2008 Focus Award Recipients

Faculty/Academic Award: Bradley Duerstock, Richard Borgens, John Cirillo, J. Paul Robinson, Wamiq Ahmed, and Ala Samarapungavan

Bradley Duerstock was an Assistant Research Professor at the Center for Paralysis Research when he was awarded the Focus Award; Dr. Duerstock was  the project's principal investigator. Dr. Duerstock is now an Associate Professor of Engineering Practice in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. Richard Borgens, Mari Hulman George Professor of Applied Neuroscience and Director of the Center for Paralysis Research; Dr. Borgens was the principal investigator during the first phase of the project. John Cirillo, Electronics/Computer Specialist at the Center for Paralysis Research; Mr. Cirillo provided his electronics expertise throughout both phases of the project and was a team member. J. Paul Robinson, School of Veterinary Medicine Professor of Cytomics, professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Director of the Purdue University Cytometry Laboratories, and Deputy Director for Cytometrics and Imaging in the Bindley Biosciences Center; Dr. Robinson served as consultant to the project. Wamiq Ahmed, was a Graduate Research Assistant in Basic Medical Sciences when he received the Focus Award; Dr. Ahmed earned his doctoral degree from Purdue University. He developed the software for the project. Ala Samarapungavan, was an Associate Professor in Educational Psychology and Interim Head, Department of Educational Studies when she was awarded the Focus Award; Dr. Samarapungavan contributed her expertise in the area of assessment to the project.  Dr. Samarapungavan is now a Full Professor and Department Head of Educational Studies.

The AccessScope Project was designed and developed to allow persons with mobility impairments to independently control all aspects of light microscopy. The AccessScope Project system can perform brightfield and fluorescence microscopy, image analysis, and tissue morphometry necessary for undergraduate science coursework to graduate level research. The goal of the AccessScope Project was to allow students with disabilities to be able to perform light microscopy with minimal or no assistance required, eliminating the need to hire an assistant or rely on the assistance of a "lab buddy" or classmate.

The Project operates under the belief that access to light microscopy is necessary for students with disabilities to learn one of the most essential laboratory techniques utilized in the life and physical sciences. Project team members hoped to foster activity-based learning by allowing students with mobility and visual impairments the capability to independently operate a microscope. Microscopy is one of the most common laboratory techniques used in the biological, geological, food, and materials sciences. Accessible microscopy is especially important when students are ready to perform independent research and continue a career in the STEM fields.

Methods that promote access in the laboratory environment would not only permit students with disabilities physical accommodation, but would allow them to interact more in classroom demonstrations and to actively participate in laboratory exercises. Physical access to classrooms and laboratories is important, but active participation of students with disabilities is paramount for learning. The ability of students to actively explore and interact with scientific concepts and practices grants a more thorough educational experience than simply observing. Activity-based learning is important for students with disabilities to gain the same educational experiences as their classmates.

Staff Award: Robert Mate and Gail Polles

Robert "Rob" Mate, Associate Dean of Students, Office of the Dean of Students and Gail Polles, Staff Therapist, Purdue University Student Health Center.

When Ms. Polles was awarded the Focus Award, she was a member of the University's counseling staff in Counseling and Psychological Services, which she had become a member of in the fall of 1991. Mr. Mate began his career at Purdue as a Graduate Administrative Professional in 1993 and is now an Associate Dean of Students.

Success in college is dependent on a number of prerequisite skills that don't come naturally to individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. College students must develop the ability to juggle competing social and academic demands and to independently form daily routines. They must also have acquired the strategies needed to complete long-term papers and projects, to conquer the voluminous reading assignments, and to prepare for infrequent tests.

About three years prior to receiving the Focus Award, these two staff members saw a need. A need for students diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or AD/HD, to have an opportunity to learn how to cope with college life and incorporate strategies to manage their disorder. To assist this group of students, Mr. Mate and Ms. Polles developed a coaching group, Make It Happen, that facilitated skill development, and provided support, structure, and feedback. Specifically, the coaching group promoted growth and independence, helped with skill development, and addressed the practical matters of daily living and of academic, social, and personal skills, to name some areas of development that were touched on at group meetings.

Both Ms. Polles and Mr. Mate have jobs at the University that entail full-time duties. Make It Happen was formed, by these two individuals who are part of two different offices on campus, because Ms. Polles and Mr. Mate saw a need and worked together to meet that need for students with AD/HD in order to provide an avenue for success at the University and beyond.

Student Award: Chelsea Koch and Jamie Sommers

Chelsea Koch was a senior in the School of Health Sciences when she received the Focus Award. Her major was Preoccupational Therapy. Jamie Sommers was a senior in the College of Engineering when she received the Focus Award.  Her major was Materials Engineering.

Ms. Koch served as a service provider for students with disabilities for Adaptive Programs, now known as the Disability Resource Center, since the fall of 2004. She performed notetaking, reading, and tutoring services.

Beginning in August 2005, Ms. Sommers worked as a service provider for students with disabilities. Her primary job was to provide notetaker service. She was also a reader and a scribe for students who required assistance during exams.

As notetakers, Ms. Sommers and Ms. Koch attended classes with students with disabilities, to take detailed notes, and interacted with the students before or after class to clarify/explain the lecture material.

In addition, Ms. Sommers assisted a blind student in three physics and technology labs, where she was responsible for working with the instructor to make the procedures and exercises accessible.

During their years as members of the Adaptive Programs team, Ms. Koch and Ms. Sommers worked with students with a range of physical disabilities.

Both women are described as warm, expressive, enthusiastic, compassionate, competent, and extremely responsible. They seem to have infinite energy, a consistently optimistic orientation toward life, and a high degree of self-confidence. The students for whom they have worked gave them superlative evaluations, describing them as dependable, patient, sensitive, conscientious, and very well organized. Despite their numerous commitments, both Jamie and Chelsea were able to maintain an outstanding academic record while serving students in a highly professional manner.