Sonali Singh

PhD Student
Gene Therapies for Retinal Degeneration


I'm from the Bay Area, CA born and raised!


I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of California, Riverside where I majored in Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology. At UCR, I worked with Dr. Theodore Garland, Jr., focusing on the evolution and inheritance patterns of exercise behavior in mice. After graduating, I went to Baltimore, MD to work as a Post-Baccalaureate Intramural Research Fellow at the NIH with Dr. Ranjan Sen and Dr. Ananda Roy. In the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Immunology, I studied the role of the autoimmune disease-associated transcription factor, TFII-I, in murine T cells before coming to the Vision Science Ph.D. program.


The eye has been the most fascinating part of the human body to me ever since I did a project on photoreceptors in color blindness when I was 13 years old. Also, my whole life I've had myopia of -16.00 diopters which keeps me constantly engaged in eye biology and health. The Vision Science program drew me in because of how multidisciplinary the faculty and students are but how everything is still centered around the eye. I hope to channel my deep interests into useful work that will lead to effective therapeutics for the visually-impaired.


Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the degradation of neurons in the retina caused by retinal dysfunction with age, environmental factors, and more. Patients with dry AMD can lose their vision partially or completely. I will be developing adeno-associated viruses to mediate the gene transfer of optogenetic proteins to retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE). This will enable vision restoration for dry AMD that has been caused by the loss of crucial components playing a role in the eye's immune system. If successful, such gene therapies can eventually be taken to clinical trials.


After completing my Ph.D. here at UC Berkeley, I hope to move on to industry where I can use my vision expertise to help develop novel therapeutics that will help those with visual impairments.


I started my professional dancing career early on and spent most of my childhood traveling the country for various performances (you might've seen me in the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show)! I've carried this passion with me thus far and hope to continue growing as a dancer when I'm not in the lab. I love to check new cities off my travel list, explore different breweries, and eat as much food as I can get my hands on. And, of course, music is something I cannot live without.