Our mission is to serve as the catalyst for vision research, and our
highest priority is to foster interactive, interdisciplinary, and translational
studies of how the visual system functions in health and disease.

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December 2009

On the 250th anniversary of the death of composer George Frideric Handel, Dr. Daniel Albert recently spoke to BBC Radio about the signs, symptoms and probable eye diseases of Handel and Bach and why they went blind. Both composers were treated by Chevalier John Taylor, a British eye surgeon and shameless self-promoter with an unsavory reputation. Dr. Albert discussed his fascinating research with UW News.

October 8, 2009

Professor Stephen Palmer, Department of Psychology, UC-Berkeley

Dr. Palmer will present a talk on "Aesthetics in Vision Science: Understanding Preferences for Color." His interests are in perceptual organization in vision, contextual effects on local cognitive processing, the aesthetics of color and spatial arrangement, and the nature and order of visual processing.

October 8, 2009

Eye Research Institute and Visual Culture Center members and associated scientists, researchers, postdocs, graduate students and advanced undergraduates with wide-ranging interests in vision gathered to showcase both scientific research and artistic works in the annual ERI poster session. Outstanding graduate student and postdoctoral trainee poster and art work presentations were recognized with the following awards:

Best Student Contribution, Visual Science & Vision Art
Greg Cipriano, Computer Sciences, “Molecular Surface Abstraction”
Poster authors: Greg Cipriano, George N. Philips, Jr. and Michael Gleicher

Honorable Mentions:
Xuefeng Zeng, “An Endoscope Utilizing Tunable-Focus Microlenses Actuated Through Infrared Light”
Feng Liu and Yuzhen Niu, “Exploring Perceptual Plausibility for Vision and Graphics Applications” 

Thanks to Nikon Instruments, Inc. for generously sponsoring the ERI Poster/Gallery Session with donation of a Nikon Coolpix L19 8mp digital camera, and to the University Book Store for generously providing UBS gift certificates.


The Eye Research Institute has awarded grants to the following five projects in 2009:

An in vitro model of eye movements and choice
Principal Investigator, Michele A. Basso (Physiology; Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences)
Collaborator: Meyer B. Jackson (Physiology)

Use of vitamin D3 analogues for the treatment of neovascular AMD
Principal Investigator, Ronald P. Danis(Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences) 
Collaborators: Nader Sheibani (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences), Matthew D. Davis (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Emeritus)

Can OCT be used to identify axon loss in the optic nerve in a model of MS?
Principal Investigator, Ian D. Duncan (Medical Sciences, VetMed) 
Collaborators: James Ver Hoeve (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences), T. Michael Nork (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences), Aaron S. Field (Radiology), Alexander Converse (Medical Physics), Zsuzsanna Fabry (Pathology), Helena Rylander (Medical Sciences, VetMed)

In vivo retinal neuroprotection by the sigma-1 receptor
Principal Investigators, Lian-Wang Guo (Pharmacology), Arnold Ruoho (Pharmacology) 
Collaborators: Curtis R. Brandt (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences; Medical Microbiology), Robert W. Nickells (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences), Timur Mavlyutov (Pharmacology), Akihiro Ikeda (Genetics), Bo Chang (The Jackson Laboratory)

The effect of GFAP on retinal ganglion cell neurite outgrowth
Principal Investigator, Robert W. Nickells (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences)
Collaborator: Albee Messing (Pathology, VetMed; Comparative Biosciences, Waisman Center)

Summer 2009

A small exhibit on the first floor of Memorial Library honors the bicentenary of the birth of Louis Braille, born in 1809 in Coupvray, near Paris, France, and died in 1852 in Paris. The system of printing and writing Louis Braille developed while still in his teens now bears his name and enjoys wide use. The exhibit, on display through mid-September 2009, explores the Braille system and its variants, alternative systems with embossed type, and other technologies such as large-print books and audiobooks.

The library thanks Daniel M. Albert, M.D., past chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and currently RRF Emmett A. Humble Distinguished Director of the Eye Research Institute, for suggesting such an exhibit. Several titles from the riches of the Daniel and Eleanor Albert Collection in the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, appear in this exhibit. The library is also grateful to Department of Rare Books & Special Collections in Ebling Library of the Health Sciences for the loan of works for the exhibit. Other titles on display come from the circulating collections of Memorial Library.

Summer 2009

Daniel Uhlrich, PhD, of the Department of Anatomy has been named Chair of the SMPH Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC). This committee is responsible for oversight and evaluation of the School's animal care and use program, procedures, and facilities to ensure that they are consistent with recommendations of the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, Animal Welfare Regulations, and the Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. The SMPH ACUC oversees the largest of the UW-Madison Animal Care Programs, encompassing seven campus animal facilities and three off-campus facilities. More than 50% of all ACUC-approved protocols are based within the School. This Program has been AAALAC accredited since 1972.

Dr. Uhlrich brings a wealth of experience to this assignment. After completing his PhD at Brown University and post-doctoral training at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he joined the UW Department of Anatomy in 1990. He has been PI on numerous peer-reviewed grant awards, and has served on both NIH and NSF grant review study sections. Dr. Uhlrich also has a history of service to UW-Madison, including nearly ten years as a member of the Faculty Senate, and four years of prior service on the ACUC.

April 2009

Erik Weihenmayer, a blind mountain climber, will describe his experiences with BrainPort at the NEI 40th anniversary kickoff. The event will feature a screening of Blindsight, an award-winning documentary chronicling Weihenmayer’s mountain-climbing journey up the north face of Mount Everest with six blind Tibetan teenagers. Researchers will also debut the third-generation BrainPort device, produced by Wicab, Inc. with NEI support.  READ MORE. 

April 2009

Margaret McFall-Ngai, Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, has been awarded a 2009 Fellowship by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

During her Guggenheim term, Dr. McFall-Ngai will study the role of symbiosis in shaping evolutionary selection, specifically on the form and function of the animal immune system. The traditional view of the immunity is that its principal function is to fight microbial infection. Recognition that, to maintain a healthy state, animals require persistence associations with hundreds of species of beneficial bacteria demands that we rethink this view. To effectively incorporate the essential role of microbial symbioses into our conceptual understanding of the animal immune system, she will visit the world’s major centers of microbiology and immunology research to gain a full view of where biologists now stand on these concepts, and where they will need to go to open new horizons.

CONFERENCE: Perception
February 12-13, 2009

The developing program in Visual Culture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, like that of the UW Eye Research Institute, is committed to fostering research collaborations and dialogue that connect the analysis and practice of the visual across the humanities, arts, social sciences, and sciences. This conference on “Perception” represents a fundamental part of our initiative to further the links between disciplines around common interest in the role of visual representation in scientific practice, and as informed by social, historical, and cultural understandings of perception.

Thursday, February 12:
Keynote Lecture 6:00pm: “Slow Looking: Whatever Happened to Selective Attention?” Public lecture by Barbara Stafford, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor, Emerita, at the University of Chicago. Chazen Museum of Art, Room L140.

Friday, February 13:
Research colloquium, including panel presentations, workshops and lunch. Pyle Center Auditorium, 702 Langdon Street.

Conference Sessions include:

What is perception in your field?
Moderator: Sheila Reaves, Professor, Department of Life Sciences Communication
Sabine Gross, Professor, Department of German
Barbara Blodi, Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences

Faculty Research Presentations
Moderator: Michele Basso, Associate Professor, Department of Physiology
Aimee Arnoldussen, Neuroscientist, Wicab, Inc.
Ann Smart Martin, Professor, Department of Art History; Material Culture Program
Brad Postle, Associate Professor of Psychology & Psychiatry
Ben Singer, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Arts

Experiential Workshop with Marshall Flax, Low Vision Therapist/Orientation & Mobility Specialist, Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired

Workshop with Barbara Stafford, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor, Emerita, University of Chicago. Dr. Stafford’s work has consistently explored the intersections between the visual arts and the physical and biological sciences from the early modern to the contemporary era.

"Perception" is co-sponsored by the Global Studies Program, the Eye Research Institute, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Department of Art History.


Dr. Ivan Schwab, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science
University of California, Davis

Evolution's Witness: A Story of the Evolution of the Eye
Thursday, October 2, 2008, Ebling Symposium Center, Microbial Sciences Building

With light and predation as catalysts, the first eye appeared during the Cambrian era, 550 million years ago, in a trilobite. The complexity of this eye suggests that development began well before, in the Pre-Cambrian, possibly even in single-celled organisms. The Cambrian explosion was the big bang of evolution and spawned nearly all morphologic forms of the eye. This crucible of evolution was succeeded by descent through unimaginable variety and creativity, with the emergence of at least 10 different optical designs - including the compound, camera style and simple eye and with mirror, scanning or telephoto optics. Vision was a principal, although not the only, determinant of evolution and its direction. Some of these ocular designs are merely curiosities, but others offer the finest visual potential packed into a small space, limited only by the laws of diffraction or physiological optics.

Sponsored by the UW Eye Research Institute, and the UW Pre-Optometry Club, the Evolution Initiative, the Department of Genetics/Medical Genetics, and the Department of Pathobiological Sciences

Fall 2008

Dr. David Gamm, who is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and member of the UW Eye Research Institute, has been awarded a 5-year grant for the project “Customized iPS Cell Therapy for Recessive Monogenetic Retinal Degenerative Diseases.” Stem cells can be produced from a patient’s skin cells (known as induced pluripotent stem cells - iPS cells), treated to correct the underlying gene defect, then transplanted back into the original donor’s eye. The hope is that this will produce a customized therapeutic strategy to “cure” certain retinal diseases. The team of researchers on this project – including UW’s Dr. James Thomson and Dr. Derek Hei, Dr. Eric Pierce of the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Raymond Lund from the Oregon Health and Science University - believe this approach will move the research to the clinic as rapidly as possible.

Fall 2008

In recognition of Daniel Albert’s service as past Chair of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, his outstanding research and teaching career and his current Directorship of the Eye Research Institute, Dean Robert Golden has established the Daniel M. Albert Chair at the University of Wisconsin. The Albert Chair will be awarded to a faculty member for a period of five years based upon scholarly productivity, professional integrity and leadership.

Summer, 2008

Precyous Banks is spending a portion of her summer learning about research first-hand. RAP is a seven-week pre-college academic program designed to introduce high school students to scientific research and to the University. Banks, who is also a member of PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence), is applying to UW-Madison this year and would like to attend the School of Medicine and Public Health in the future. Arthur Polans welcomes students into his laboratory, giving them specific assignments and experiments to complete, knowing that the students grow from both their successes and failures in the lab. 


June, 2008

Braving the rains and flooding, about 50 guests attended a luncheon on June 12th, hosted by ERI Advisory Board members O.C. and Pat Boldt, to learn more about the interdisciplinary projects conducted by UW Eye Research Institute faculty and staff. Speakers included Julie Mares, PhD, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Michele Basso, PhD, Physiology, and Paul Nealey, PhD, Chemical and Biological Engineering, along with ERI Director Dan Albert, MD, and Associate Director Arthur Polans, PhD. Topics included diet and nutrition to prevent aging eye diseases, the role of eye movements and brain function in Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, and the use of nanotechnology to grow cells for repair of eye and skin injuries or wounds.

May, 2008

The Haskell F. and Jeremy M. Norman Bibliographical Lecture on Medicine, Science, and Technology was established at the Grolier Club in 1994 by a grant from the Haskell F. Norman Foundation to stimulate bibliographical scholarship related to the history of medicine, science, and technology. To allow a sufficiently wide latitude of both subject matter and scholarly approach, the Norman Lecture Committee interprets the concept of bibliography broadly, incorporating all aspects of the study of books and manuscripts. Thus, the series encompasses the history of the physical production of books, including book illustration, the history of graphic media, and the history of publishing, bookselling, and, of course, book collecting.

This year's lecture, the sixth in the series, was presented by Daniel M. Albert, MD, MS, Director of the University of Wisconsin Eye Research Institute and Professor and Chair Emeritus of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. His talk was titled “The Writings and Adventures of the Chevalier John Taylor.” Taylor (1703–1772), the self-proclaimed personal eye surgeon to King George II, the Pope and number of European royal families, traveled throughout Europe in a coach painted with images of eyes. While he did perform eye surgery, his major talent was that of self-promotion. He has been accused by some for accelerating the process by which composer Georg Handel became blind. Others believe that Johann Sebastian Bach died of complications due to his surgery.

February 7-8, 2008

This conference is part of an ongoing collaboration between the sciences, arts, and humanities at UW-Madison and will include a public lecture, workshop, research colloquium and exhibition that take up issues of visuality and visual technologies in the sciences. All events are free and open to the public, and advanced registration is required for the research colloquium on Friday, February 8.

Lecture by Michael Lynch, Cornell University:
Thursday, February 7, 5:30pm, Chazen Museum of Art, (800 University Avenue) Room L140

MICHAEL LYNCH is currently Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University. He is currently president of the Society for Social Studies of Science and editor of Social Studies of Science.

Friday, February 8, 9:00am – 12:10 pm, Pyle Center Auditorium (702 Langdon Street)

The colloquium will feature short presentations and discussions from UW-Madison faculty and graduate students on the following questions: How do issues of audience and communication shape the way science is visualized? What are the roles of culture, technology and subjectivity?
The colloquium is organized by Sheila Reaves, Professor of Life Sciences Communication at UW-Madison and Leadership Committee member of the UW Eye Research Institute.

“Topical Contextures and Objectivity” with Michael Lynch
1:15pm – 3:15 pm, Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Room 309

The workshop will involve examples and exercises in which participants explore how visualization is featured in scientific communication, demonstration, and argument. Topical contexture is a term used to describe the relationship between arrangements of visible details and the gestalt forms they compose.

Exhibition Viewing and Curators' Talk, 3:30pm – 4:00pm, Kohler Art Library, 800 University Ave

Guest co-curators Amy Noell and Beth Zinsli (PhD Students, Art History) discuss "The Scientist's Eye: Dialogues between Art and Science." The exhibition features artist and rare books from the Kohler Art Library and Special Collections (Memorial Library).

"Visualizing Science" is co-sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Eye Research Institute, the Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, and the Departments of Art, Art History, Medical History and Bioethics, and Sociology.



From UW-Madison Vet Med’s On Call Newsletter, November 2007

The School of Veterinary Medicine is well-represented in the new Eye Research Institute that has been established on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Two of the inaugural 12 members of the Institute’s Leadership Committee are from the School: Drs. Richard Dubielzig (pathological sciences) and Christopher Murphy (comparative ophthalmology). The committee also includes representatives from the School of Medicine and Public Health, the College of Letters and Science, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the College of Engineering.

The UW Eye Research Institute’s goal is to bring together researchers and scholars from diverse scientific, medical and other academic backgrounds who are committed to increasing the understanding of normal vision and of eye diseases.

The Institute is designed to serve as the catalyst for vision research. The group’s highest priority is to foster interactive, interdisciplinary and translational studies of how the visual system functions in health and disease.

Originally posted: Wisconsin State Journal, Fri., Sept. 14, 2007

Until recently, retinoblastoma was something most people had never heard of. But the tragic news that the daughter of NBA player Derek Fisher was diagnosed with this cancer in one of her eyes brought the devastating disease into the national spotlight. My thoughts and prayers immediately went out to Fisher and his daughter and family when I heard the sad news. It also brought back to me a flood of memories, because my oldest son was diagnosed with retinoblastoma just after his first birthday.

My son suffered from bilateral retinoblastoma, meaning that tumors were found in both eyes. And like most people, my wife and I had never heard of this childhood cancer. In fact, medical experts say only about 350 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States and Canada. Thankfully, my son, now 8 years old, is cancer-free and still has vision in his left eye. He rides a bike, likes to play golf and loves to read. Common forms of treatment for retinoblastoma are radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. While effective, both treatments have risks as well, from possible secondary cancers resulting from radiation to the weakening of a child’s immune system from chemotherapy.

Fortunately, cutting-edge research at UW-Madison could lead to new forms of treatment for retinoblastoma and other ocular tumors -- without the possible side effects of radiation or chemotherapy. Led by Dr. Daniel Albert, a UW ophthalmologist, and Dr. Arthur Polans, a UW biochemist, this research focuses on using derivative forms of Vitamin D to treat retinoblastoma. Their studies have shown that Vitamin D is highly effective in eliminating retinoblastoma tumors, and in the right doses it does not present the typical side effects of other treatments. Clinical studies of these Vitamin D analogs have now been initiated in conjunction with colleagues at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The promise of discovering therapies for retinoblastoma and many other eye diseases, along with the opportunity for advancing vision research through partnerships among experts from diverse disciplines, led UW-Madison to create the UW Eye Research Institute. With the goal of serving as the nation’s preeminent eye research institute, the ERI is poised to provide new breakthroughs in vision science. I have first-hand experience with the high level of medical and scientific expertise at the university, as my son was treated at UW for his disease and we continue to return to Madison for his checkups. And I’m convinced the ERI, under the leadership of Drs. Albert and Polans and other world-class UW researchers, will create new knowledge to better treat eye diseases in the future. Many children and their parents and families like mine will be thankful.

Christianson is director of public and media relations for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, based in Indianapolis, and is on the external advisory board of the UW Eye Research Institute.

From ARVO News, Summer 2007

For the fourth time ever, at its 2007 Annual Meeting, ARVO held a Research Grant Administrators Workshop for grant administrators from universities, foundations, and institutions. The focus of this year’s workshop was (1) implementation of the year-old SFS 424 (R&R) grant application and (2) communications between and expectations of granting organizations and recipient institutions. The electronic SFS 424 (R&R) replaces the paper-based PHS 398 grant application.

Program organizers for the workshop were William Darby, the chief grants management officer in the Division of Extramural Research at the National Eye Institute (NEI) of NIH; Cheryl Formes, the chief operations officer of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; and Tracy Perkins, MPH, administrative director at the University of Wisconsin Eye Research Institute in Madison. They encouraged the 40 attendees to discuss, with each other and with the speakers, any ideas that might help improve the grant application process. Representatives from granting organizations and recipient organizations presented their perspectives on the SFS 424 and the granting process. Representatives from the Foundation Fighting Blindness gave a peek into how their organization funds eye and vision research.

The different perspectives helped attendees understand each other’s expectations and the challenges that sometimes arise. The face-to-face interactions—among colleagues and with officials from NEI, the American Health Assistance Foundation, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness—also helped advance communications.

Key features of the Workshop were the updates from the National Eye Institute and National Institutes of Health about their many requirements, changes, and upgrades; the direct interaction between research grant administrators and NEI grants management staff; presentations by and interactions with foundation staff; conversations among like-minded colleagues; and the ability to return to home institutions with key information and contacts to share with researchers and colleagues. Organizers Cheryl Formes and Tracy Perkins expressed their gratitude and satisfaction, saying that the workshop was an especially valuable forum for exchanging ideas and having pressing questions answered.


The Retina Research Foundation, established by UW alum Dr. Alice McPherson in Houston, TX, will provide the Director of the UW Eye Research Institute with support for his or her research program. Daniel M. Albert, MD, MS, the inaugural Director of the ERI, will be the first recipient of the Retina Research Foundation (RRF) Emmett A. Humble Distinguished Directorship.

"This Directorship is representative of the support and commitment that the RRF and its members make to advancing research into the causes and cures of retinal and other eye diseases," says Dr. Albert. "I am honored to hold this title, which reflects our common mission of increasing the understanding of normal vision and of eye diseases."

From UW-Madison News, Aug. 17, 2007

In collaboration with Lac Courte Oreilles Community College, a team from the Department of Life Sciences Communication is spending a week at Lac Courte Oreilles Community College, collaborating with LCOCC staff on a youth science media camp for 24 middle- and high-school tribal students.

"Land and Identity" is the theme. The camp, which provides the youngsters with instruction in new media, including digital video, podcasting and web design, is an effort to offer science education within a cultural context.

This is very much a hands-on learning experience, with students working in teams to create eight scientifically themed media projects. The Public Broadcasting Service may broadcast the projects as part of a national initiative, but you can see them as works in progress by visiting the project blog.

Involved on the LSC project team are professors Patty Loew and Shiela Reaves, faculty associate Don Stanley and graduate student Tim Tynan.

Funds for the project came from a Baldwin Wisconsin Idea grant. The Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment provides the grants to advance the Wisconsin Idea through the development of new and innovative initiatives and new dimensions to existing outreach activities by creating and strengthening partnerships and collaborations, sharing and applying knowledge, and expanding access to lifelong learning.