Vision Science Research Program
Vision Science Research Program
Can we reverse age-related vision loss?
Vision Science Research Program
Studying the science of sight

Supervisors | Vision Science Research Program

Trainees in the Vision Science Research Program (VSRP) may seek supervisors from any of the four graduate divisions at the University of Toronto including the Humanities; the Social Sciences; the Physical Sciences; and the Life Sciences (including the Institute of Medical Sciences) who are members of the Vision Science Research Program (see the membership criteria).

Supervisors must be actively engaged in research, but their specialty need not be vision science. The Vision Science Research Program grants are awarded under the auspices of the Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, however supervisors and trainees from many faculties participate. In addition to the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, recent trainees have been based in the Institute of Medical Sciences, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, Cell and Systems Biology, Molecular Genetics, Psychology, and theInstitute of Biomaterials and Bioengineering. Students are frequently engaged in translational research at University of Toronto teaching hospitals across the GTA, including the Krembil Research Institute when the program is administered.


Current Vision Science Research Program Members

University of Toronto investigators interested in supervising students through the Vision Science Research Program may apply to the VSRP Director Dr. Valerie Wallace. Current VSRP supervisors work in the following areas:

The Evolution and Development of the Eye

  • Belinda Chang studies the evolution of the visual pigments that allow the retina to process light.
  • Julie Lefebvre studies neural development in the brain and retina and how neural circuits are assembled.
  • Ulrich Tepass explores how epithelial cells adapt to have more specialized functions, including the light-sensing functions of photoreceptors.
  • Vincent Tropepe studies how neural cells develop and mature in the retina and midbrain and how they establish visual function using a zebrafish model.


The Genetics of Eye Disease

  • Brian Ballios conducts basic and clinical research into disease mechanisms and new gene- and cell-based treatments for inherited retinal diseases.
  • Brenda Gallie has led ground-breaking research in the genetics of retinoblastoma leading to new clinical interventions for this childhood cancer of the eye.
  • Elise Héon conducts both clinical and basic science research on inherited eye diseases of childhood including Bardet Biedl syndrome, retinitis pigmentosa, and retinoblastoma.
  • Ajoy Vincent’s area of research is basic research to understand the genetic basis and mechanisms underlying inherited retinal and macular dystrophies.


Application of Developmental Knowledge to Restore Sight

  • Liliana Attisano studies molecular mechanisms that drive neuronal polarity with the goal of identifying novel targets that promote the survival or regeneration of damaged nerves of the central nervous system, including the optic nerve.”
  • Rod Bremner explores the development and maturation of retinal nerve cells, with a particular interest is how changes in these factors lead to retinoblastoma and other cancers.
  • Philippe Monnier studies the signals that guide the development and function of nerve cells and how these communications could be manipulated to treat disease. 
  • Derek van der Kooy studies the development of neural stem cells including those which develop to become the retina and how these cells might be transplanted to restore sight.
  • Michael Reber studies the mechanisms of visual network development and function in normal and pathological contexts.
  • Carol Schuurmans studies how transcriptional codes control cell fate specification in the retina and is using this knowledge to investigate how transcription factors can convert non-retinal cells to photoreceptors.    
  • Valerie Wallace studies how molecular signals control the developing retina and how photoreceptor cells might be transplanted into the retina to restore sight.


Neuroprotection Strategies

  • Neeru Gupta investigates glaucoma therapies considering pharmacological strategies for neuroprotection, as well as means of normalizing intraocular pressure and lymphatic circulation.
  • Jeremy Sivak explores the molecular response to tissue damage in the optic nerve and retina and how these responses might be managed to control degenerative eye disease.
  • Yeni Yucel studies strategies to protect and regenerate nerve cells in order to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.


Visual Perception and Eye Movement

  • Jay Pratt is interested in how humans understand what they see, selecting information from their visual field.
  • Agnes Wong investigates the brain mechanisms that cause abnormal eye movements, such as strabismus and amblyopia (lazy eye), as well as how to treat these diseases.


Novel Tools to Monitor Eye Development and Disease

  • Sandra Black studies molecular mechanisms that drive neuronal polarity with the goal of identifying novel targets that promote the survival or regeneration of damaged nerves of the central nervous system, including the optic nerve.
  • Shelley Boyd uses disease modeling and biomarker analysis to better understand the mechanisms of disease and to develop novel therapies and drug delivery methods.
  • Moshe Eizenman develops instrumentation that allow accurate measurements of eye-movements and neurophysiological functions.
  • Christopher Hudson works to enhance imaging and measure of retinal blood flow to improve the diagnosis of retinal disease and to better understand the early development of eye disease.
  • Suneil Kalia focuses on understanding molecular mechanisms of protein homeostasis (balance) in neurodegeneration. His group is currently doing work to unravel the role of chaperone and co-chaperone proteins in modulating signalling pathways critical for retinal neurodegeneration. His team is actively working to develop novel biological therapies that are designed to slow or halt the progression of neurodegeneration with plans to test these therapies in degenerative diseases of the eye and brain.


Health Systems and Rehabilitation

  • Yaping Jin studies epidemiological trends in vision care delivery and utilization, particularly gaps in care for older Canadians.
  • Brian Maki’s primary research interest is preventing injuries and falls in older adults. This includes an interest in eye tracking and in how people’s visual perceptions affect their balance.
  • Graham Trope studies strategies to improve glaucoma treatment and treatment services.


Molecular Basis of Vision

  • Paul Brumer's work focuses on theoretical and computational models designed to probe issues relating to the molecular basis of vision.   As a light-driven process in a complex biological environment, vision presents a collection of challenging problems at the forefront of  modern molecular science.
  • Shuzo Sugita is interested in the mechanism of visual information processing in the retina. Specifically, he is investigating the molecular mechanisms how neurotransmitter glutamate is released from retinal ribbon synapses


Interested in becoming a member of the Vision Science Research program faculty? Learn more about our membership criteria