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New School of Information formed at RIT

20 Aug

close up image of a computer keyboard and mouse.

RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) is forming a new School of Information to recognize the changing roles of information professionals. The school aims to bridge the digital divide and make computing solutions available, accessible, usable and suitable for all.

The School of Information is a merger of the GCCIS Department of Information and Sciences Technologies and the Center for Computing Outreach, Research and Education (C-CORE), the GCCIS “computing for all” initiative, started by Dean Anne Haake in 2017.

The new school—which is nicknamed the iSchool — will allow RIT to continue offering degree programs for those studying in the areas of information technology, human-computer interaction, user experience, informatics and more. It also will enhance computing education opportunities for non-computing students from across RIT’s disciplines and for the public.

“Digital literacy is no longer enough — to be competitive we all now need digital competency,” said Steve Zilora, professor and director of the School of Information. “The iSchool will play a large role in developing digital competency, both with RIT’s non-computing students and with the adult public.”

The iSchool offers three undergraduate degrees, three graduate degrees and two advanced certificates, including a bachelor’s degree in web and mobile computing and a master’s degree in human-computer interaction. The school also offers eight minors and immersions for computing students, varying from mobile development to database design and development.

Many degrees are offered online, in addition to on-campus. Zilora said that students earning these degrees are able to create innovative systems and design information solutions that benefit individuals, organizations and society.

“The IST department has always been about applied computing,” said Zilora. “This reorganization gives us the opportunity to not only teach applied computing, but also to practice it.”

By working with C-CORE, the school will offer courses designed to provide any RIT student with the skills necessary to better understand, leverage and visualize their domain data. These courses will provide essential skills in web, databases, programming and data analytics.

The school also will work with C-CORE to begin offering these skills as an immersion — a concentration of three courses in a particular area — for non-computing students at RIT.

GCCIS established C-CORE to bring together projects that can change the way that computer science is introduced and spark an interest in computing for students from all disciplines, backgrounds and ages. Inspired by President Obama’s 2016 Computer Science for All initiative, the center shares in the goal of empowering students to learn computer science and equipping them with the computational thinking skills needed to be creators — not just consumers — in the digital economy. C-CORE is led by Director Paul Tymann.

The school also will introduce an extension program, to reach beyond RIT and provide fee-based training services for local employers, as well as free seminars and webinars for adults in the community. Using programs prepared by RIT faculty and staff, the school aims to help adults build skills and computing technology competency.

“We are excited to continue moving this “computing for all” initiative forward and collaborate across the university to make introductory computing skills a more integral part of what every student learns while at RIT,” said Haake. “The new School of Information has an interdisciplinary focus that is going to benefit our students and the broader community.”

For more information about the School of Information, go to rit.edu/iSchool or contact the school at 585-475-2700.

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.

New York backs RIT’s life science initiative to upgrade Genomics Research Lab Cluster

3 Jan

A tan-skinned female w/white lab coat and safety goggles holds two discs while dark-skinned male in coat and goggles looks on.

Rochester Institute of Technology has received $1.5 million from New York state to equip its Genomics Research Lab Cluster, a suite of laboratories aimed at expanding industrial partnerships, commercialization and entrepreneurship activities, talent development and academic programs in the life sciences.

The funding was included in the $86.5 million awarded to the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. The award is part of the eighth annual round in which 10 regional councils competed for $763 million in state funding.

The $1.5 million in Empire State Development grant to upgrade RIT’s Genomics Research Lab Cluster will support and strengthen the growing life sciences industry sector in the Finger Lakes region by enabling RIT to expand its research, technology transfer and talent development capabilities in this field.

“We are thankful to the Council and Governor Andrew Cuomo for this significant support and for recognizing the contribution that the Genomics Lab Cluster will make to the state’s assets in the life sciences,” said RIT President David Munson. “Research and tech transfer in the life sciences represent a significant segment of the regional and state economy, spanning applications in multiple medical, energy, environmental and agricultural fields.”

The grant will help increase faculty research in the life sciences and enrollment capacity in RIT’s life sciences academic degree programs, producing graduates skilled in genomic data acquisition and analytics. The state award will support RIT’s $10 million investment in life sciences equipment. Matching funds will come from a combination of RIT resources and industry funding.

Access to sophisticated analytical and modeling tools will enhance research addressing antibiotic resistant bacterial strains and regional agricultural challenges related to crop development and production techniques and remediation of contaminated soil and water. The Genomics Research Lab Cluster will also promote on-site research collaborations with industrial partners. 

The lab cluster will occupy 8,000 square feet within the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences in Gosnell Hall on the RIT campus.

RIT officially opens new MAGIC Spell Studios building

30 Oct

Night shot of two-story brick building with front sign that reads

Rochester Institute of Technology opened the newest building on campus—the 52,000-square-foot MAGIC Spell Studios. The building brings together RIT’s academic strengths in game design and development, film and animation, and digital media. The new facility—the only one of its kind in the Northeast—boasts the latest in technology and design, rivaling media production studios in New York City and Hollywood. More.

Imagine RIT highlights academic and artistic creativity

30 Apr

Two young females display their names in American Sign Language.

Tens of thousands of visitors came to Rochester Institute of Technology on April 28 to see the latest in technology, the arts and design. This year the festival featured a record 438 exhibits. More.