Deaf scientists discussed research, mentorship opportunities, and interpreting challenges during an all-day workshop at Gallaudet on June 2. The event was coordinated with the opening of the new ten-week program for undergraduates called Accessible and Inclusive Biomedical Informatics and Data Science (AIBIDS). Funding was provided in part by the National Library of Medicine (Grant R25 LM014208) and a University of Pittsburgh Momentum Teaming grant.

AIBIDS encourages students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue scientific careers. Participants are spending the summer working on projects either at Gallaudet or the University of Pittsburgh. “The goal is to train them and get them to stay in the field,”
explains co-program director Dr. Gaurav Arora, Associate Professor of Biology in Gallaudet’s School of Science, Technology, Accessibility, Mathematics, and Public Health (STAMP).

Arora’s research focuses on viruses that infect bacteria and whether they are responsible for creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The other Gallaudet professor involved is Dr. Tugba Kucukkal, who is inviting an AIBIDS student to her team to assist with her cancer drug experiments, looking at the potential of specially selected molecules. “It’s an application of what they’ve learned in physics, chemistry, and mathematics,” she says. “They can see it in action.”

Although students are on two campuses, the program pulls them together for regular online meet-ups for sessions devoted to writing skills and other topics. The Gallaudet workshop was a chance for face-to-face interaction and research-focused discussions, notes Dr. Richard Boyce, Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, who is the principal investigator of the Momentum Teaming award and also the Pittsburgh site director for AIBIDS. Participants will meet up again when they present their work on the University of Pittsburgh campus later this summer.

Provost Dr. Khadijat Rashid, ’90; Dean of Research Dr. Poorna Kushalnagar, ’93, and STAMP Director Dr. Caroline Solomon introduced attendees to the thriving research environment at Gallaudet. Solomon also presented on Gallaudet’s Global Year of STEM Sign Language Lexicons project, looking at how these lexicons are being developed and used. One special feature of AIBIDS is that it includes an American Sign Language interpreting student, who is conducting an internship with the AIBIDS interpreting team while receiving additional mentoring from leaders in ASL education and STEM ASL lexicon development.

After students met with Dr. Patti Brennan, Director of the National Library of Medicine, and Chief Program Officer Dr. Meryl Sufian, there was a keynote address delivered by Dr. Alex Lu of Microsoft Research New England. He detailed how machine learning allows computers to rapidly comb through data, leading to biological breakthroughs.

That presentation was a highlight for Sophie Kiehl, a student at Colorado State University, who hopes to work in a related area. Students were also captivated by a panel on breaking down barriers to careers in science that was moderated by Solomon and featured Dr. Sarah Latchney, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Dr. Phu Duong, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Rochester; Megan Majocha, ’18, a doctoral student in tumor biology in the NIH-Georgetown Partnership Program; and Dr. Alicia Wooten, Assistant Professor of Biology at Gallaudet.

The conversation explored their various experiences in school, lab settings, and professional conferences. They shared advice on how to self-advocate and build up a network of peers and advisors. “Regardless of the challenges, there are people who want to, and who want to mentor you,” Latchney told them.

Maameyaa Asiamah, a chemistry major at Rochester Institute of Technology, appreciates that AIBIDS provides opportunities for students to start forming these relationships. “For the next stage of life, I want to be ready,” she says.

The program concluded with a discussion between Pittsburgh and Gallaudet Momentum team members and advisors about preliminary results from an ongoing study of novel visual assistance technology for STEM education, including planning for future grant submissions.

Recent News

Stay up to date on all the gallaudet happenings, both stories, and initiatives, we are doing with our Signing community!