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RIT ranks among the top universities in the nation

10 Sep

Aerial view of students walking on campus.

RIT is among the top third “National Universities,” earning praise for its cooperative education program and its graduation rate for students from low-income families, as well as its business and engineering colleges, according to the 2020 edition of U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges. More.

RIT’s Global Cybersecurity Institute to open in 2020

3 Sep

Rendering of RIT's Cybersecurity Institute

To help make the world a safer place, RIT is creating the Global Cybersecurity Institute (GCI), aimed at meeting the demand for computing security and artificial intelligence professionals, while developing future technologies, protocols and human understanding needed to address the global cybersecurity crisis.

The institute, to be housed in a new, state-of-the art facility, will expand outreach, research, and student-focused programs to help RIT become a nexus of cybersecurity education and research. GCI will bring together academic disciplines—computing, liberal arts, engineering, business and others—to conduct interdisciplinary sociotechnical cybersecurity research. It also will develop industry, government, and academic collaborations, and professional development programs. GCI is expected to open in fall 2020. More.

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.

Living and breathing science: Becoming a biologist

23 Jul

Alicia Wooten, a young woman with dark hair in a lab coat, smiles up at the camera.

“I always had an interest in how the body protects itself,” says Alicia Wooten, ’11. “The thing I love about immunology is that it is always evolving.”

Wooten, who hails from San Antonio, TX, and graduated from RIT’s College of Science with a B.S. in biomedical sciences in 2011, successfully defended her dissertation at Boston University in early June.

Her research focused on Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia, and how a specific molecule, called cyclic di-AMP, affects the way white blood cells respond to the infection. This fits Wooten’s interests in a specific way.

“Every person, every organ, every disease—immunology works the same, yet different. It’s like a puzzle, trying to fit the pieces together, and I really enjoy that,” says Wooten.

Wooten’s interest in lung-based research was sparked by the loss of her mother to lung cancer while Wooten was attending RIT, and was spurred further by mentors who encouraged her to continue working.

“My research mentor, Dr. Hyla Sweet—without her, I never would have gained experience of what lab life looks like,” says Wooten. “Carla Deibel and Dr. Matt Lynn were also integral to my success at RIT, and their tutoring support really helped me.”

The infrastructure of academic support available to deaf and hard-of-hearing students at RIT/NTID benefited Wooten as she took advantage of RIT’s academic offerings.

“I’ll never forget taking tissue culture and microbiology courses,” she adds. “I still talk about Dr. Thomas Frederick’s microbiology lab to this day. His energy and passion—that is the type of teacher I want to be. I also enjoyed Dr. Sandra Connelly’s general biology course and how she made the information easy and interesting.”

Wooten takes the examples of her RIT professors and NTID support staff and faculty with her as she embarks on the next step of her journey, as a newly-hired tenure-track assistant professor of biology at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

Wooten admits that she only reached this point in her post-college career after some searching. “I ended up taking a gap year to figure things out,” she says. “During that time, I tutored K-12 students. I realized how much I missed doing science and also recognized how much I liked teaching.”

Starting at that realization and ending with a complete dissertation took time and effort, according to Wooten. “My advice is: Set your goals high. I always wanted to do something I was proud of and so I always kept improving myself. I never stopped reaching and I didn’t give up.”

Wooten followed her own advice. “One of my favorite stories that I like to tell people is how I got into graduate school. It actually took three years. During my senior year at RIT, one professor encouraged me to apply to graduate school. I decided to apply to one school and see what happened. I got rejected.”

After some time and more applications, she came to feel that graduate school might not be a good fit for her, but chose not to stop there.

Instead, Wooten enrolled in the University of Rochester’s PREP post-baccalaureate program, which aims to support students from underrepresented groups with recent degrees in biomedical-related fields in developing the skills needed to continue their academic career.

“After all of the feedback and changes [in PREP], I went all out and applied to eight schools. I got interviews at six, and was accepted at all six,” says Wooten.

“If you want something badly enough, keep fighting for it.”

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.