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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.”

 
 

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.