Trainee Members

Sara Adelman, Veterinary Medical Student

Comparative Biomedical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Gillian McLellan

BS 2013, Animal Science, Iowa State University
MS 2015-Present, Comparative Biomedical Sciences Department, UW-Madison, Madison WI

Sara A. Adelman has worked in laboratories conducting vision sciences related research since her undergraduate studies, as an SVM summer research scholar in Dr. McLellan’s glaucoma pathophysiology lab and now in graduate school. She is pursuing a Masters degree during a year’s mentored research as a veterinary student, mapping patterns of retinal ganglion cell loss in an animal model of glaucoma.

Ariel Alperstein, Graduate Student

Chemistry, College of Letters and Science
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Martin Zanni

Picture of Ariel Alperstein

BA 2014 Chemistry, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York

Ariel Alperstein is a graduate student in Dr. Martin Zanni's group in UW-Madison's Department of Chemistry. She is working on a project which builds upon previous group research in cataracts. This research studied yD-crystallin, a protein found in cataracts that has been shown to form amyloid fibers in vitro, using two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy (2D IR). Alperstein's current project focuses on studying both healthy and cataractous lens tissues in her 2D IR setup, with the hypothesis that regular Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is not sensitive enough to reveal amyloid fibers in lens tissues.

Chelsea Andrews, Graduate Student

Psychology, College of Letters and Science
Faculty sponsor: Vanessa Simmering

Picture of Chelsea Andrews

BA 2014, Psychobiology, Ripon College

Chelsea Andrews studies early visual development, with a long term goal of understanding how visual attention in infancy relates to later visuospatial cognitive skills. With regard to her visual research interests and experiences, she is currently studying how similarity affects visual working memory across development. In particular, she is most interested in how color similarity can both negatively or positively impact recall when performing basic change detection tasks.

Spencer Cleland, Medical Student

School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty sponsor: Nansi Colley

Picture of Spencer Cleland

Research Intern 2013-2015, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health
BA 2013 Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

Before starting medical shchool, Spencer Cleland conducted research on the Drosophila melanogaster visual system under the direction of Dr. Nansi Jo Colley. In the Colley Lab, the fly eye is used to identify genetic causes of defects in protein trafficking and phototransduction. This research paves the way to further understand devastating diseases that cause blindness in humans, such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa

Aaron Cochrane, Graduate Student

Psychology, College of Letters and Sciences
Faculty Sponsor: Vanessa Simmering

BS 2014, Psychology, Pacific University
BA 2014, Anthropology, Pacific University

Aaron is interested in the processes that support visuospatial cognition over development. He has worked on developing a research program that tracks how children and adults are able to control their attention (or not) in service of different behavioral tasks. Specifically, he leads a project comparing the relations between memory and attention subprocesses at different developmental points. He is leading several projects examining attention and memory under changing task demands. Beyond these projects, he is also affiliated with cognitive training studies investigating computational and neural explanations of training-related changes in visual processing.

Mitra Farnoodian, Graduate Student

Clinical Investigation Program (ICTR), School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty sponsor: Nader Sheibani

Picture of Mitra Farnoodian

Associate Medical 2002, Rafsanjan University of Medical Sciences, Rafsanjan, Iran
BS 2004, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Kerman, Iran
MS 2008, Medical Mycology, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
MS 2011, Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Mitra Farnoodian works in Dr. Nader Sheibani’s lab (Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences), determining the roles of PEDF and TSP1, proteins produced by retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells with antiangiogenic activity, on RPE cell function. The RPE cells are the major source of these angioregulatory proteins whose alterations may contribute to various eye diseases with a neovascular component. Furthermore, RPE cells play a key role in the development and stabilization of retinal structure, and maintenance of the ocular vascular homeostasis. Thus far, her results indicate that deficiency in these proteins contribute to dysfunction of RPE cells and perhaps pathogenesis of exudative AMD. The impairment of RPE cell function is an early and crucial event in the molecular pathways leading to clinically relevant AMD changes. Moreover, the pathogenesis of AMD is associated with angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels, predominantly from the choroid capillaries. Her preliminary results support a key regulatory role for PEDF and TSP1 in choroidal neo- vascularization and development of exudative AMD. Her current research is focused on the use of mimetic peptides derived from these molecules for treatment of exudative AMD.

Jessica Fragola, COPLOW Fellow

Comparative Ocular Pathology Laboratory of Wisconsin (COPLOW), School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Leandro Teixeira

Picture of Jessica Fragola

VMD 2011, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BA 2005, History and Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Jessica Fragola is a veterinarian who is interested in eye disease and ophthalmology. She is currently a fellow in ocular pathology at the Comparative Ocular Pathology Laboratory of Wisconsin. She intends to pursue residency in veterinary ophthalmology.

Jacqueline Fulvio, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Psychology, College of Letters and Science
Faculty sponsor: Bas Rokers

Picture of Jacqueline Fulvi

BA 2004, Psychology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
MA 2006, Experimental Psychology: Cognition and Perception, New York University, NY, NY
PhD 2009, Experimental Psychology: Cognition and Perception, New York University, NY, NY
PostDoc 2009-2012, Visual Perception and Learning, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

The law of good continuation – one of the Gestalt grouping principles – is the springboard for Jacqueline Fulvio’s research program. Throughout her training, she has worked to address one of the most puzzling questions in psychology: how do we act in our world as if everything is clearly in view? Fulvio has developed psychophysical (behavioral) tasks that require human observers to respond on the basis of sensory prediction. For example, in many of these tasks, observers see a portion of an object, or a portion of a moving object’s trajectory, and they make a prediction on the basis of this sensory information as to where and how the object and its trajectory will evolve over space and time. Analyzing the behavioral data from these studies with computational models has provided new insights about the nature of visual processing, especially how the mechanisms combine currently available sensory information with internal beliefs about the visual world gained through past experience. Her current research at UW-Madison with Dr. Bas Rokers has been following this line of work with extension to neuroimaging (fMRI) and to more ecologically valid environments using virtual reality (VR).

Nasim Jamali, PhD Candidate

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty sponsor: Nader Sheibani

BSc 2006, Computer Engineering (Software), Sari-Iran

Nasim Jamali is interested in the role of vitamin D in the regulation of angiogenesis and neovascularization, and its impact on eye diseases with a neovascular component. Her work in Dr. Nader Sheibani’s lab has shown that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, inhibits retinal neovascularization in an Oxygen-induced Ischemic Retinopathy model, a condition that occurs in immature babies. She is specifically interested in the role of vitamin D in the regulation of retinal vascular cell function.

PubMed Listing of Publications

Clint Jensen, Graduate Student

Psychology, College of Letters and Science
Faculty sponsor: Vanessa Simmering

Picture of Clint Jensen BA 2014, Film and Media Studies, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS


Clint Jensen’s research addresses how children’s semantic knowledge is informed by regularities within their visual world, and how the resultant knowledge structures influence beliefs and learning trajectories. To explore questions within this domain, Jensen uses computational models alongside behavioral data derived from children’s in-task selections and reaction times to predict and quantify the process of learning. Currently, Jensen is working to incorporate eye-tracking methodologies into these research domains to further explore whether children’s development of knowledge mirrors the loss of knowledge among adults who have developed semantic dementia. Additionally, he has begun work on the subject of mathematics comprehension in young children, and adults in effort to better understand how in class and media-based instruction can be improved.

Annika Konrad, PhD Candidate

English, College of Letters and Science
Faculty sponsor: Morris Young

Picture of Annika Konrad

BA 2009, English, UW-Madison, Madison, WI
MA 2011, English, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Annika Konrad studies disability communication, specifically the rhetorical and literate practices of people who are blind and visually impaired. Her goal is to better understand how people learn to communicate about disability. She runs a community-writing project for people who are blind and visually impaired, and volunteers with the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. She is the managing editor for a blog about blindness and vision impairment called The Outlook From Here ( Konrad is interested in learning how scientific, humanistic, and social scientific approaches to vision research can be brought into conversation with humanities research.

Joseph C. L’Huiller, Undergraduate Student Researcher

Biology; Psychology
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Nansi Jo Colley, PhD

BS (in progress), Biology and Psychology, UW-Madison, Madison, WI

After maintaining Drosophila stocks and learning the basics of fly genetics for two years in Dr. Nansi
Colley’s laboratory, Joseph L’Huillier has begun conducting research and is currently leading the investigation of four EMS-mutagenized stocks to identify novel genes involved in retinal degeneration. Thus far, he has assisted in identifying seven unknown mutant stocks that have defects in known genes. Specifically, he is most interested in the genes involved in the uptake, conversion, and transport of dietary carotenoids, which are necessary for rhodopsin synthesis, a protein essential to the phototransduction cascade, and in the possibility of discovering novel genes in this pathway.

Maryse Lapierre-Landry, Graduate Researcher

Morgridge Institute for Research, Medical Engineering
Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University
Faculty Sponsor: Melissa Skala

MS 2016, Biomedical Engineering, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
BS 2013, Honors Physics, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec
Diploma of College Studies in Natural Sciences 2010, College de Bois-de-Boulogne, Montreal, Quebec

Maryse Lapierre-Landry’s research is focused on the development of photothermal optical coherence tomography (PT-OCT) to add functional contrast to traditional OCT images. She has used this technology to image contrast agents such as gold nanorods, indocyanine green or melanin in phantoms and in vivo animal models.

Andrew Lewin, Resident in Comparative Ophthalmology

Surgical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Gillian McLellan

Picture of Andrew Lewin

Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery 2010, Veterinary Medicine, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Andrew Lewin is currently a resident in Comparative Ophthalmology. He is very interested in animal models of human disease and infectious ocular disease in animals. He is currently working on several short-term and longer-term projects involving feline herpes virus, keratomalacia in dogs and intraocular pressures in a couple of different animal species.

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Allison Ludwig, Veterinary Medical Student

School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty sponsor: Dr. David Gamm

Picture of Allison Ludwig

BS 2015, Animal Science, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

Through training in several laboratories during her undergraduate education, Allison Ludwig developed a strong interest in veterinary ophthalmology but, most importantly, discovered a passion for translational research that developed treatments for debilitating neurodegenerative diseases. This discovery led her to pursue a summer undergraduate research fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, where she studied the role of the thrombin receptor in myelination of the CNS. Ludwig is currently most interested in studying therapies for inherited eye diseases with an emphasis on translational research and diseases that might also affect veterinary patients. Her current studies in Dr. David Gamm's laboratory focus on investigation of cell based therapies for retinal diseases.

PubMed Publication

Jacob S. Martin, Ocular Pathology Fellow

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Faculty Sponsors: Dr. Daniel Albert and Dr. Heather Potter

Photo of Jacob Martin

MD 2016, College of Medicine, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR
BS 2012, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Harding University, Searcy, AR

Jacob Martin is currently an Ocular Pathology Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, working with Dr. Heather Potter. As a pathology fellow, he participates in diagnosing patient specimens sent for microscopic examination and produces published reports based on unusual or rare cases. He has participated in research examining the effects of stereopsis on surgical ability in medical students using the Eyesi ophthalmic surgical simulator. He is currently involved in several research projects including examining tumor recurrence in patients who have undergone Mohs surgery, clarifying the histopathology and types of cells and tissues involved in temporal artery biopsies from patients diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica, and determining the frequency of pyogenic granuloma of the lacrimal sac among specimens from patients who have undergone dacryocystorhinostomy.

Hilary Miller, Graduate Student

Psychology, College of Letters and Science
Faculty sponsor: Vanessa Simmering

Picture of Hilary Miller

BA 2011, Psychology, UW-Madison, Madison, WI

Hilary Miller primarily studies the development of visual-spatial cognition, focusing on the relation between language and spatial cognition. Specifically, she has conducted studies investigating how language can promote preschool-aged children’s spatial skills. Recently, she has been examining more basic cognitive processes such as attention that may underlie the relation between language and spatial cognition. She has also conducted studies on the development of visual working memory such as examining the developmental changes in the representation of single-object features (i.e., colors or shapes) and on studies seeking to understand the underlying mechanisms involved in improvements in capacity and precision of memory representations over development.

Listing of Publications

Eric Nguyen, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Faculty sponsor: Nader Sheibani

Picture of Eric Nguyen

BS 2009, Biomedical Engineering, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA
MS 2016, Biomedical Engineering, UW-Madison, Madison, WI
PhD 2016, Biomedical Engineering, UW-Madison, Madison, WI

During Eric Nguyen’s PhD research, he contributed to the development of in-vitro screening system to detect the activity of putative vascular inhibitory compounds on model microvasculature. As a postdoctoral research associate in Nader Sheibani's laboratory, Nguyen’s aim is to utilize cell types derived from induced pluripotent stem cells to construct neurovascular toxicity screening models relating to the retinal vasculature and the developing central nervous system. Data gathered by these model neurovascular systems will contribute to toxicity models being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency to determine immediate and far-reaching effects of chemical exposure on human tissue function.

Kazuya Oikawa, Graduate Student

Comparative Biomedical Sciences Program, School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Gillian McLellan

DVM 2012, Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Japan

Kazuya Oikawa is a veterinarian and graduate student in the Comparative Biomedical Sciences program, working in the lab of Dr. Gillian McLellan. He is strongly interested in glaucoma research, spontaneous animal models for medical research, and comparative ophthalmology. He would like to pursue a vision research career as veterinary clinician – scientist.

Jenny Phillips, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Waisman Center, Graduate School
Faculty sponsor: Dr. David Gamm

Picture of Jenny Phillips

BA 1998, Biology, University of Dallas, Irving, TX
PhD 2001, Vision Science, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Postdoctoral Fellowship 2011-2014, Ophthalmology/Pathology, UW-Madison, Madison, WI

As a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Donna Peters laboratory, Jenny Phillips investigated the role(s) of integrins in mediating phagocytosis in human trabecular meshwork (TM) cells. TM cells modulate aqueous humor outflow along with the Schlemm’s canal. Accumulation of cellular or extracellular debris in the TM region can obstruct outflow and elevate intraocular pressure (IOP), a condition frequently observed in patients with glaucoma. Phagocytosis is thought to play an important role in maintaining normal IOP levels by clearing debris. Dr. Phillips studies showed that activation of the αvβ5 integrin/FAK signaling pathway mediates phagocytosis in TM cells. Furthermore, they showed that activation of the αvβ3 integrin, an integrin previously implicated in the formation of cross-linked actin-networks (CLANS) found in glaucomatous TM tissue and steroid-treated cells, inhibits αvβ5 integrin-mediated phagocytosis. This was the first study to show the signaling pathway by which phagocytosis occurs in TM cells.

After joining Dr. David Gamm’s lab as a postdoctoral research associate, Dr. Phillips began learning to use stem cells as a tool to study retinal cell development and retinal degenerative diseases (RDD). Her first project involves screening, expanding and characterizing human induced pluripotent stem cell lines derived patients with choroideremia, an inherited RDD. She has also applied her background and expertise towards the investigation of integrins and their extracellular matrix (ECM) binding partners during the development of retinal cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells. ECM proteins provide necessary scaffold for cells during development through integrin-mediated adhesions, but these associations also impact cellular processes during development, like cell proliferation, differentiation and survival. Elucidating the expression profiles of integrins and ECM proteins during different stages of development will improve our understanding of the developing human retina and provides guidance for the manipulation of culture techniques in order to direct cells to a desired fate.

Listing of Publications

Gurugirijha Rathnasamy, Research Associate

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Faculty sponsor: Aparna Lakkaraju

Picture of Gurugirijha Rathnasamy

Doctor of Philosophy 2013, Neuroscience, Young Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore
MS 2008, Neuroscience, University of Madras, India
Bachelors in Technology 2006, Industrial Biotechnology, Anna University, India

Gurugirijha Rathnasamy's research occurs in the Dr. Aparna Lakkaraju lab, and is aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying macular degeneration, a common cause of blindness in aged individuals. She is studying the changes in mitochondrial dynamics in the retinal pigment epithelium in models of macular degeneration and evaluating whether mitochondria will be a viable drug target to prevent vision loss.

PubMed Listing of Publications

Devasis N. Reddy, Ocular Pathology Fellow

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Faculty sponsors: Dr. Heather Potter and Dr. Daniel Albert

Dave Reddy

BS 2010, General Biology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California
MD 2016, William Beaumont School of Medicine, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan

Devasis Reddy's current vision research entails ophthalmic pathology research and training as a fellow under Dr. Heather Potter and Dr. Daniel Albert. He is working on a number of projects. The first is an IRB approved study entitled Temporal Artery Biopsies in Polymyalgia Rheumatica: A Histopathological Study - they are seeking to determine the histopathology and the type of cells and tissue involved in temporal artery biopsies in patients with Polymyalgia Rheumatica. Their hope is to better elucidate the causes of temporal artery occlusions in these patients through histopathology studies.

Pawan Shahi, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Pediatrics, School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty sponsor: Bikash Pattnaik

BS 2003, Biotechnology, Bangalore University, Bangalore, India
MS 2005, Biotechnology, Bangalore University, Bangalore, India
MS 2009, Electrophysiology, Chosun University, Gwangiu, South Korea
PhD 2012, Electrophysiology, Chosun University, Gwangiu, South Korea
Postdoc 2012-2013, Physiology, Chosun University, Gwangiu, South Korea

Pawan Shahi has performed ion channel/cell signaling studies for the past 7 years, in the intestines and colon as well as in the eyes. Now in Dr. Bikash Pattnaik’s lab group, Dr. Shahi is currently working on the Kir 7.1 channels expressed in RPE cells whose mutation is associated with congenital blindness, specifically in Leber congenital amaurosis.

Gillian Curtis Shaw, Research Intern/Fellow

Comparative Ocular Pathology Laboratory of Wisconsin (COPLOW), School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty sponsor: Drs. Dick Dubielzig and Leandro Teixeira

Picture of Gillian Curtis Shaw

BA 2001, Biology, Kalamazoo College
DVM 2007, Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University
MS 2007, Comparative Medicine and Integrative Biology, Michigan State University
PhD 2007-2014, Cellular and Molecular Medicine & Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University
Post-DVM 2007-2014, Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, Johns Hopkins University

Gillian Curtis Shaw is a veterinary pathologist in training with a strong interest in ocular pathology and comparative ocular sciences. She completed the comparative pathology training program at Johns Hopkins University and is currently finishing up her PhD in Donald Zack's lab through the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins as well. With her DVM training at Michigan State University, she also earned a Master's degree under the tutelage of Simon Petersen-Jones studying the retinopathy, globe-enlarged chicken.

Divya Sinha, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Waisman Center, Graduate School
Faculty sponsor: Dr. David Gamm 

photo of Divya Sinha

BS 2002, Biotechnology, Ranchi University, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India
MS 2005, Biotechnology, Devi Ahilya University, Indore, M.P., India
PhD 2013, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IO

Divya Sinha’s research in Dr. David Gamm’s lab focuses on using human induced pluripotent stem cells to study the mechanisms associated with Best disease, a human macular degenerative disorder that leads to gradual loss of central vision. This work will not only aid in identifying the underlying causes and pathophysiology of Best disease, but also has the potential for developing novel treatment options.

Kevin Snyder, DVM Candidate

School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Gillian McLellan

BA 2010, Arts and Letters Preprofessional Studies Program, Notre Dame, IN

As a University of Wisconsin 4th-year veterinary student pursuing a clinical residency in veterinary ophthalmology, Kevin Snyder has been fortunate to gain valuable experience as a laboratory assistant in two ophthalmology research laboratories. In January 2013, he began working as a laboratory assistant in the Comparative Ocular Pathology Laboratory of Wisconsin (COPLOW). The COPLOW led to Snyder’s current position as a laboratory assistant in Dr. Gillian McLellan's Glaucoma Pathophysiology Laboratory. His work with Dr. McLellan has profoundly enhanced his interest in ophthalmology research, especially the power of translational research as a tool for understanding human ocular disease pathogenesis. In the McLellan lab, Snyder has worked on two main projects. The first project analyzed electrophysiologic findings in a feline congenital glaucoma model. This project spanned electrophysiological data from 2010-2015 and has yielded 4 posters, a published abstract, and a manuscript that is currently in preparation. The second project deals with characterizing a rare emerging feline conjunctival surface adenocarcinoma of the third eyelid, in collaboration with COPLOW. During Snyder’s 4th clinical year of veterinary school, he has set up a 10-week directed study under Dr. McLellan to solely focus on this second project.

Charlotte Tusler, COPLOW Fellow

Department of Pathobiological Sciences
Faculty sponsor: Drs. Dubielzig and Teixeira

Picture of Charlotte Tusler

Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine 2014,  University of California, Davis, CA
BS 2008, Biological Sciences, Univeristy of California, Santa Barbara, CA

Charlotte Tusler is a veterinarian training in comparative ocular pathology under the COPLOW lab.  Tusler’s previous experience is in various projects involving advanced imaging of python globes using SD-OCT, computed tomography and histology of goat eyes and a retrospective overview of VKH-like syndrome in dogs.  Her specific interests are in advanced ocular diagnostic imaging, ocular manifestations of systemic disease and comparative ophthalmology.

Andy Van Pay, Medical Student

School of Medicine and Public Health
BA 2009, Communication Arts and English, UW-Madison, Madison, WI

Nathaniel York, Graduate Student

Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology Program, School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty sponsor: Bikash Pattnaik

Picture of Nathaniel York

BS 2013, Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia

Nathaniel York is a graduate student in the Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is working with Dr. Bikash Pattnaik (Pediatrics), studying the posterior retina and Retinal Pigment Epithelium. York is looking at the role oxytocin plays in the development and function of the retina, as well as the potential implications it may have for retinal disease. He is also studying specific mutations to the inwardly rectifying potassium channel Kir7.1 that have been shown to cause Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), exploring ways to restore channel function to patients suffering from LCA.

PubMed Listing of Publications