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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.”

 

RIT/NTID provides groundwork for grads moving on to doctoral degree programs

2 May

Light skinned male with short hair and beard wearing orange RIT t-shirt and grey RIT jacket.

Abraham Glasser, a fourth-year computer science major from Pittsford, N.Y, wasn’t certain where he would land after graduation. But he credits his co-op experiences at Microsoft and NASA for helping him determine that he didn’t want a typical 9-to-5 job. Instead, he realized that a career developing accessible technologies for deaf and hard-of-hearing people would fulfill a passion for research. Glasser, who graduates in May from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, will join seven other graduates moving on to Ph.D. programs. Glasser will continue his education in RIT’s computing and information sciences doctoral degree program.

“At first I thought that I would become a college professor because I’ve spent time tutoring other students,” Glasser said. “But then my passion for accessible technology grew throughout working part-time at NTID’s Center on Access Technology. I was able to get an insider’s view working on the technology, rather than simply using it. This is also where I realized my potential for research. I found myself thinking about research approaches that were sparked by my work, and I knew that I wanted to get a Ph.D., so I could do research with my own ideas.”

In addition to support from faculty mentors and advisors, several programs at NTID are making a difference for graduates applying to Ph.D. programs around the country and helping to fill the gap that still exists when it comes to deaf and hard-of-hearing researchers.

Glasser credits his participation in programs like the National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) for helping him home in on his passion. The program introduces young scientists to research in a highly interdisciplinary, team-oriented setting, preparing students for the type of goal-oriented research they are likely to encounter in real-world environments. “I’m very happy that I got involved in an REU program. I had the opportunity to work on my research ideas, and I even got published at top-tier conferences.

“Programs like these give deaf and hard-of-hearing students like myself opportunities for exposure to research,” he said. “These days, as an undergraduate, you have to be involved to know what research is like. Here at RIT, we have the deaf community as well as a hearing community that knows about deaf culture. There are few barriers to communication, which enables deaf and hard-of-hearing people to do whatever they want to do.”

He is eager to continue his work in human-computer interaction at RIT’s Center for Accessibility and Inclusion Research. Throughout the course of his Ph.D. program, he will be working to further develop an American Sign Language Dictionary—a collaborative effort with another university that hopes to make it easier to look up an unfamiliar sign—as well as investigating and developing evidence-based metrics for the quality of closed captions on video. 

Caroline Davis, a fourth-year biomedical sciences major from Malvern, Pa., will begin a doctoral degree program in occupational therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia after her May graduation from RIT. “I decided to pursue a doctoral degree because in addition to practicing occupational therapy with a focus on pediatrics, I am also interested in research,” she said.

“The biomedical sciences program helped me prepare for my upcoming doctoral program,” said Davis. “I took a Premedical Studies Seminar course during my third year, which helped me prepare for applications and interviews for medical or health professionals programs.”

RIT has programs funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation designed for students who are underrepresented in research careers—including deaf and hard-of-hearing students—that provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their aspiring careers. One example, the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate program, a partnership with University of Rochester, helps eligible students in a master’s program at RIT prepare and apply for a doctorate-level program in behavioral or biomedical science. Another example, the RIT-RISE program, is designed to increase the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists through unique research opportunities and experiences.

“RIT’s core values and aim to increase research activities on campus is having a positive impact on deaf and hard-of-hearing students’ preparation for research careers,” said Peter Hauser, professor and director of the NTID Center on Cognition and Language and RIT program director for Bridges to the Doctorate. “We are now seeing the emergence of a pipeline designated for deaf and hard-of-hearing students that provides them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in doctoral training and research careers. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students have been able to work in faculty laboratories to receive hands-on research experiences and have been able to present their work at conferences. These opportunities make our students excellent candidates for doctoral programs.”

Both Glasser and Davis are grateful for faculty mentors who have guided them in the right direction, offered practical knowledge about finding funding and the application process, and provided support and encouragement.

“My Ph.D. adviser, Matt Heunerfauth, works very closely with me,” said Glasser. “He helped me create realistic goals about my plans for the next few years. He’s always willing to talk with me. It’s so important to have a strong adviser because this process can be difficult. He’s one of the best advisers on campus, in my opinion.”

Heunerfauth, a professor in RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences and director of the Center for Accessibility and Inclusion Research, said that it’s important that his team includes multiple researchers with firsthand perspectives about how computing technology can benefit people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“The unique environment of RIT enables us to bring new students to our team to create opportunities for tiered mentoring of deaf students who are at different points in their academic careers,” he said. “This sparks ideas and enables us to conduct research that other groups internationally cannot; it also creates a valuable, dynamic and bilingual (English and ASL) educational environment for all of our student researchers.”

Davis added: “I think it’s awesome that more and more deaf and hard-of-hearing students are going on to pursue PhDs. It has been, in the past, more of a hearing-dominated course of study. So I think it’s amazing that there are people like me who will prove we are capable of doing it, too.”

 
 

RIT/NTID provides groundwork for grads moving on to doctoral degree programs

2 May

Light skinned male with short hair and beard wearing orange RIT t-shirt and grey RIT jacket.

Abraham Glasser, a fourth-year computer science major from Pittsford, N.Y, wasn’t certain where he would land after graduation. But he credits his co-op experiences at Microsoft and NASA for helping him determine that he didn’t want a typical 9-to-5 job. Instead, he realized that a career developing accessible technologies for deaf and hard-of-hearing people would fulfill a passion for research. Glasser, who graduates in May from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, will join seven other graduates moving on to Ph.D. programs. Glasser will continue his education in RIT’s computing and information sciences doctoral degree program.

“At first I thought that I would become a college professor because I’ve spent time tutoring other students,” Glasser said. “But then my passion for accessible technology grew throughout working part-time at NTID’s Center on Access Technology. I was able to get an insider’s view working on the technology, rather than simply using it. This is also where I realized my potential for research. I found myself thinking about research approaches that were sparked by my work, and I knew that I wanted to get a Ph.D., so I could do research with my own ideas.”

In addition to support from faculty mentors and advisors, several programs at NTID are making a difference for graduates applying to Ph.D. programs around the country and helping to fill the gap that still exists when it comes to deaf and hard-of-hearing researchers.

Glasser credits his participation in programs like the National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) for helping him home in on his passion. The program introduces young scientists to research in a highly interdisciplinary, team-oriented setting, preparing students for the type of goal-oriented research they are likely to encounter in real-world environments. “I’m very happy that I got involved in an REU program. I had the opportunity to work on my research ideas, and I even got published at top-tier conferences.

“Programs like these give deaf and hard-of-hearing students like myself opportunities for exposure to research,” he said. “These days, as an undergraduate, you have to be involved to know what research is like. Here at RIT, we have the deaf community as well as a hearing community that knows about deaf culture. There are few barriers to communication, which enables deaf and hard-of-hearing people to do whatever they want to do.”

He is eager to continue his work in human-computer interaction at RIT’s Center for Accessibility and Inclusion Research. Throughout the course of his Ph.D. program, he will be working to further develop an American Sign Language Dictionary—a collaborative effort with another university that hopes to make it easier to look up an unfamiliar sign—as well as investigating and developing evidence-based metrics for the quality of closed captions on video. 

Caroline Davis, a fourth-year biomedical sciences major from Malvern, Pa., will begin a doctoral degree program in occupational therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia after her May graduation from RIT. “I decided to pursue a doctoral degree because in addition to practicing occupational therapy with a focus on pediatrics, I am also interested in research,” she said.

“The biomedical sciences program helped me prepare for my upcoming doctoral program,” said Davis. “I took a Premedical Studies Seminar course during my third year, which helped me prepare for applications and interviews for medical or health professionals programs.”

RIT has programs funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation designed for students who are underrepresented in research careers—including deaf and hard-of-hearing students—that provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their aspiring careers. One example, the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate program, a partnership with University of Rochester, helps eligible students in a master’s program at RIT prepare and apply for a doctorate-level program in behavioral or biomedical science. Another example, the RIT-RISE program, is designed to increase the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists through unique research opportunities and experiences.

“RIT’s core values and aim to increase research activities on campus is having a positive impact on deaf and hard-of-hearing students’ preparation for research careers,” said Peter Hauser, professor and director of the NTID Center on Cognition and Language and RIT program director for Bridges to the Doctorate. “We are now seeing the emergence of a pipeline designated for deaf and hard-of-hearing students that provides them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in doctoral training and research careers. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students have been able to work in faculty laboratories to receive hands-on research experiences and have been able to present their work at conferences. These opportunities make our students excellent candidates for doctoral programs.”

Both Glasser and Davis are grateful for faculty mentors who have guided them in the right direction, offered practical knowledge about finding funding and the application process, and provided support and encouragement.

“My Ph.D. adviser, Matt Heunerfauth, works very closely with me,” said Glasser. “He helped me create realistic goals about my plans for the next few years. He’s always willing to talk with me. It’s so important to have a strong adviser because this process can be difficult. He’s one of the best advisers on campus, in my opinion.”

Heunerfauth, a professor in RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences and director of the Center for Accessibility and Inclusion Research, said that it’s important that his team includes multiple researchers with firsthand perspectives about how computing technology can benefit people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“The unique environment of RIT enables us to bring new students to our team to create opportunities for tiered mentoring of deaf students who are at different points in their academic careers,” he said. “This sparks ideas and enables us to conduct research that other groups internationally cannot; it also creates a valuable, dynamic and bilingual (English and ASL) educational environment for all of our student researchers.”

Davis added: “I think it’s awesome that more and more deaf and hard-of-hearing students are going on to pursue PhDs. It has been, in the past, more of a hearing-dominated course of study. So I think it’s amazing that there are people like me who will prove we are capable of doing it, too.”