Many of the 30 attendees are participating in different programs, sothis was a chance for them to learn about the breadth of researchhappening at Gallaudet. Student researchers on campus this summer are diving into an array of projects involving communication, machine learning, biology, and other scientific fields. But no matter what ground they are focused on breaking, it is also important for them to connect with and learn from each other. The Office of Research hosted a networking lunch in June for them to meet, share experiences, trade lessons learned, and generally have fun. Many of the 30 attendees are participating in different programs, so this was a chance for them to learn about the breadth of research happening at Gallaudet. It was also an opportunity to highlight future opportunities, notes Emmanuel Perrodin-Njoku, Post-Baccalaureate Research Associate at the Center for Deaf Health Equity, who emceed the event. Some of the students on campus this summer are new to research, while others have research experience, but are doing deaf and hard of hearing-centered research for the first time, Perrodin-Njoku explains. As Dr. Poorna Kushalnagar, ’93, Dean of Research, welcomed everyone to the lunch, she stressed the value of having them engaged in the pursuit of more deaf and hard of hearing involvement in the research field. Then she turned the floor over to Perrodin-Njoku to present about his journey as an early-career researcher. Being at Gallaudet is a homecoming of sorts, explained Perrodin-Njoku, who grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. While he was an undergraduate majoring in biomedical sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he took advantage of summer research opportunities at several universities, including an internship at Gallaudet. “That 2017 summer internship here was a great experience that introduced me to public health research,” Perrodin-Njoku said. Building on the work he started that summer, he published a paper last year with Kushalnagar and other collaborators. And the support system he cultivated helped him cope with the pressure of applying to medical school. “When one important meeting left me feeling very dejected, it was my network of academic and research mentors who reminded me of my accomplishments,” he said. “They emphasized their belief in my ability, and that network of supporters, Dr. Kushalnagar among them, is how I'm still pursuing my goal of becoming a physician.” His message to undergraduates is to have an open mind. “This environment can lead you to so many new avenues of work, interests, and friendships, so please make the time to meet new people while you're here,” Perrodin-Njoku said. Then he introduced an icebreaker activity, called “This or That,” which asked participants to choose between two options, such as have money or super-powers, or present to an audience in-person or online. They joined up with the other people who made that same choice, and then each side collectively shared the reasoning behind their decisions. The goal, Perrodin-Njoku noted, was to hopefully bond over these commonalities with students from outside their usual cohorts. Natnail Tolossa, a Rochester Institute of Technology undergraduateparticipating in the Accessible Information and CommunicationsTechnologies program, said the experience encouraged him to keeppursuing a scientific career. “It was an eye-opening experience,” says Natnail Tolossa, a Rochester Institute of Technology undergraduate participating in the Accessible Information and Communications Technologies program, led by Dr. Raja Kushalnagar and Dr. Christian Vogler. He was surprised to see that his path is strikingly similar to the one Perrodin-Njoku has taken. “It encouraged me to keep going,” he adds. For Joseph Palagano, a Gallaudet Ph.D. student assisting Dr. Ilaria Berteletti’s ASL-English Bilingual Summer School in Cognitive and Educational Neuroscience, the lunch was a reminder of the power of collaboration. “It is a starting block or incubator for the future of science,” says Palagano, who was thrilled to see pleasantries start to turn into something deeper.