RIT genomics lab, Golisano Autism Center flourishing one year after receiving state grant

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – Next week, Empire State Development will announce the projects it’s funding for 2020. Over the past eight years, the state has funded more projects in the Finger Lakes Region than any other region in the state.

Each year the Finger Lakes Regional Council receives hundreds of applications from people looking to fund new projects. The ones that best meet the region’s goals are chosen.

It’s been nearly a year since some local organizations were awarded this money and began working on some of these groundbreaking projects. One of those winning projects is the Rochester Institute of Technology’s genomics lab.

Nicole Cavanaugh is just finishing her undergraduate degree at RIT. She said working in a genomics lab prepared her for the future.

“It’s really awesome to me to be able to have this hands-on experience which most undergrads don’t get at their schools ever so that’s been really important and now I want to go into a genomics focus for my Ph.D. program in the future,” Cavanaugh said.

Being only one year into a three-year grant, there’s still a lot ahead. Associate dean Larry Buckley said it’s already a game-changer for RIT’s programs.

“It’s both helped the curriculum bring it up to date bring students and their faculty the ability to deliver modern biological tools genomics tools but it has also helped students move on post-degree to get into careers,” Buckley said.

Increasing jobs, reducing poverty, and increasing regional wealth are some of the goals the region is trying to meet through these innovative projects. Project proposals can range from construction, to capital, to environmental improvement.

Another winning project from last year is the Golisano Autism Center. Mary Walsh Boatfield is the board chair of the center who was part of the three-year planning process. She said it offers lifetime services for people with autism and their families.

“It’s been a vision for a few years we know of nothing like this in New York state or even in the country,” said Boatfield.

The center is currently serving 60 students ages two through 21 in it’s educational and transitional programs. The center has provided about 1,500 music, physical, and occupational therapy services since opening three months ago. Boatfield said they’ve almost met their fundraising goal of $9 million, and she looks forward to seeing where the center goes from here.

“We continue to look for unmet needs. Families come here because it’s a one-stop-shop and they can get a number of different services in one place,” she said.

This year’s winners will be announced Thursday in Albany. Out of around 250 applicants about a third of them are chosen to be funded each year.

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