University of Rochester

Vision Scientist Named Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

May 12, 2009

David R. Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics and director of the University of Rochester's Center for Visual Science, has been elected a fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) for his service and for his groundbreaking studies on human vision. He will be officially inducted at the ARVO's annual meeting this May. Williams has also been elected to ARVO's board of trustees.

Williams developed a way to correct the optical defects of the eye that has revolutionized the fields of optometry, ophthalmology, and vision science. His technology, which is similar to that used by astronomers to image stars sharply, allows scientists to see inside the human eye more clearly than ever before. Cameras equipped with the technology allow routine pictures of structures as small as single cells at the back of the living eye.

A key to Williams's system is a precision device known as a deformable mirror, equipped with tiny computer-controlled actuators arranged on the mirror's back surface mirror. These actuators push and pull on the mirror to correct the particular pattern of optical defects in each person's eye, allowing clear images of the retina despite the eye's natural aberrations. The technique, called adaptive optics, is leading to a better understanding of several diseases that cause blindness, such as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

The technology's ability to provide a detailed description of the optical defects in a person's eye also makes possible customized contact lenses, intraocular lenses, and refractive surgery for each particular patient. Bausch and Lomb's Zyoptics laser system, which provides customized refractive surgery tailored to the needs of each patient, is one technology that has already emerged from Williams's research.

Williams has a primary appointment in the University's Institute of Optics and has secondary appointments in of brain and cognitive sciences, biomedical engineering, and ophthalmology. He has 10 patents and has authored more than 135 scientific publications. In addition to many other awards, Williams is the 2006 recipient of the Friedenwald Award, ARVO's most prestigious scientific award, the Tillyer Award from the Optical Society of America, and the Bressler Prize from the Jewish Guild for the Blind. Williams received his bachelors in psychology from Denison University in 1975, and his doctorate in psychology from the University of California at San Diego in 1979.

Established in 1928, ARVO is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include some 12,500 eye and vision researchers from over 73 countries. The Association encourages and assists research, training, publication and dissemination of knowledge in vision and ophthalmology.




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