Vision Science Degree Program Handbook

Message from the Program Chair

The Ph.D. in Vision Science is conferred in recognition of the candidate’s command of a comprehensive body of knowledge in the field of vision science and its related disciplines, and his/her ability to initiate, organize and pursue the investigation of significant problems in vision science.  The program offers appropriate education for careers in teaching and/or research, in institutions of higher education, research centers and industry, where advanced analytical, conceptual and research capabilities are required.

The following provides a summary of the major degree requirements as established by the Graduate Division of the University of California at Berkeley and the Graduate Group in Vision Science.


Karsten Gronert, Vision Science Graduate Group Chair


Vision Science Graduate Group Leadership


As an interdisciplinary group, the Vision Science Group (VSG) has the distinction of adding as its members faculty from multiple departments on campus. The VSG leadership is comprised of a Chair also known as the Head Graduate Advisor, a Graduate Affairs Officer, and six or more Program Advisors – collectively the Group Advisory Council. Standing committees in the area of Admissions, Curriculum development and admissions are appointed by the Chair each academic year. Appointees represent a wide range of research interests. As necessary, ad hoc committees may be appointed by the Chair for special tasks and program development.

While the VSG is hosted and partially supported by the School of Optometry, the Dean of Optometry does not have authority over the VSP beyond that afforded by his/her role as a Faculty Member or Committee Member. In support of the symbiotic relationship between the VSG and the School of Optometry, the Chair of the Vision Science Program holds a place on the Administrative Committee of the School of Optometry.

Chair/Head Graduate Advisor

The Chair serves a term of 5 years. The VSG chair

  • Represents the Vision Science Group to the campus and the School of Optometry
  • Appoints VS committee members
  • Oversees the program development of academic events (ie: annual retreat, BAVRD, etc.)
  • Evaluates and amends Group policies, as needed
  • Evaluates and amends program curriculum, as needed – and helps to recruit faculty to teach in VS courses
  • Identifies new sources of group and program funding
  • Increases the profile of VS on and beyond the UC Berkeley campus

Student Services Advisor

The student services advisor provides a bridge between the faculty, students and Graduate Division and manages the daily operations of VSG.

Program Advisors

Collectively known as the Program Advisory Council, this group of faculty members is appointed by the Chair. Individual responsibilities include serving as Academic Advisors to the graduate students and completing annual student reviews. As a Council, this body operates in an advisory capacity to the Chair, and meets as needed to review any academic issues that may arise concerning individual students.

Faculty Advisor for GSI Affairs

This position as put forth by the campus Teaching and Resource Center has several duties which seek to ensure that our Teaching Assistants get the preparation, mentorship, and supervision that they need to provide high-quality education to undergraduates at Berkeley and to prepare for teaching in future careers. Campus prescribed responsibilities can be found on the main campus website. In addition, The Vision Science Advisor oversees the curriculum and activities of the VS 300, Teaching Methods course.

Standing Committees

Admissions Committee

The VS Group admits only a small number of students per class. But, in order to attract and select the very best and balanced class every year, committee representation from each research area is crucial. The breadth of representation on the committee helps the Group select and recruit students, some of whom may be transfers from other departments. The term of service on this committee is typically three years.

Curriculum Committee

The Vision Science Program curriculum should represent the breadth of vision science, but should also reflect the expertise of our faculty and the evolving field. The charge for this committee is to ensure that the coursework for graduate students remains both comprehensive and relevant.

Oxyopia CommitteeThe Oxyopia committee has three members. To preserve continuity, the committee comprises the past chair, the current chair and the future chair. Service in each capacity runs for two years. A newly appointed committee member is given the future chair status and is expected to serve for a total of 6 years. The committee is charged with maintaining a high quality VSG seminar series and to devise ways to maximize involvement and breadth of the series.

Faculty Members:

The Faculty Members of the Vision Science Group are comprised of Core and Affiliate Members, which may be Active or Inactive as determined by the membership requirements of the VSG. The full VSG faculty are expected to vote on most VSG decision (eg. admissions)

VSG Faculty Membership

All appointed faculty, who are members of the Academic Senate, are automatically assigned as Core members in the VS Group.

Application for Membership

All UC Berkeley Faculty members who are interested in vision science are encouraged to participate in the Vision Science Group. The application for membership must include:

  • Applicant CV/Biosketch
  • The names of two active VS Group members that will respond as sponsors for the prospective candidate’s petition
  • A letter stating his/her commitment to the growth and success of the Group as evidenced through participation and academic contribution in Group initiatives and activities. The letter should contain the following:
    • How the prospective member’s research makes him/her a good fit for the group.
    • The nature of the service contribution that the prospective member is willing to undertake.

Approval – The application is accepted upon a majority vote of the Group members.


Members of the VSG are expected to participate in the governance and operations of the Group. Such activities include but are not limited to:

  • Teaching – Proseminar or Advanced courses
  • Participation at VS academic events (ie: BAVRD, Annual retreat, etc.)
  • Service on Group committees (see section e.Standing Committees)
  • Regular attendance to VS faculty meetings
  • Voting on VSG issues

Membership Status

Based on each faculty member’s level of participation s/he may be categorized as Active or Inactive. Furthermore, based on a faculty member’s academic appointment, members may be deemed as Core or Affiliate members. It is important to note that these designations are not interchangeable. As an example it is possible for a Core member to be deemed Inactive as a result of low VSG participation.

Core vs. Affiliate membership

  • Core members may independently supervise students and serve as inside members of committees.
  • Affiliate members may not independently supervise students and may act as inside, or outside members on graduate student academic committees

Active vs. Inactive membership

  • Active members may supervise graduate students who are supported by VSG funding and may sponsor post-doctoral applications to the T32 training grant.
  • Inactive members are not allotted similar privileges while inactive.

VSG Faculty Expectations

Active Core and Affiliate members of the VSG enjoy the benefit of training PhD students toward a degree in Vision Science. Currently, our PhD students are supported by the VSG for the first 2-3 years of the program, after which time the research advisor assumes full support. Departmental support comes primarily from an NIH training grant (PI, Dennis Levi), which we’ve been awarded through the significant efforts of group members. Through efforts by other VSP members, we have also been awarded NIH funds for our K12 Berkeley Clinical Scientist Development Program (PI, Kenneth Polse), a T35 Training Grant for Optometry students (PI, Christine Wildsoet), and an NIH Core grant (PI, Richard Kramer), all which add value to membership in our group. As all VSP members benefit directly from these efforts, it is expected that all VS faculty, as a condition of active membership will themselves be contributing members to this Group.

The following is a list of expectations for all VS Group faculty. Failure to meet these expectations may result in a change of membership status – active to inactive.

  • Teaching: (Approximately 9 hours of contact time per year).
    • Proseminar Series: The Proseminar series provides VS students with a launching point for their research in vision science. The aim of this set of courses is to expose students to the breadth of Vision Science but also to learn about current research areas. Students benefit from a carefully planned syllabus, as well as being taught by world-class researchers in each area. As such, we attempt to have as many VS Group members involved in these courses.
    • Student Evening Research Seminar: This is generally overseen by the chair of the VS Group, but relies on different faculty at each meeting to lead discussions on topics related to giving effective presentations. (2 hour time commitment)
    • Ethics
    • Teaching Methods in Vision Science
    • Advanced Courses: All faculty are encouraged to hold advanced courses in VS
  • Academic Service
    • Supervise student rotations
    • Serve on qualifying and thesis committees
    • Train T35 summer research students
  • Committee Service (service on at least one committee per year):
    • Admissions Committee
    • Curriculum Committee
    • Fiscal Affairs Committee
    • Program Advisory Council
    • Ad Hoc Committees as needed
  • Other Service (involvement at least once per year on one of the following activities)
    • Student Recruitment
    • Grant Management:  The VSG currently has a T35 (summer training for optometrists), K12 (Berkeley Clinical Scientist Development Program), NIH Core grant, and an NIH training grant. Occasionally VS group members may be asked to serve as PIs and/or key personnel on these grants as current personnel transition out.
    • Oxyopia: Oxyopia is a very important element of our program and is a way for faculty, postdocs and students to meet top researchers in the field. Faculty are all encouraged to host speakers for this series. Faculty also may be asked to organize the seminar series.

Program Requirements (PhD)

The PhD in Vision Science is based largely on research training. The Vision Science Program (VSP) is formatted in such a way that students are afforded the greatest amount of flexibility to investigate their research interests. Formal course work is primarily taken during the first year, and individual curricula and research are arranged in consultation with the student’s academic Adviser and Thesis Mentor. Normative time for completion of the PhD in Vision Science is five years.

The PhD requires 20+ units of course work including successful completion of the Proseminar courses, individualized research, and a dissertation.

Program Sequence

The following table serves as a quick guide for VS graduate students.







Required Coursework






Lab Rotations












Qualifying Exam






Advance to Candidacy






Thesis Proposal



















Graduate students are required to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 in all academic coursework and must make satisfactory progress toward their degree.

For each required course a B or higher is considered a pass; a B- or lower is equivalent to a failing grade.

All students must remediate all non-passing grades at the next course offering, or as designated by the Chair. Students who do not achieve a passing grade in the Proseminar Series by the end of the second year will be placed on probation.

Students must remain stay in good standing in order to be funded by the program; probation is a potential basis for removing funding.

The “official” Grade Point Average (GPA) is posted on the transcript. Students are responsible for reviewing transcripts to ensure the grades are properly posted and classes taken are accurately listed.

Contact the Graduate Affairs Officer for questions or issues regarding transcripts.

Berkeley transcripts are available on-line at BearFacts.

Full time Status

Graduate students are required to maintain “full-time” student status at all times during the academic year. For all students, full-time status is considered enrollment in 12 semester units of graduate or upper division courses each semester. Units may be formal course work or research units.



The Proseminar Series comprises a series of six 5-week intensive courses that in the ensemble cover the field of Vision Science. First-year PhD students are required to complete any five of the six courses. The series is intended to provide a general overview of the main topic areas in Vision Science for students of widely varying backgrounds.

Credit is obtained under the following course titles (2 units per course).

VS212A – Optics and Dioptrics of the Eye

VS212B – Visual Neurophysiology and Development

VS212D – Anatomy and Vegetative Physiology of the Eye

VS212E – Color Vision and Visual Sensitivity

VS212F – Eye Movements, Motion Perception and Binocular Vision

VS212G – Molecular Genetics of Vertebrate Eye Development and Diseases

The proseminar requirement must be fulfilled by the end of their first year. (Remediation, if necessary, may occur in the second year).


Oxyopia Seminars

Oxyopia seminars are presented to the Vision Science community on weekly basis during the academic year. These seminars are given by local and visiting researchers and are an excellent way for students to become more familiar with the most recent developments in Vision Research.

Oxypia is a required course for all first-year and second-year students although all graduate students, faculty and postdocs are welcome and encouraged to attend. Starting in their 3rd year, all VS student are required to make an annual presentation on their current research project at the Oxyopia lecture series.
Credit obtained under course VS 298, Section 1 (1 unit; S/U grade).

Student Evening Research Seminar (SERS)

The goal of the Student Evening Research Seminar (SERS) is to provide a forum for VS graduate students to discuss and develop strategies for giving effective presentations and to have an opportunity to practice giving scientific presentations in an informal setting. SERS is required course for all first-year and second-year students although all graduate students, faculty and postdocs are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Credit obtained under VS 201B, Section 3 (2 unit, S/U).

Survey of Laboratories

The goal of this course is to introduce first-year students to the faculty and labs. During the first year of the graduate program, students are presented with an overview of the various research opportunities represented in the Vision Science group. Weekly one-hour lecture and/or lab tours are presented by Vision Science faculty.

Credit obtained under course VS201A – Seminar in Vision Science (1 units, S/U grade)


In preparation for participation in research labs, each student is required to complete the Ethics in Scientific Research course within the first 2 years of enrollment. Training in the responsible conduct of research is required for all students. This course examines a range of ethical issues that arise in the process of doing science.
Credit obtained under course VS230 – Ethics in Scientific Research (2 unit, S/U grade)

Teaching Methods

As participants in the teaching activities of the School of Optometry, 1st and 2nd year students are required to enroll in a Teaching Methods Course. This course provides instruction in teaching methods and materials and opportunities to practice teaching in classrooms and laboratories.

Credit obtained under course VS300 – Teaching Methods in Vision Science (1 unit, S/U grade)

Additional Coursework

The following represents fields of study that may be necessary for student success but are not required courses.

  • Statistics – Strongly recommended for most areas of Vision Science. Meet with your Graduate Advisor to discuss your statistics background and the statistics needs for your intended area of  research.
  • Advanced Courses and Seminars – Advanced Courses and Seminars are given as a continuation of the different themes established in the proseminar series. Courses offerings vary and a complete list will be provided each semester. Please visit the Vision Science website or the Schedule of Classes for the most up to date listing.
  • Beyond Vision Science – Students may also consider courses offered by other departments on campus, according to their needs.

Students are encouraged to meet with their research advisor to discuss their needs and the options that are available to them.

Lab Rotations

First-year students are required to complete two lab rotations – one per semester. Students may choose to complete a 3rd rotation during the summer of the first year.

The objective of the research rotation is to allow students to become familiar with different areas of research, learn new experimental techniques, obtain experience in unique research laboratories, and ultimately to identify a lab in which to conduct dissertation research. The research being performed during a rotation may correspond to the initial stages of a thesis project or may be on a totally different topic.

The rotation sponsor (temporary research advisor) will evaluate each student’s performance during a rotation. The rotation sponsor will submit a written report at the conclusion of the rotation period. Progress is monitored by the Chair and the Graduate Affairs Officer, who will review rotation evaluation reports.

Students should actively seek rotation projects and meet with faculty no later than 2 weeks before the start of the semester. Prior to starting a research rotation, the student and proposed faculty sponsor must complete a Research Rotation Authorization Form  indicating the research project title and scope, and confirming the rotation time commitment and resources. Forms are due no later than the 2nd week of classes.

Credit obtained under course VS299 – Research (variable unit & grading option)


Teaching is a critical component of graduate education in the Vision Science program. All Vision Science PhD students are required to spend at least two semesters as Teaching Assistants (TAs) in the Optometry professional school curriculum. This provides Vision Science students with teaching experience in a mentored environment and expands their knowledge of clinical aspects of vision science. Practically any career path after Vision Science graduate school, in or out of academia, will involve some form of teaching. In addition to the required two semesters as a TA in Optometry courses, Vision Science students have the opportunity to gain additional teaching experience, including courses in other departments such as Integrative Biology, Psychology, and Molecular and Cell Biology.

Vision Science TAs are assigned to one of the following Optometry courses:

VS203A          Geometrical Optics

VS203B          Optical System and Physical Optics

VS205             Visual Perception and Sensitivity

VS206A/D      Anatomy and Physiology of the Eye / Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology of the

Eye and Visual System

VS206B/C       Anatomy and Physiology of the Eye and Visual System

VS217/219      Oculomotor Functions and Neurology / Binocular Vision and Space Perception

OPT226A/B    Systemic Pharmacology / Ocular Pharmacology

First-year VS students are typically Junior TAs and then teach in the same course during their second year as Senior TAs. In addition to teaching Optometry students, Senior TAs are responsible for mentoring Junior TAs. In particular, Senior TAs should collect whatever course materials are available from previous years and send these to the Junior TAs well before the beginning of the class, so that they have time to properly prepare for teaching. In addition, before class begins, both Junior TAs and Senior TAs should meet together with the faculty Course Instructor(s) to discuss their respective responsibilities in the course.

Depending on the course, Vision Science TAs may be involved in preparing and administering labs, teaching review sessions, responding to student emails, and/or grading exams. It is the responsibility of the faculty instructor(s) to write exam questions, the answer key, and the grading rubric for assigning points to individual questions, to determine final letter grades for each student, and to enter these grades into Bear Facts.

All first-year TAs must complete the Online Course on Professional Standards and Ethics in Teaching. This should be done by the end of the third week of the fall semester of the first year. The course is available here.

First-year TAs are also required to enroll in VS300, “Teaching Methods in Vision Science”, in both the fall and spring semesters. This class satisfies the UC Berkeley requirement that TAs complete a course in pedagogy in their field. Michael Silver is the VS300 Instructor. Michael Silver is also the Faculty Adviser for GSI (Graduate Student Instructor) Affairs in Vision Science. If you have any questions or concerns about your role as a TA, please contact him at These could include questions about expectations for TAs before you begin teaching as well as issues that arise during your time as a TA.

The Outstanding TA Award is presented each year at the annual retreat and is a $500 prize to recognize exceptional performance by TAs in the Vision Science program. The recipient is chosen by the Vision Science Chair and Advisory Committee, based on faculty instructor and student evaluations.


Designated Emphasis Programs

To augment their training, PhD students may choose to add a designated emphasis (DE) to their program. A DE is a specialization, such as a new method of inquiry or an important field of application, which is relevant to two or more existing doctoral degree programs. If a student is accepted and the program requirements are met, the student will receive a DE distinction as part of their PhD degree. Each DE program has its own set of course and program requirements and interested students are responsible for own application and admission. Example DE programs are listed below (more DEs are available and the list is expanding).

  • Computer Science and Engineering
  • Center for Computation Biology
  • Nanoscale Science and Engineering
  • Communication, Computation and Statistics

At this time, the VSP is not officially included in all DEs. If a student is interested in a specific DE for which VS is not included, then that student should make a case for inclusion in that DE to the VSG Chair.

Qualifying Exam

Vision Science students are expected to take their Oral Qualifying Examination (QE) in the fourth semester. If there are extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control, then the student can petition the Chair of the Vision Science Program for an exception to this time frame.

The central goal of the QE is to evaluate and establish the student’s aptitude and readiness for completing PhD research.

The exam is not an evaluation of the student’s research proposal although this does not preclude the student from presenting a research proposal and they are encouraged to do so. In some cases, as with International students, students may wish to complete their QE by the end of the second semester. In such cases, presenting a fully worked out research proposal may not be possible.

The exam consists of two main parts:

  • A presentation which covers preliminary and proposed research or topics related to the subject areas.
  • General questions from the committee on your 3 subject areas.

What students should expect at the qualifying exam:

  • Exams are scheduled for 3 hours; they typically last from 2-3 hours.
  • Expect to be interrupted with questions from your committee during the presentation. This part of the exam is likely to occupy more than half of the time.

Exam outcomes:

  • Students can pass, fail, or receive a partial fail.
  • Students who pass move on to the next stage, forming a Thesis Committee and preparing the Thesis Proposal.
  • If a student fails all or certain parts, then the committee will decide on the action to be taken
  • If a student fails only certain parts, then the chair or a member of the qualifying committee will make a recommendation for remediation and decide if another oral retesting is required on these parts.
  • Students who fail are entitled to retake the exam one more time.
  • Students must wait three months from the initial exam date to retake the exam or parts of it, but may not test beyond 6 months.

Committee Composition
The qualifying exam committee requires 4 faculty members comprising:

  • One Committee Chair, a Vision Science faculty member who is not the student’s Research Advisor
  • Two other Vision Science faculty members also known as “inside members”. If appropriate, one of these faculty members may be substituted with a non-VS faculty member or in some cases a non-UCB faculty member.
  • One non-Vision Science faculty member also known as an “outside member.” The non-VS representative must be a faculty member on the Berkeley campus who is a member of the Academic Senate. Eligible faculty will typically have the title of Professor, Dean, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor. Faculty with titles such as Adjunct Faculty, Lecturer, or Visiting Professor are not eligible outside committee members, but may in some cases serve as inside members.

The Graduate Affairs Officer will be able to assist in identifying eligible members of the committee.

Responsibilities of the Student

  • Choose three subject areas that include the general and the non-departmental fields of knowledge in which to be examined.
  • Consult with Research Advisor and Committee members on these fields of knowledge.
  • Present proposed subject areas to the committee chair for approval.
  • Consult the Graduate Affairs Officer to review the committee and complete the Application for Qualifying Examination form required by the Graduate Division.
  • Have the Chair of the Vision Science Group review and give final approval of exam committees and subject areas.
  • Arrange a date, time and location for the exam that works for all members. Schedule no less than a three hour time slot.
  • Meet with members as necessary to review readings.
  • Prepare a presentation using slides and/or other visual material to complement it. It should be about 20- to 30-minutes long.
  • Practice a presentation and do a mock exam with colleagues.
  • Ensure any audiovisual requirements are in order prior to the QE. See the Graduate Affairs Officer to reserve a room.
  • Confirm the time and place of exam with all committee members the week before the exam. The Student Affairs Officer will send an email reminder to the committee and the student one week prior to the exam, after confirming that the Graduate Division has approved.

Responsibilities of the QE Chair and Committee

  • Help the student refine the subject areas and advise them on appropriate reading materials.
  • Meet with the student prior to the exam to review the student progress in preparing for the QE.
  • Actively participate in the QE.
  • In addition to acting as an exam advisor, the QE committee, led by the chair, is required to write a report for the benefit of the research mentor. The discussion of the content of this report should take place immediately after the QE. The exam chair or a selected member of the committee should communicate directly with the student’s research mentor. The report should address:
    • Content – Comment on the students understanding of the material that was presented
    • Delivery – Comment on the student’s ability to present this material clearly and confidently
    • Recommendation: Make recommendations that will help the student in remainder of their academic program, include any potential concerns.

Responsibilities of the Research Mentor

The research mentor will not be present at the QE, but they are expected to be actively involved in helping to prepare the student for the exam. Mentors should meet with the QE chair to review the QE report. Mentors should also meet with the student as soon as possible after the QE to review the evaluations and recommendations from the committee.

Advancement to Candidacy

As stated by the UCB Graduate Division, students need to “File the advancement form no later than the end of the semester following the one in which you passed the Qualifying Examination“. So, a student following the normal schedule, who passes their QE by the end of the Spring of their second year has to turn in their Advancement to Candidacy form by December of the same year. Forming the thesis committee and writing a thesis proposal are the main parts of advancing to candidacy. Graduate students are responsible to submit the required Application for Advancement in PhD Candidacy form along with the signed Thesis Proposal Approval form no later than the last day of their 5th semester in the program

Thesis Proposal

As part of the advancement to candidacy, students are required to prepare a thesis proposal for approval by their thesis committee. The thesis proposal must be completed within one semester after completing the QE. A student following the normal schedule would complete their thesis proposal by the end of the first semester of their third year –  at the same time that the Advancement to Candidacy form is filed.

Rationale for the Thesis Proposal

Leads to better dissertations:A detailed thesis proposal will provide the student with a document that is an approved guideline for the remainder of their PhD work. By getting substantive input from the thesis committee at this early stage, students will have a clearer path toward completion of the research toward their PhD degree.

Fulfills an important element of graduate student training, that of grant writing: Requiring the preparation of the PhD proposal to be in a truncated NIH RO1 grant application format will help to train the student to prepare future grant applications.  Furthermore, the student will not only get advice on the research plan, but can expect to get expert advice from the thesis committee on the proposal document itself. It will provide a more tangible way for the thesis committee to get involved in guiding the research and mentoring the student.

Protects graduate students: The thesis proposal will serve to avoid instances where thesis committee members are not engaged or familiar with the students work and disapprove of the thesis dissertation at a late stage.

Thesis Proposal FormatIt is recommended that the thesis proposal be formatted as an NIH RO1 grant application. The specific elements are:

  • Specific Aims (1 page): State major hypotheses and outline the experiments to test them
  • Background and Significance (2 pages): Include a focused literature review on the area, as well as some text stating why this research is important
  • Preliminary Studies or Progress Report (2-4 pages): Describe the relevant research that has already been done by you toward completing your PhD research
  • Research Design and Methods (5-10 pages): Describe planned research

Changes to Research Plan

Although the intent for the proposal is to generate an actual detailed plan for work toward completion of the PhD degree, students will not be obliged to stick to the original proposal plan. An approved and detailed thesis proposal will be an easier starting point for discussing changes in research direction with the supervisor and thesis committee.


Students are expected to work closely with their research supervisor to prepare the proposal. In many cases, the student’s research project is part of a larger research project that the supervisor is funded to do.


Thesis proposal completion/non-completion will become part of the annual review, which takes place at the end of each summer. 3rd year students (and their mentors) who have not had a thesis proposal approved will have to address the review committee at that time. Non-completion of the thesis proposal may lead to academic probation,  which consequently can lead to dismissal from the program.


Thesis Research

Thesis research should be completed within 5 years of matriculation.

Responsibilities of the Student

  • Update their thesis committee yearly on progress and anticipated filing date. This keeps the committee involved and helps avoids timing conflicts after filing.
  • Complete and get approval for dissertation
  • Give an exit seminar, preferably as part of the VS Dissertation Symposium which is an event that is held each year to celebrate new VS program graduates.

Responsibilities of the Mentor

  • Review and advise on research progress
  • Submit a grade for your research activities each enrolled semester. The course number is VS299.

Annual Reviews

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress, each year they are required to undergo an Annual Review.

Responsibilities of the Student

  • Complete the Self-Review form which should be returned to the Graduate Affairs Officer and shared with your advisor.
  • Schedule a meeting with your Academic Program Advisor

Responsibilities of the Graduate Advisor

  • Review the students Self-Review document
  • Meet with and discuss progress of each of their assigned students
  • Complete the Adviser Survey form and submit it to the Graduate Affairs Officer. A copy of the Advisor Survey is included in the appendix.
  • Consult with the mentor, rotation supervisor, instructors or any other relevant people as needed to make a proper assessment of student progress.
  • Assist in reviewing progress of your students as well as other students at the Graduate Advisors meeting.

Each year, following the VSG Graduate Advisors meeting, each student will be sent a letter outlining their progress.  The letter will outline achievements, upcoming milestones and any concerns about progress that were raised by the committee.

Student Funding

The Vision Science Group is hosted by the School of Optometry and funded by a number of internal and external sources. One purpose of Vision Science funding is to support the students, specifically to cover the cost of graduate stipends, graduate conference travel.

Graduate Student Funding

Training Grant

The NIH National Eye Institute Training Grant is the main source of funding for most Vision Science students. In an effort to attract outstanding trainees who will develop independent and productive vision research careers, the Vision Science Program offers funding in the form of the T32 Training Grant. Only US Citizens and Permanent Residents are eligible for NIH funding. While not all admitted students are supported by the Training Grant, those students admitted with funding, are guaranteed departmental support for two years. During the later years of training, support is provided by other University resources; individual faculty research grants, departmental or university fellowships, foundations, and research assistantships. Optometry (OD) and medicine (MD) graduates who are working toward a PhD are supported at the higher post-doctoral stipend level and have opportunities for substantial optometry/medical school loan repayment through the new NIH loan repayment program (LRP). [].

External Fellowship Opportunities

  • Ezell Fellowship
  • NSF Fellowship
  • DOE Fellowship
  • NDSEG fellowship
  • Minnie Flaura Turner
  • SPIE

Fellowship Bonus Program

The VSG has a Fellowship Bonus Program to provide an incentive to encourage VS graduate students to apply for their own funding. The policy is as follows:

Any student who wins a fellowship that is administered through our sponsored projects office (eg NSF), will receive a salary increment of $2,500 above the departmentally set salary level or above the level of their fellowship stipend, whichever is higher. If a student is working in a lab, then the PI of the lab will be expected to pay this amount.

If the award is not administered through the sponsored projects office (eg Ezell fellowship, from the American Optometric Foundation) then the student should expect to receive the full amount.

Students will be informed of this policy and so they will know the bonuses to which they are entitled. Therefore, in a situation where a PI is encouraging a student to apply for a grant because they have no more funding, then they should negotiate the salary terms that with that student at the time of the application.

VSG Funding

In addition to covering stipends for students, the VSG raises funds to support local conferences, student-run events (eg BAVRD), and costs associated with admission and recruitment of new students. The following program are used to generate funds for the VSG

Faculty Research Salary Exchange Program (FRSEP)

Through the FSREP faculty can use their grants to pay academic year salary and the funds from UC Berkeley that would normally pay this salary are deposited into a research fund to be used mainly by the PI. The actual allocations are at the discretion of the dean, and it has been determined that 5% will go to optometry, a minimum of 15% would go to the VS graduate group, and everything that remains would go into the faculty’s personal research account.

These specifics only apply to UCSBO supported faculty. VSP members in other departments need to talk to their dean. More details can be found here.

The funds that go to the VS Graduate Group (15% minimum) will be used to support events such as the Vision Science Dissertation Symposium, Bay Area Vision Research Day, graduate student recruitment efforts, VS retreat, and stipends to support outstanding foreign applicants.

If you wish to participate in the program, please feel out this FSREP Form and return it to Donna Lee in the Business Office


The task of screening and recommending new graduate students for admission each year is the responsibility of the VSG Admissions Committee.

The Committee is made up of a Committee Chair, as appointed by the VSG Chair, and selected faculty from among the active Group members. The expected term of service for an admission committee appointment is 3 years.

  • All applicants to the Vision Science Program are reviewed by the committee with an eye toward academic achievement and demonstration of interest in vision research
  • Select candidates are invited to the campus for interview on Visit Day
  • During their visit, prospective students will be interviewed by no fewer than 3 VS faculty members
  • Using the interview responses in combination with the submitted application, the Admission Committee will rank all interviewed candidates and
  • Make a recommendation to the full faculty membership regarding admission and funding
  • Based on ranking and anticipated funding scenarios, applicants may be offered:
    • Admission
    • Admission without funding
    • Waitlisted
    • Denied
  • It is the responsibility of the Graduate Affairs Officer to monitor prospective student responses and to move the admission process forward in accordance with campus policies

We need to provide a clear policy for sponsored applicants

Graduate Student Appeals Procedure


The purpose of this procedure is to afford graduate students in the Vision Science Program an opportunity to resolve complaints about dismissal from graduate standing, placement on probationary status, denial of readmission, and other administrative or academic decisions that terminate or otherwise impede progress toward academic or professional degree goals.  This procedure may also be used to resolve disputes over joint authorship of research in accordance with joint authorship policies of campus departments or units.

The scope of this procedure is limited to the matters listed above, and excludes complaints regarding denial of admission, student records, grades in courses of instruction, student employment, student discipline, and auxiliary student services (such as housing, child care etc.) This procedure may not be used for complaints regarding actions based solely on faculty evaluation of the academic quality of a student’s performance, or decanal evaluation of a student’s appropriate academic progress, unless the complaint alleges that the actions may have been influenced by non-academic criteria.


A student may pursue informal resolution of a complaint by scheduling a meeting with the Head Graduate Adviser to discuss the complaint and explore possible avenues of resolution.  If informal resolution is pursued, it must be initiated, and should be completed, within 30 days. At any point in this process, if a satisfactory solution cannot be reached, the student may initiate formal resolution by putting the complaint in writing.


A written complaint must include information regarding the action being complained of and the date it occurred, the grounds upon which the appeal is based, and the relief requested.  The complaint must be based on one or more of the following grounds:

1.  Procedural error or violation of official policy by academic or administrative personnel;

2.  Judgments improperly based upon non-academic criteria including, but not limited to, discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex, race, national origin, color, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability;

3.  Specific mitigating circumstances beyond the student’s control not properly taken into account in a decision affecting the student’s academic progress.

A written complaint must be received by the Head Graduate Adviser within thirty days from the time the student knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the action that is the subject of the complaint. The group should complete its investigation and notify the student of the outcome of the complaint within sixty days of the date it was received.

If the complaint is about an action taken by the Head Graduate Adviser, the complainant may elect to take the complaint directly to the Group Advisory Committee.  In such a case, the time limits set out in the preceding paragraph still apply.

The time frame for filing a written complaint may be extended by the group if the student has been involved in continuing efforts toward informal resolution, and the informal resolution process was initiated within thirty days of the time the student knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the action that is the subject of the complaint. All time frames referred to in this procedure refer to calendar days. Summer and intersemester recesses are not included within these time frames.

Upon receipt of a written complaint, the Head Graduate Adviser will assign an individual to investigate the complaint and make a recommendation to the Head Graduate Adviser regarding the outcome of the complaint.  Generally, the investigation will include an interview with the complainant, a review of any relevant written materials, and an effort to obtain information from available witnesses (i.e. interviews or written statements or documents).  The Head Graduate Adviser will notify the student in writing of the outcome of the complaint.  A written complaint under this procedure satisfies the requirement of a unit level resolution process pursuant to the Graduate Appeals Procedure.


If the student is not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint under the group’s procedure, he or she may bring the complaint to the Formal Appeal Procedure of the Graduate Appeals Procedure. The formal appeal must be received in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division, within fifteen days of the date of the written notification of the result of the unit level procedure. Copies of the Graduate Appeals Procedure may be obtained from the Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division.


If the complaint involves allegations of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex, race, national origin, color, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, the department or unit should consult the appropriate campus compliance officers prior to commencing informal or formal resolution


Graduate students may contact the Office of the Ombudsman for Students, the Title IX Compliance Officer, or the 504/ADA Compliance Officer for assistance with complaint resolution. There also are other complaint resolution procedures listed in the Graduate Appeals Procedure for use regarding complaints that do not fall under this procedure.