Here’s what recent participants had to say about their experience at the Clinical Research Center.

Bill Liu, MD

Fellow
a5949@ms13.hinet.net

“The working atmosphere in the CRC was pleasant and the team relationship harmonious. I’ve learned from my CRC fellowship not only how to conduct patient-based clinical studies and to apply the most up-to-date vision science, but also the art of office management. It will help advance my career as an ophthalmologist, whether working in a hospital setting or private practice.”
I've always been interested in research. My main training and experience has come from animal studies and research. As I am an ophthalmologist, I also appreciate the importance of participating in patient-based clinical studies. This was my motivation for applying for a fellowship when I discovered the webpage of the University of California, Berkeley Clinical Research Center (CRC). I knew this was an opportunity I could not miss! So I was truly grateful to be accepted by the director of the CRC, Dr. Meng Lin.

The CRC has a great team organized by Dr. Lin. She has gathered together experts from various fields, including vision scientists, optometrists, chemists, and biostatisticians. All the specialists and support staff are willing to share their knowledge and always try to help each other.

In this interdisciplinary environment, I was able to learn more about planning and implementing clinical research. With Dr. Lin's guidance, I was fortunate to complete my study and present my research results at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (Effect of eye-rubbing and breath-holding on corneal biomechanical properties and intraocular pressure, Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2009: Abstract 386 [1757]) and also publish those results in the journal Cornea (2011; 30(8):855-60). Presenting and publishing my study results were rewarding experiences followed by valuable feedback from my colleagues and other researchers. Consequently, I now feel more qualified to engage in clinical research at the professional level.

What I enjoyed the most was interacting with research subjects, the majority of whom were students from UC Berkeley. I found it especially interesting that some of them came from other countries. As I conducted the research, I could also talk with the subjects about their different cultural experiences. The CRC benefited from this diverse study population because these multinational subjects served as data source for analyses comparing ocular characteristics among different ethnicities.

The working atmosphere in the CRC was pleasant and the team relationship harmonious. I've learned from my CRC fellowship not only how to conduct patient-based clinical studies and to apply the most up-to-date vision science, but also the art of office management. It will help advance my career as an ophthalmologist, whether working in a hospital setting or private practice.

My CRC experience was enjoyable and fulfilling. I would be glad to share my CRC fellowship experience with any prospective fellow.

Tan Truong, OD, MPH, PhD

Fellow
tnt2020@gmail.com

“Every so often when I take a step back and reflect upon the career path that I’ve taken since graduating from Berkeley Optometry in 2004, I always remember the decision I made early in my career when I decided to join the UC Berkeley Clinical Research Center (CRC).”
It was not an easy decision and one that I had to defend to both family and colleagues. 'Why do research?' 'Why not private practice to earn a living or pay off your loans?' That was the theme of the inquiries I was fielding. Those were valid concerns and, to be honest, the same ones that I had difficulty addressing.

I reasoned to my family and friends that I had a whole lifetime ahead of me to work in private practice, whereas an opportunity to become part of a new clinical research center rarely comes along in a young optometrist's career. More importantly, I felt very fortunate that the CRC director, Dr. Meng Lin, was willing to take a chance on someone with no clinical research experience. However, I did have some basic science research experience and felt that a CRC fellowship was an ideal position that would enable me to apply my skills as a clinician and researcher. I didn't know it at the time, but this decision was instrumental in providing me with the professional and academic opportunities that have helped advance my career ever since.

My first year at the CRC was comparable to an intensive contact lens residency. Under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Lin, I developed study protocols, performed detailed contact lens exams, collected and analyzed study data, and summarized the results in reports and scientific conference abstracts. Long-term projects included a study comparing extended wear of a soft and rigid gas-permeable contact lens. I was also largely responsible for conducting a series of short-term soft contact lens studies in collaboration with a contact lens manufacturer to develop new lens materials and designs for future products. In addition, I was conducting research to investigate the effects of contact lens solutions on corneal epithelial barrier function. Taken together, these studies covered the whole spectrum of clinically relevant topics that could eventually one day impact the way contact lens practitioners deliver patient care. Although it was a challenging workload, it was very rewarding to be able analyze the study results and report something new.

What I thought was going to be a one-year contact lens fellowship turned out to be an invaluable four-year experience conducting research at the CRC. The most important asset of working at the CRC was having a mentor who was very supportive and who patiently taught me the skills needed to conduct clinical research. Dr. Lin fostered my sense of independence as a researcher by increasingly delegating more responsibilities to me. She even offered personal guidance on taking the necessary steps to further my research career. I took her advice to heart and pursued a MPH at Berkeley's School of Public Health while continuing at the CRC. Soon after obtaining my MPH, I was offered and accepted a senior research position at CooperVision, Inc.'s R&D facility.

However, I have recently returned to Berkeley to pursue a PhD in the Vision Science program. I have come to realize that Berkeley has been a large part of my life for over 16 years, and I find it hard to imagine anywhere else that offers the hands-on experience and limitless research opportunities that this University has fostered. I am fortunate that I worked for the CRC because I see it as a significant part of the University's effort toward integrating research in basic science, epidemiology, and clinical practice to create a synergistic environment for further investigations and innovations in patient care.

Over the past few years, young clinicians and colleagues have asked me, 'How does one go about pursuing a career in clinical research?' My advice for prospective clinician researchers is that research is not for everybody, but if you don't give it a try, you'll never know. It's for clinicians who enjoy learning and teaching. I like to tell clinicians that they would be making an investment in themselves if they pursue a research experience or a career. One can't put a price on experience and knowledge gained from a research fellowship. Private practice pays off initially, but a career in research can pay off in the end. I've done a lot of research over the past 15 years, and it has allowed me to apply for competitive fellowships and grants that have helped me financially and paved the way for more career choices. Thanks in large part to the CRC, I can look back at my professional career and be proud of my accomplishments while looking forward to myriad research opportunities that lay ahead..

Heather French

Student

“The UCB Clinical Research Center has opened so many doors, provided incredible opportunities, and in turn, fostered a genuine interest in both optometry and clinical research for me.”
As a first-year undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I was originally recruited as a research participant in one-day contact lens studies conducted at the CRC. Before then, I had never considered a career in optometry or research. I decided to apply for a position at the CRC to learn more about the field. Progressing initially from an undergraduate student assistant, I eventually worked my way up as a lab technician assisting in collecting corneal permeability measurements, data collection and analysis, and coordination of various extended-wear contact lens studies and overnight studies on corneal thickness and permeability.

After graduation, I took on the position of full-time study coordinator at the CRC running one-day contact lens studies, multifocal and spherical contact lens dispense studies, and progressive eyeglasses studies. I was also granted the opportunity to create and present a poster on corneal permeability changes with extended wear contact lenses at the American Academy of Optometry (AAO). The CRC has carried me through undergraduate, pre-graduate work experience, and then as an optometry student at Berkeley Optometry, where I assisted in innovative projects at the CRC and learned something new every day. I received my Doctor of Optometry degree while also graduating with Honors in Research.

Tiana Leung

Student

“These invaluable experiences helped foster my interest in optometry and clinical research, and eventually led me to pursuing an Honors Thesis under Dr. Lin’s mentorship during my time at Berkeley Optometry.”
My professional career has come full circle through my 9 years of working with Dr. Lin. I began as an undergraduate at the CRC as an assistant who had just a small interest in optometry and clinical research, and then developed my skills to become a technician and study coordinator. It was during this time, that I was able to work on many interesting projects, such as examining the effects of extended contact lens wear, overnight changes of the corneal epithelium permeability and corneal thickness, and the effects of dehydration-rehydration cycles on the wettability of contact lenses.

It was my involvement in these projects that allowed me the opportunity to travel and present posters at conferences around the country. These invaluable experiences helped foster my interest in optometry and clinical research, and eventually led me to pursuing an Honors Thesis under Dr. Lin’s mentorship during my time at Berkeley Optometry. After receiving my OD, Dr. Lin offered me a position at the CRC to become a research optometrist, where I run clinical trials evaluating contact lenses and the ocular surface. It has been an enrichment journey to work on projects at the CRC that have the potential for important clinical applications.

Poojitha Balakrishnan

MPH Student
Johns Hopkins

“From day one, I started learning the basics of conducting clinical trials. With Dr. Meng Lin and her team, I got the opportunity to see studies begin from scratch, ongoing trials conclude, and all the visits in between. My experience in the CRC has been enriching and still impacts the way I view research.”
I became interested in research during while pursuing my undergraduate degree in Public Health at UC Berkeley. From day one, I started learning the basics of conducting clinical trials. With Dr. Meng Lin and her team, I got the opportunity to see studies begin from scratch, ongoing trials conclude, and all the visits in between. I also had the privilege to present at the American Academy of Optometry conference for our Tear Film Osmolarity Project. I am currently concentrating in Epidemiology and Biostatistics as part of the MPH program at Johns Hopkins. For classes and my own research projects, I find many parallels between CRC studies and how ideal epidemiological research should be conducted. In retrospect, I can appreciate the amount of thought and expertise that stands behind each email, each questionnaire, and each research protocol. My experience in the CRC has been enriching and still impacts the way I view research.

Britney Kitamata-Wong

Student

“My experience at the CRC has broadened my view of optometry and enhanced my desire to be an integral part of a research team.”
Working at the CRC has provided me with a unique opportunity to learn about optometry. During the summer before my sophomore undergraduate year, I began working as a student volunteer and participated as a research subject in a variety of contact lens trials. After learning the basic procedures of conducting clinical investigations, I was given the opportunity to coordinate a study involving customized free-form progressive spectacles. I also served as a coordinator and technician for an overnight orthokeratology clinical trial allowing me to work one-on-one with research subjects and learn about cutting-edge research in the field. My experience at the CRC has broadened my view of optometry and enhanced my desire to be an integral part of a research team. This experience enabled me to graduate with Honors in Research in when I received my Doctor of Optometry degree.

Kathy Le

Student

“Though I knew nothing about clinical research when I began, Dr. Lin and the staff members at the CRC were incredibly nurturing and supportive in helping me learn, grow, and take on more responsibilities.”
I applied to the CRC the summer after my freshman year because I had genuine interest in optometry and knew I wanted research experience in the field. Though I knew nothing about clinical research when I began, Dr. Lin and the staff members at the CRC were incredibly nurturing and supportive in helping me learn, grow, and take on more responsibilities. Over time, I transitioned into a research technician position and assisted in measuring tear turnover rate with the FluorotronTM Master in a Tear Mixing Study and collecting tears with Shirmer Strips for a Tear Evaporation Study.

Working at the CRC helped me realize how much I enjoyed being involved with clinical research, for I was able to see the full process of a how a study is created from start to finish. Though I decided optometry was not the right fit for me (I’ll be attending UCSF Pharmacy school), I stayed working at the CRC throughout my entire undergraduate career because of the unique opportunity it provided me. After three years here, I can truly say it was an invaluable experience and I can easily translate all of the skills I learned at the CRC to any other aspect of my professional career.