The Ramón Margalef Award is given to scientists and educators for excellence in teaching and mentoring in the fields of limnology and oceanography. Dr. Caroline M. Solomon of Gallaudet University has been awarded this distinguished honor for her extraordinary accomplishments in bringing the deaf and hearing worlds in science together, coupled with her exceptional skill as a mentor, educator, and leader to inspire us all. The award will be presented at the Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii 26 February – 03 March, 2017.
As a deaf scientist, Solomon has strived to provide deaf and hard of hearing students with resources, opportunities, and role models in the aquatic sciences. Colleagues cite Solomon’s “usual ‘can do’ attitude and unrelenting commitment to teaching” as providing a platform for student success at Gallaudet University and nationally. Starting in the classroom, Solomon inspires students by serving as a role model, introducing herself as a Harvard graduate and telling her students “If I can do it, you can do it.” In her laboratory, Solomon has hosted 21 deaf students for semester-long and summer internships in aquatic science. In partnership with Maryland Sea Grant College, Solomon connects her interns with REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) students to get out of their comfort zone and explore opportunities outside of Gallaudet University, meet young scientists, and learn about careers in aquatic science. Additionally, Solomon has brought students to ASLO meetings to share their research and meet scientists in their field.
On a national level, Solomon has led and participated in efforts to improve undergraduate education and broaden participation of the deaf and hard of hearing in science fields. In 2012, she led a NSF-sponsored Workshop for Emerging Deaf and Hard of Hearing Scientists to bring together individuals at all career stages, build mentoring relationships, summarize current student opportunities and resources, discuss interpreting in science, and identify needed resources to support future deaf and hard of hearing scientists. In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Washington, Solomon has developed the ASL-STEM (American Sign Language – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) online database of technical signs based on community contributions and rankings, which is critical to building ASL science lexicon and breaking down communication barriers for this underrepresented group in STEM.
While Solomon’s contributions to the deaf community are numerous, her influence on individual students has been tremendous. In nominating her, a former student noted that Solomon “radiated wonderful energy and passion for science. I needed someone like her in my life to enable clearer insights to becoming a scientist in the future.” Solomon’s efforts to involve students from her department in research opportunities has contributed to a four-fold increase in matriculation of undergraduate students into STEM graduate and professional schools. “Caroline Solomon’s efforts for the deaf and hard of hearing student community have garnered her department and university-wide teaching awards and attention by the national media. Any teacher will tell you, though, that the recognition and success of your students is what is most important. In this area, Solomon has truly excelled. The nomination letters from former students tell the story of a dedicated educator who has truly inspired and empowered her students,” said ASLO President Linda Duguay.