identifies avenues/platforms to promote and assist others along his journey.”

He said Moakley’s passion for helping others and his natural abilities as an influencer “positively encourage other students to engage in public service. … I hold Bobby in the highest regard as he is always a role model to others in our community and exemplifies what a great student leader should be. We are lucky to have Bobby on our campus. He continues to be a strong voice and a positive change agent.

“It’s such an honor to receive this award and to be recognized for some of my public services,” Moakley said. “It further encourages me to continue serving the community and contributing my skills to those in need.”

Moakley will donate the $1,000 he earns from the award to the Ibero-American Development Corporation, which renovates and manages buildings and affordable homes in Rochester. He spent last summer working for them as an urban fellow.

Also receiving an award is a dedicated Rochester Institute of Technology administrator who helped expand RIT’s global presence as well as being an active community volunteer locally and in Haiti. James Myers, associate provost for International Education and Global Programs, will receive the 2019 Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award. Myers joined RIT in 1988 as an instructor in the School of Food, Hotel and Travel Management. He left RIT to obtain his doctorate in natural resource economics, and returned in 1999, when he became the first academic associate dean of RIT’s American College of Management and Technology in Croatia, and later professor and director of the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies. He currently is associate provost of International Education and Global Programs.

Myers has been an active community volunteer for more than 30 years. He is chairman of the board of directors for Haiti Outreach Pwoje Espwa (H.O.P.E.), a nonprofit organization that supports health, sanitation and economic development in a rural community in northern Haiti.

He also has been an active member in a marathon training program for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Western New York.

“Jim is widely recognized and highly respected across all of RIT’s campuses,” said International Student Services Director Jeffrey Cox in one of the nominations for the award. “Jim does not engage in any of these efforts for personal recognition or advancement, but is a true believer in trying to make the world a better place. He has a very big heart, but also applies a sharp intellect and creative and highly collaborative approaches to bringing about concrete solutions to vexing social issues – particularly in areas of the globe that are struggling to recover from war or natural disaster.”

Myers said winning the award is “humbling. I was honored to be nominated. I never imagined I’d ever receive it. I do this work because I love it, and the work itself is the reward I receive. That is why I do it.”

He also credits RIT for being “so supportive and generous for recognizing community service work.”

Myers will receive $2,500 as part of the award. He plans to give $2,000 of it to HOPE, and split the remainder between the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Cancer Wellness Center.

About the awards:

  • The Bruce R. James ’64 Award was named after James, chair emeritus of the RIT Board of Trustees. The award recognizes a student for exemplary public service within RIT and/or the wider Rochester community. Its purpose is to highlight one of RIT’s own hidden heroes while also encouraging other students to engage in public service.
  • The Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award Fund was created by Alfred L. Davis on the occasion of the 65th year of his association with RIT, to commemorate the dedication of the four RIT presidents with whom he worked, in their service to the Rochester community. The purpose of this award is to honor the four presidents, Mark Ellingson, Paul Miller, M. Richard Rose, and Albert Simone, with whom Mr. Davis served at RIT, and to recognize a current member of the faculty or staff who, through his/her public service, mirrors the lives of the four presidents, who have been not only outstanding professionals but also caring members of the community. Davis died in 2008.