The Workshop for Emerging Deaf and Hard of Hearing Scientists aimed to increase the representation of individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. The workshop was held at Gallaudet University on a Thursday and Friday with support from the National Science Foundation through the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering’s AccessComputing project and the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Division. High school, college, and graduate students as well as K-12 educators, sign language interpreters, university professors, and government employees working in STEM fields were invited to participate in the workshop.

Despite the fact that scientists who are deaf and hard of hearing have made significant contributions to STEM fields, they continue to be underrepresented both as students and professionals in STEM fields. The workshop's goals were to:

  1. establish a mentoring network of students who are deaf and hard of hearing at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate level, as well as established professionals;
  2. educate individuals about and promote use of the ASL-STEM forum for fluid exchange of technical signs;
  3. develop strategies for improving and expanding interpreter and captioner vocabulary and computer databases to include terms such as mathematical symbols;
  4. increase inclusion of people who are deaf and hard of hearing in ongoing, federally funded research projects and developing strategies on how to facilitate interactions between people who are hearing and people who are deaf and hard of hearing; and
  5. formulate a white paper that states the needs for deaf and hard of hearing scientists to succeed in STEM-based careers.

Participants and Location

The workshop was planned by a committee chaired by Professor Caroline Solomon from Gallaudet University and included other faculty members from Gallaudet, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), University of Washington, and San Francisco State University. The ninety-seven participants attending the workshop included high school, college, and graduate students; K12 educators, sign language interpreters, professors, and government professionals. Over half of the participants (55%) identified as deaf and another 17% identified as hard of hearing. Participants came from many STEM fields, including psychology, biomedical sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, computer science, and agricultural sciences.

The workshop was held at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.. Holding the conference at a university with a population that includes many individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing meant that the workshop was conveniently located to a number of possible participants. Participants were recruited by sending announcements to organizations of people who are deaf and hard of hearing, personal contacts, and a variety of electronic mailing lists that reach different populations, including Deaf Academics and PEP-NET.

Activities and Logistics

The two-day workshop was inspired by vertical mentoring, the idea that students and professionals benefit from learning from others who are one stage further along the career trajectory. First year college students benefit from mentoring upper-level college students while graduate students near completion benefit from learning from recent Ph.D. recipients. Vertical mentoring also emphasizes the value of having multiple mentors with varying stages of education or different careers.

Featured speakers included Harry Lang from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT, Becky Wai-Ling Packard of Mt. Holyoke College, and Linda Campbell from St. Mary's University. Panels and breakout sessions provided an opportunity for in-depth discussion on mentoring relationships between STEM students and faculty, resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in specific disciplines, and research experiences for undergraduates (REUs). The agenda was as follows:


7:00-9:00 Check In/ Registration / Breakfast


Caroline Solomon, Workshop Chairperson
Stephen Weiner, Provost, Gallaudet University

Keynote: History of Science: The Deaf Experience
Harry Lang, National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT

10:00-10:30 Morning Snack Break


Keynote: Mentoring: Investing in Our Future
Becky Wai-Ling Packard, Mt. Holyoke College

11:30-12:30 Breakout Sessions: Exploring the Role of Mentors

Moderators: Shannon Graham, University of Tennessee; Ryan Kobylarz, University of Maryland; Michelle Cooke, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

12:30-1:30 Lunch

1:30-2:30 Panel: Student Experiences in STEM

Moderator: Ronald Painter, San Francisco State University
Justin Cha, High School Student
Debra Ann Droopad, College Student
Norb Biderman, Graduate Student
Derek Braun, past Post-Doctoral Scholar

2:30-3:00 Breakout Sessions: Student Experiences in STEM: A Discussion

Interactions Between High School and College Students
Moderator: Gianni Manganelli, RIT

Interactions Between College and Graduate Students
Moderator: Patrick Conway, University of Washington

Interactions Between Graduate Students and Professionals
Moderator: John Paul Phillips, Glendale Community College

3:00-3:30 Afternoon Snack Break

3:30-4:30 Panel: Resources in STEM

Richard Ladner, University of Washington
Harry Lang, National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT
Jason Hurdich, TERC

4:30-5:00 Breakouts Sessions: Challenges and Resources in Different STEM Disciplines

Biological Sciences
Caroline Solomon, Biology
Derek Braun, Biology

Physical Sciences
Daniel Lundberg, Chemistry
Ronald Painter, Chemistry

Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics
Richard Ladner, Computer Science
Raja Kushalnagar, Computer Science
Regina Nuzzo, Statistics


8:00-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-10:00 Panel: Mentor Experiences in STEM

Moderator: Caroline Solomon, Gallaudet University
Mary Ellsworth, Model Secondary School for the Deaf at Gallaudet University
Dainiel Lundberg, Gallaudet University
Jehan-Francois Paris, University of Houston
Linda Campbell, Saint Mary’s University

10:00-11:00 Breakout Sessions: What are the Challenges in Mentoring?

Moderator: Mary Ellsworth, Clerc Center at Gallaudet University

REU Programs
Moderator: Ellen Neidle, University of Georgia

Moderator: Bill Yuknis, NASA, Goddard

11:00-11:30 Morning Snack Break

11:30-12:30 Breakout Sessions: Networking or Interpreting in the Sciences

Networking 1
Moderator: Jon Mowl, Defense Logistics Agency

Networking 2
Moderator: Taiyabah Naeem, Model Secondary School for the Deaf at Gallaudet University

11:30 -1:00 Interpreting in the Sciences (Webinar)

Moderator: Elizabeth Gregorich, Gallaudet University

12:30-1:30 Lunch

1:30-2:30 Keynote: The Glass Wall: Deaf Faculty in Hearing Universities

Linda Campbell, Saint Mary’s University

2:30-3:30 Breakout Sessions: Next Steps in the Pipeline

REU Opportunities for College Students
Moderator: Peggy Cebe, Tufts

Funding Opportunities for Graduate Students and Professionals
Mark Leddy, National Science Foundation, Research in Disabilities Education
Janet Cyr, National Institute of Health
David Rockcliffe, National Science Foundation, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

Employment Opportunities
NASA, Department of Energy, US Environmental Protection Agency

3:30-4:00 Afternoon Snack Break

4:00-5:30 Wrap Up: Where Do We Go From Here?

Activities related to establishing a formal organization for deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists; white paper workgroups and other activities

In addition to attending sessions, students and professionals who attended were able to network with each other, share resources, and develop strategies to be successful in STEM education and careers. In order to attract students from across the country, scholarships were available for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students who are deaf and hard of hearing to cover the cost of travel, lodging, and meals.


Funding for the workshop was provided by AccessComputing as well as a workshop grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences. AccessComputing funding covered the costs of hiring a conference planner to reserve meeting space and hotel rooms, marketing, ASL and cued speech interpreters and captioners, and airfare for participants to attend the workshop.


Overall, the evaluation data indicates that the event was a success. Out of ninety-seven attendees, twenty-nine participants returned evaluation forms. A majority of respondents (88%) indicated that the conference met their needs. About half of the attendees (48%) found the amount of interaction and discussion in the design of the conference to be excellent. The remaining 52% found it to be good. Likewise, 83% of attendees rated the presenters as excellent and 17% rated them as good. More than half of the attendees rated the conference as excellent overall (59%), while 41% rated it as good overall. Notably, on these three items, no attendees answered the item with fair or poor. Most of the respondents (93%) found the organization of the conference to be very logical or logical while 83% of respondents found the handouts and other materials to be very helpful or helpful.

When asked “What did you like the best about the workshop?” many participants noted that the conference was inspirational and that they benefited from networking. Responses included the following:

  • The networking, observing scientists from different disciplines talking about their work.
  • Inspired me! Knowing that there are so many deaf and hard of hearing people in the science field.
  • Networking and meeting new people.
  • Very inspirational, informative, and resourceful.

Participants were also asked “What would you recommend to be changed or improved in future workshops?” Many participants indicated that they would like more time for networking and learning about other attendees’ experiences:

  • Would like more networking and presentations by high school students, graduate students, and professors.
  • Not enough of a showcase of individuals’ work.
  • Wish I met people in my field.

After the conference, a Facebook group was created to facilitate further networking. The group has been used to share strategies and resources related to job interviews, graduate school, internships, scholarships, and conference calls.

Several participants, including workshop planning committee members, contributed chapters to a white paper including information and resources from discussions at the workshop and the current body of literature on scientists who are deaf and hard of hearing. The paper considers the experiences of both students and professionals who are deaf or head of hearing, ways for students who are deaf and hard of hearing to engage in research, technical resources for students and professionals, and interpreting in STEM fields. The paper has been disseminated widely to universities, national organizations for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, STEM professional societies, individuals who work with students who are deaf and hard of hearing, and other stakeholders, and is available online.

A conference paper titled, “Where are the leaks for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Pipeline?” stemmed out of one of the white paper chapters on student experiences. The paper was presented at the 2013 American Educational Research Association meeting in San Francisco, CA.

Lessons Learned

The Workshop for Emerging Deaf and Hard of Hearing Scientists built a community amongst scientists who are deaf and hard of hearing, who are often isolated geographically and within in their disciplines. Holding an in-person meeting can help to form lasting relationships that can benefit both students and professionals.

For those who wish to conduct a professional development workshop for individuals who have disabilities, project organizers suggest the following:

  • Location. It is important to consider holding the event in an area that has a large amount of the population that you are trying to attract. Hosting the Workshop for Emerging Deaf and Hard of Hearing Scientists at Gallaudet University allowed for a large population of scientists who are deaf and hard of hearing who live in the area to participate.
  • Personal networks. It is vital to make use of personal networks to recruit participants. Participants for the Workshop for Emerging Deaf and Hard of Hearing Scientists were recruited by making use of organizers’ extensive network of professionals who work with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Role models. Many attendees said that the event was inspirational. When planning mentoring and networking events, it is important to include time in the schedule for participants to interact with each other. Although significant portions of the workshop were intended for networking, this was a common suggestion from attendees.
  • Data collection. The purpose of the workshop was twofold: to allow people to network and to gather information about their experiences for the purposes of documentation. Prior to the workshop, institutional review board approval was obtained to gather demographic information on the participants. The questions asked in the sessions were designed through consultation with experts in science education about how to best capture the appropriate data. Real-time captioning transcripts were kept from all break-out groups, panel discussions, and keynote presentations for data analysis. The data and transcripts enriched the content of the white paper.
  • Future relationships. Participants need means to continue building relationships after the event. The Facebook group created after the event has continued to be a place to network for the group that attended the workshop, however is not accessible to all participants. Although the Facebook group is a good solution for now, there are plans to move from the Facebook group to somewhere that will allow everyone to participate whether or not they use social media.
  • Disseminate information. It is important to share the information discussed at the in-person workshop with the larger community. The white paper has helped to continue the conversation among scientists who are deaf and hard of hearing and acted as a data source for grant proposals aiming to broaden participation of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in STEM fields. Transcripts of sessions produced through real-time captioning also provided notes that can be shared with others.