Beginning in 2008, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported an annual conference for students and post-doctoral fellows affiliated with each of its six Science of Learning Centers (SLCs). An inter-center gathering, it is known as iSLC. The fourth annual iSLC Conference will be hosted by the Visual Language and Visual Learning Center (VL2) at Gallaudet from March 25 to March 27. Dr. Thomas Allen, the co-principal investigator of VL2, and Dr. Shilpa Hanumantha, a VL2 post-doctoral fellow, are the primary organizers of the conference. The theme of iSLC 2011 is “Researching Communication and Communicating Research.” Not only will attendees present and discuss ongoing research on language and communication at the six centers, they will also consider the implications for communicating research findings in a way that is accessible to all audiences, including laypeople, educators, and policymakers.

The broader goal of the conference is to enhance the opportunities for cross-center collaboration and to share strategies for communicating research. The conference will consist of symposia, networking activities, poster sessions, and workshops on methodology. To better encourage cross- and inter-disciplinary connections, two speakers from different SLCs will present at each of the symposia. Over 90 students and post-doctoral fellows from all six of the centers from around the United States will attend. Former graduate-level researchers will also be present to discuss their work and the transition between graduate studies and a career in the sciences.

Attendees at this year’s iSLC will have a unique experience in that they will be attending the conference at a university campus where language use is bilingual and bimodal, a first for many of the participants. All sessions will either be signed or interpreted. Sign language interpreters will be provided for after-conference and between-session networking. Participants will also be given an introduction to the deaf cultural and sociolinguistic community through workshops, a performance in ASL, and a tour of the campus’ haunted sites given by Gallaudet alumni and Provost Stephen Weiner. The setting will serve as a literal reminder of the ongoing importance of effective communication and the need to bridge differences in the sciences, particularly in light of the NSF’s efforts to increase innovative and interdisciplinary knowledge.

“I think this iSLC meeting is a great opportunity for many reasons,” said Hanumantha. “We can pave a way for deaf and hearing networking, better encourage and maintain the growth of the scientific research community, become allies through potential research projects in the future, share information about possible future jobs, and finally, gain a better understanding of why communication is important. In addition, by setting iSLC at Gallaudet University, participants will benefit by learning about deaf people and our unique and important contributions to the understanding of bilingualism.”

Note: This conference is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SMA-1110960

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