A team from the Rochester Institute of Technology have been named winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Inclusion and Diversity Award, which celebrates those who strive to improve access to and progression in the chemical sciences for all.
The SLICE (Incorporation of Sign Language in Chemistry Education) team won the award for launching and disseminating an innovative lexicon of sign language to facilitate the learning of organic chemistry by students who are deaf and hard of hearing. They join a prestigious list of past winners of the RSC’s prize portfolio, 50 of whom have won Nobel Prizes for their work. The team also receives over $6,000, a medal and individual certificates.
The team is led by Professor Christina Goudreau Collison of the School of Chemistry and Materials Science and Jennifer Swartzenberg, SLICE Coordinator and Lecturer in the Department of Science and Mathematics at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. . Six RIT alumni contributed to the project as SLICE team language creators and video signers, including Kaitlyn Clark ’20 (Chemistry); Asma Sheikh ’20 (biomedical sciences); Ashley Gleason ’20 (biomedical sciences); Cody Cummings ’17 (Lab Science Technology); Jonathan Dominguez ’20 (biomedical sciences), ’21 MS (chemistry); and Michelle Mailhot ’20 (biotechnology and molecular bioscience).
The work of the SLICE team will have a significant impact on the deaf and hard of hearing community. Nationally recognized ASL chemistry panels will provide deaf and hearing scientists with the opportunity to strengthen their connection and facilitate their communication and understanding of organic chemistry. Moreover, sign language can now be integrated into the education system for how all students and teachers will be taught in science fields in the future.
“I was thrilled to hear that our team won this award,” said Goudreau Collison. “The exorbitant number of hours that each member contributed to the project was not done for their own gain, but knowing that what we were doing would help others. Being recognized for these efforts is the icing on the cake. We hopefully this recognition will reach others to inspire much more work and collaborations in this direction.
Swartzenberg added, “This work is crucial for deaf scientists because you can’t learn science by finger spelling. Without full development of ASL signs, scientific content has very little meaning to deaf people. Having signs that convey the meaning of words, which were previously spelled out with the fingers, adds value to the educational experience of the deaf person. It changes their world because now the content can be described in their native language and has real meaning. »
Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “With our Inclusion and Diversity Award, we are proud to celebrate those who have gone above and beyond to make the chemical sciences a more accessible, inclusive and diversified. The Integrating Sign Language into Chemistry Education team has demonstrated that they share our passion for fairness and eliminating bias in the chemical sciences and in doing so have set a standard to which others may aspire. It is for this reason that we are delighted to recognize their efforts today.
For more information on the SRC’s award portfolio, visit CBC website.