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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 20th

Christian Shewmake, MS

Christian is a vision science student at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry & Vision Science. He studied biomedical engineering, applied math, and computer science at Washington University in St. Louis. After that, he joined Koniku in Berkeley and designed neural wetware chips to “digitize olfaction”. Since then, he has continued studying neural representations of natural signals through his master’s degree in Mathematics and Systems Science at WashU and his current research position in the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience. In between, he has lived and worked in London, Beijing, and Austin. Christian wanted to embed himself in a curious, collaborative environment with strength in mathematics, theoretical neuroscience, and empirical vision research. Berkeley’s Vision Science faculty and students, along with the broader university community, are a perfect fit for this. He looks forward to learning and working with his incredible peers and engaging with the broader Bay Area community.

His research poses the questions: how does the visual system build invariant and equivariant representations of objects undergoing transformations in the world? How do we disentangle the many factors of variation in objects – shape, position, pose, color, lighting, etc.? Overall, he wants to build an understanding of how information from the world can be represented and transformed in the brain using tools from Lie theory, differential geometry, and information theory. In parallel, he’s exploring applications of these ideas in machine learning. He believes that the brain has much more to teach us about fundamental computational principles. He wants to empower himself to contribute meaningfully to our formal understanding of neural representations and their implications on artificial intelligence and brain-computer interfaces. He looks forward to working together with researchers in academia and industry in one form or anmother to push this work forward! Christian experiments with sound and music (piano, python, ableton, circuits). He feels grounded when on his bike exploring cities and the land between them, especially with friends. He loves getting people together to climb, cook, and share treasured ideas.

Hear Christian talk about his research on the Young Vision Scientist podcast, by clicking the button below!

The Young Vision Scientist
June 21st

Sophia Lam, OD

Dr. Sophia Lam grew up in Los Angeles, CA, and moved up to the Bay Area to complete both her undergraduate and optometry degrees at UC Berkeley. She had extensive experience serving veteran patients during her fourth-year externships at VA Casa Grande in Arizona, VA San Francisco, and VA Southern Oregon. Dr. Lam is the current Michael G Harris Cornea and Contact Lens resident at the UC Berkeley Eye Center. She has special interests in myopia control, specialty contact lenses, and dry eye management. In her free time, she enjoys visiting local farmers’ markets and trying new recipes.

June 22nd

Melissa Rezk

Melissa Rezk is a fourth-year optometry student at the UC Berkeley School of Optometry & Vision Science, Class of 2024. She is a first-generation Coptic Egyptian Canadian. She grew up in a smaller town outside Toronto, Canada. She completed her Bachelor of Science at Wilfrid Laurier University in Health Sciences.

Melissa currently holds the position as the American Optometric Student Association Trustee on behalf of the UC Berkeley School of Optometry. She will be continuing her AOSA journey as Secretary on the 2023/24 AOSA Executive Council, where she will be representing the voice of optometry students across the USA, Canada, and Puerto Rico alongside three others.

Melissa has been involved both inside and outside the optometry community, including community service, international outreach trips, research, tutoring, and TAing. Through her various leadership positions, she encourages students to be curious, receptive, eager, and empathetic. She works within her community to make sure that students feel empowered, engaged, inspired, motivated, and most importantly, understood.

June 23rd

Lesley L. Walls, OD, MD, FAAO

Dr. Lesley Walls is a Berkeley Optometry Hall of Fame member, born in 1942 in Bonham, Texas. In 1967 he received his bachelor of science degree from UC Berkeley, and the following year completed his OD at Berkeley Optometry. Dr. Walls decided to pursue the medical profession and subsequently received his MD from the University of California at Davis in 1972. He completed both professional degrees with top honors and was inducted into the respective honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa (Berkeley) and Alpha Omega Alpha (Davis).

Dr. Walls holds optometry and medical licensure in Oklahoma, Oregon, and California. In 1999 he received an honorary Doctor of Ocular Science (DOS) from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. Walls has the distinction of serving as head of three optometry institutions during his career: Dean, Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry (1987–92); Dean, Pacific University College of Optometry (1992–97); and President, Southern California College of Optometry (1997–2008).

In addition to all he has done for optometry, Dr. Walls has contributed significantly to the medical profession. He has been a medical educator, chairman of the family practice department of Oklahoma College of Medicine, and residency director for Oral Roberts College of Medicine. Medical society activities have included: president and vice-president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians.

Dr. Walls has over twenty publications, including three book chapters. His most recent works have been dedicated to the optometric profession and include topics such as office management, educational aspects of medicine and optometry, pediatric and geriatric optometric care, and disease management in AIDS, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and red eyes.

Within the optometric profession he is an active member of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (serving as president in 1994), the American Optometric Foundation, the American Optometric Association, and the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. In the medical profession he served as President of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians. At the Oklahoma College of Medicine he was a member of the faculty board, an executive faculty member, and Associate Dean for Continuing Education.

Dr. Walls has received Outstanding Teacher Awards at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in two consecutive academic years (1990–1991 and 1991–1992). He was recognized with the annual Outstanding Teacher Award at Northeastern State University College of Optometry in 1987-1988. The American Optometric Association honored Dr. Walls in 2007 with a Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement in optometry, and the Heart of America Contact Lens Society made him Optometrist of the Year in 2009.

Dr. Walls has not only been an honored member in both the optometric and medical fields, but he is also well respected for his community efforts. These include Deacon of his Baptist Church; organizer and manager of several business promotional and charity activities within his community; and Board Member of the Founders of Doctor’s Hospital, Inc. (a charitable trust organization). Dr. Walls also served his country by completing over 16 years of service in the US Army Reserve Medical.

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