A Sure Sign
Doctoral student Scott Cohen (Ph.D. ’19) brings his passion for science education to the deaf and hard of hearing community.
By Claire Miller
Scott Cohen has been deaf since childhood.
A native of Hawaii, Cohen grew up attending schools for the hard of hearing, which teach using American Sign Language (ASL). He studied conservation biology and ecological restoration in college and completed internships in Hawaii, Nevada and New Jersey before taking a job at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf. He enjoyed leading an ASL-friendly learning environment.
“It was fun learning from my students and building relationships with them,” he said. “I just wish I had more time with them during the school day because not all of them have access to sign language at home. It’s good for them to come to an environment where they can sign.”
Desiring to connect with other science teachers and keep improving in the classroom, Cohen attended the National Science Teacher Association’s annual conference in 2016. There, he met Patrick Enderle, assistant professor of science education at Georgia State, who led one of the pre-conference workshops. They began discussing Cohen’s career, and it wasn’t long before Cohen decided to pursue his doctorate in teaching and learning, a path that required him to transition from a full-time teacher back to a student again.
Going back to school brought with it a unique set of challenges. Because of the complexity of his course material at Georgia State, Cohen would need to work with sign language interpreters in his classes for the first time since elementary school. But he’s adapted to life as a Ph.D. student and appreciates the facilities and resources available to students on campus.
Cohen received a Dean’s Doctoral Fellowship from the College of Education & Human Development to support his doctoral studies and meets regularly with Enderle and assistant professor Jessica Scott to shape his research in science education and deaf education.
He also is a program director for the college’s annual science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) camp for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. The week-long summer camp invites students from across the state to campus to tackle STEM projects, visit local museums and lead poster sessions on what they’ve learned.
“The poster session is my favorite part because the students have to explain their work, and they always shine,” he said.
Once he completes his Ph.D., Cohen says he’d consider working at a university like Georgia State and continuing to conduct research and advocate for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.
“There isn’t much research available that combines science and deaf education, so I hope my work can help fill in some of those gaps,” he said.
Photos by Meg Buscema