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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…

June 12th

John G. Flannery, PhD

Dr. John Flannery is a Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science, and Professor of Neurobiology, in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology. Dr. Flannery writes that “our lab seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying diseases of the retina as well as develop novel therapies for their treatment. Retinal Degeneration and blindness result from the loss of rod and cone photoreceptors due to mutations in these cells or in their closely interacting and supportive retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), from environmental or poorly defined age-related factors, or the actions of other retinal neurons, glia or vascular elements.

Relatively little is known about precisely why photoreceptors die in many of the different retinal degenerations, and virtually no effective therapy exists for most of these diseases. One of the major goals of our laboratory is to develop therapeutic approaches that will slow or prevent the loss of rods, cones, RPE and other cells in retinal degenerations. The approaches we are using include the development of next-generation adeno-associated viral vectors for therapeutic gene delivery, gene editing technologies, and the expression of genetically encoded light-sensitive molecules to restore light sensitivity to the retina.

June 13th

Daniel Frozenfar, BS

Daniel Frozenfar is a vision science student from the South Bay Area. As an undergraduate student, he worked in Professor William Saxton’s lab at UC Santa Cruz for 2 years. In the Saxton lab, he studied the structure-function of the cytoskeletal motor protein Kinesin 1. His team’s goal was to find specific amino acid interactions in the heavy chain of kinesin that enabled each of its interesting functions. After graduating, Daniel worked with Professor Richard Kramer for 3 years. In the Kramer lab, he studied the effects of retinoic acid signaling on the progression of vision loss in mouse models of retinitis pigmentosa.

The visual system, and specifically the retina, were Daniel’s favorite neural circuits from undergrad. After graduating, he wanted to switch from molecular biology to neuroscience research, and joined the Kramer Lab to learn more about the retina and electrophysiology. Daniel is interested in studying functional architecture – how the structure of a neuron or circuit implements its computations. He rotated with Professor Teresa Puthussery, where their team searched for novel neuron types in the primate retina. He also rotated with Professor Michael Yartsev, where he studied the role of the bat hippocampus in spatial mapping and social behavior. Daniel’s hobbies include board games, DIY projects, and beach volleyball!

June 14th

Russell De Valois, PhD

Russell De Valois came to the University of California, Berkeley in 1968. Prior to going the University, he pioneered the recording from individual neurons in subcortical brain structures in primates, developing methods that are now widely used in laboratories around the world. He had a major impact on color vision research when he began recording from single cells in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the thalamus in the macaque monkey.

His research demonstrated the transformation of the color signal derived from three types of broadly selective cone photoreceptors into an opponent color organization. De Valois continued his research in color vision, as well as in spatial vision. He joined Berkeley Optometry’s Physiological Optics group in 1983. Often in collaboration with his wife, Karen K. De Valois (a UCB faculty member), he focused on the early stages of spatial vision.

They discovered that rather than cortical cells’ acting as bar or edge detectors, they are instead tuned to specific limited bands of spatial frequency and orientation, performing a sort of crude, local two-dimensional Fourier analysis on signals from the visual field. They also studied the effects of color and luminance on spatial perception.

De Valois was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of many awards, including the Tillyer Medal,, Optical Society of America; Warren Medal; Society of Experimental Psychologists; Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, American Psychological Association; Fulbright Fellow; William James Fellow; American Psychological Society; member, Society of Experimental Psychologists; member; National Academy of Sciences; and fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

June 15th

Minqi Wang, PhD

Minqi Wang is a vision science PhD class of 2023 graduate from the the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science. She was born in China and grew up there, then moved to the Bay Area. She got a BS in Animal Sciences and a BS in Psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she worked in both fields as undergraduate research assistant. The interdisciplinary focus at the Berkeley Vision Science Program provides a holistic understanding of what kind of questions we can ask about vision and allow her to appreciate the work in one field being shared and finding value in another.

People have always been trying to see the world better: the telescope, the microscope, night vision, or just a regular pair of glasses, you name it. But gathering optical information from the outside world is just part of the story for vision. Minqi wants to look at how the brain plays a part in vision (e.g. the role of attention and why your eyes have captured the scene but your brain is missing out on what’s out there). Eventually, she hopes her research can be applied to develop new technologies and practices (since the brain is so adaptable) that can enhance how we can see the world better. Minqi’s goal is to have a team of researchers and bring more knowledge to the scientific community and general public. Ideally, she wants her research to be applied and reach a wide range of people.

Minqi likes to plant and grow things. Originally, she was really inspired to have a cherry blossom tree, and didn’t really want to just buy one directly. So she started with seeds from cherries and cuttings from an ornamental cherry tree. Since then, she would save seeds from fruit trees and others, and try to germinate them (avocado, persimmon, pear, apple, orange, stone fruits, nuts, etc). Other things she likes to do when not working include: traveling (or just planning a trip), horse riding, reading, drawing and writing about her favorite characters from fiction, and watching her cat sleep in funny positions!

June 16th

Denise Tirado, OD

Dr. Denise Tirado was raised in the Cantaloupe Center of the World — Mendota, CA. She attended UC Davis for her undergraduate career where she received a Bachelor of Arts in fashion design! Dr. Tirado always had an interest in sewing; however because she grew up in a rural community, she wanted to give back and help others, which led her to pursue a career in optometry.

Dr. Tirado not only attended UC Berkeley Optometry School for her doctor of optometry degree but also completed her residency program there in Primary Care and Community Health Optometry. Her clinical experience includes primary care, ocular disease management, and soft contact lenses. Dr. Tirado is glaucoma certified and is a member of the California Optometric Association, San Francisco Optometric Society, and American Optometric Association. When Dr. Tirado isn’t seeing patients in the office she enjoys running, indoor cycling, and sewing a new project.

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