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In honor of our centennial anniversary, we are featuring members of our optometry community — past and present — each day of 2023!

See below for this week’s profiles.

This Week, We Are Celebrating…

October 30th

Emily Ward, MSc

Emily Ward is a vision science student at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science. She earned her BS from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she double-majored in cell/molecular biology and neuroscience and minored in chemistry. (Roll Wave!) She then did her MSc Biological Sciences by Research at Royal Holloway, University of London. There, she carried out a project related to neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative disease. After graduating (and during the pandemic), Emily worked as a Medical Writer in New York City for 2 years. This experience gifted her valuable insights and perspective into the clinical applications and patient-centered approaches to science.

After having worked as a Medical Writer, Emily decided she wanted to apply her wet-lab background in a multidisciplinary research setting where she would also gain exposure to clinical methods and real patients. She aspires to be a scientist who focuses on how her work at the bench will translate into improved patient experiences in the clinic. This program allows her to merge this goal with her long-standing love of vision science as a discipline.

Emily plans to research retinal degeneration, optic neuropathy, and/or the structure-function relationship of retinal disease. In the long term, she is also interested in topics related to visual perception and how it may apply to studies of cognition, consciousness, and psychedelics. Vision science is a broad (and great) realm which happens to encompass all her interests! Emily’s goal is to become a faculty member of the UC Berkeley School of Optometry & Vision Science! Her hobbies include writing, reading, running/hiking, skiing, and seeing live music.

October 31st

John Corzine, OD, FAAO

Dr. John Corzine, Health Sciences Clinical Professor Emeritus, received a BA in Psychology from UC Berkeley in 1978 and, after a gap decade spent mostly at various jobs in Alaska and traveling between them, returned to study optometry. He received his OD in 1992 and completed a residency in contact lenses at the School in 1993. He joined the faculty in 1995, teaching both in clinic and in the preclinic lab. For many years, he and classmate Robert Greer were in charge of the first-year procedures course, where they had the honor and pleasure of introducing our new students to the concepts and mechanics of optometric examination techniques.

Dr. Corzine eventually ran the second-year didactic contact lens course as well and served as Chief of the Contact Lens Clinic. During his career, other positions included Associate Dean for Clinical Instruction, Graduate Advisor, and Chair of the optometry Admissions Committee. He retired in 2021, but still lives in the area and has a hard time staying away, frequently visiting the School for one reason or another.

November 1st

Graham K. Chung, OD

Dr. Graham K. Chung is a Class of 2023 graduate of the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but his family moved to Hong Kong when he was very young. He went to primary through high school in Hong Kong and finally moved back to the US for his college education at UC Davis. After graduating UC Davis, he took a couple years off and worked as a technician and optician at two practices around the Sacramento area. During optometry school, he was extremely involved in leadership roles within his class and the optometry community. In his free time, he likes to hang out with friends, binge TV shows and dance. Click here to read more about Dr. Chung.

November 2nd

Melanie Akau, OD, FAAO

Dr. Melanie Akau was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and attended The University of Texas at Austin where she majored in Violin Performance and on the weekends and summers worked at a local optometry office as a technician and front desk receptionist. It was after visiting Berkeley for the first time during interview day that Dr. Akau loved the student-led atmosphere of the school as well as the large campus feeling and decided to attend The Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science!

After graduation, Melanie moved to Boston, Massachusetts for a residency in ocular disease and primary care at the West Roxbury VA Medical Center followed by a two-year research fellowship at the Jamaica Plain VAMC. It was during residency that Dr. Akau developed an interest in neuro-ophthalmic conditions, inpatient care, and acute eye issues in the emergency room. She completed two more years on the east coast working in a private MD/OD practice and a private OD practice; her extracurricular highlight was playing in the Brookline Symphony Orchestra for four years.

For the past six years, Dr. Akau has been a Clinical Instructor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, UCHealth Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center. Her current roles also include Medical Director of Staff Education and part of the Neuro-Ophthalmology Collaborative Care Team alongside three faculty neuro-ophthalmologists.

Melanie currently resides in Denver with her husband and their two daughters and enjoys weekends of kid-related activities with their neighbors, exercising when she can, and one day is determined to pick up her violin again!

November 3rd

Larry N. Thibos, PhD, DSc, FAAO, FOSA

Dr. Larry N. Thibos is Professor Emeritus at the Indiana University School of Optometry. He was born on Christmas Day, 1947, in Detroit, Michigan, and earned BS (1970) and MS (1972) degrees in Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan. His PhD in Physiological Optics (1975) at the University of California, Berkeley was awarded for research on the neurophysiological mechanisms of sensitivity control in the vertebrate retina.

As a Research Fellow (1975-1983) working with Professsor W.R. Levick at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, his neurophysiology research grew to encompass additional aspects of visual information processing. In 1983 Thibos joined the Visual Sciences faculty of the School of Optometry at Indiana University where he taught vision science and investigated the optical and retinal limits to vision until his retirement in 2012.

Professor Thibos served on the editorial boards of Journal of the Optical Society of America (1993-99), Optometry and Vision Science (1993-99), Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics (2007-2015) and Journal of Optometry (2008-present). The American Academy of Optometry awarded Thibos the 1997 Glenn A. Fry Award for Vision Research, and the 2012 Prentice Medal in recognition of contributions to advancement of knowledge in the visual sciences. In 2014 the British College of Optometrists presented Dr. Thibos with the inaugural Presidential Medal for his contributions to optometric research.

Professor Thibos is especially proud of his contribution to the scientific lexicon, including scoton (the elementary particle of darkness, 1990), power vector (a mathematical representation of sphero-cylindrical lenses, 1997), aberrometer (an instrument for measuring optical aberrations of the eye, 1999), and xerop (a hypothetical drop of dryness that causes thinning of the tear film, 2011). His favorite graphical innovations are the Zernike tree (a periodic table of the Zernike polynomials, 2001) and the astigmatism airplane (a whimsical piece of optical origami, 2012).

His research in visual optics with perennial colleagues Arthur Bradley and Raymond Applegate focused on the nature of the eye’s optical flaws and how those flaws affect vision. His team’s development of the Indiana Eye optical model that embodies all of the eye’s major optical aberrations provides a simple framework for computing their effect on the quality of the retinal image.

A popular clinical application of this work was the invention of Power Vectors for the description and statistical analysis of refractive errors. Aberrometry is another clinical application, for which Thibos led the development of ANSI and ISO standards for reporting ocular aberrations. His group was the first to build and use a wavefront aberrometer to quantify the optical defects of a large population of normal eyes, which proved to be a useful standard for assessing abnormal conditions such as dry eye, corneal disease, refractive surgery, and cataract. Dr. Thibos’s work in visual optics culminated in an optical model of the normal human eye that accounts for all of the eye’s optical aberrations across the central visual field and their changes with accommodation.

Prof. Thibos’s research in visual neuroscience began at UC Berkeley with his mentor Prof. Ralph Freeman. Together they gathered the first electrophysiological evidence that abnormal early visual experience (caused by astigmatism) can modify the human brain (to produce meridional amblyopia). For his PhD thesis, guided by Prof. Frank Werblin, Thibos demonstrated quantitatively how the amphibian retina controls its own sensitivity to light by a neural mechanism of lateral antagonism. Later, Thibos and his mentor Prof. William Levick at ANU challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that the cerebral cortex is the first site of complex neural processing in vision. They showed that many aspects of visual processing are already determined in the retina, where there is rich diversity of receptive field classes, temporal and spatial selectivity, and systematic preference for oriented stimulus contours.

Prof. Thibos’s research in visual perception has explored how retinal architecture limits visual capacity throughout the visual field. Initial work with students at Indiana demonstrated for the first time that spatial patterns too fine to be resolved in the peripheral visual field can nevertheless be reliably detected as aliases of the stimulus. Aliasing is an illusory percept that begins at spatial frequencies slightly greater than the classical resolution limit, which proves that peripheral acuity is limited by the coarse spacing of visual neurons rather than by increased size of their receptive fields.

At any given eccentricity, the finest detectable pattern has a much smaller spatial period which approaches the diameter of individual cone photoreceptors. Those initial findings launched a 40 year collaboration with esteemed colleague Arthur Bradley, which included the first systematic survey of sampling-limited resolution acuity across the entire visual field. That survey confirmed that “pixel density” of the discrete neural image carried by the optic nerve limits the spatial bandwidth of veridical perception at all retinal locations.

Moreover, resolution acuity is largely independent of illuminance at any given retinal location. That surprising result suggests that the well-known phenomenon “more light makes better sight” is an eccentricity effect: observers employ a fixation strategy that optimizes resolution for the available level of illumination. Comparison of visual acuity with anatomical sampling density of retinal neurons further suggests that mesopic acuity at all eccentricities, and scotopic acuity for eccentricities beyond 20 degrees, is limited by the spacing between midget ganglion cells.

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