ViSUR Testimonials

We are accepting applications for ViSUR 2024 until February 1st, 2024 – apply today!
Hear from our past participants.

The Vision Science Undergraduate Research (ViSUR) program is an 8-week intensive summer program in which undergraduate students are given the opportunity to work in a vision science lab with a faculty advisor on a research project. In addition to a $5,000 stipend, all housing and travel expenses are coordinated and provided by UC Berkeley.

Since its inception in 2022, the ViSUR program has hosted several undergraduate students from universities such as UC Berkeley, University of Rochester, SUNY Binghamton University, among other institutions. Read what some our past participants had to say about their ViSUR experience in their testimonials, listed below.

Kaiona Li'a Martinson

Undergraduate Institution: University of California, Berkeley
ViSUR Cohort: 2022

Participating in the ViSUR was a significant step in my academic journey, particularly as someone who had never been exposed to or encouraged toward a path in academia. The program provided an in-depth exploration of vision science, a field that interested me, yet I was unsure about pursuing. ViSUR was helpful in demystifying the research environment, introducing me to the intricacies of academic work, and helping me navigate my interests in vision science.

During ViSUR, I had the chance to dive into interesting research and was amazed to be surrounded by and learn from top-notch experts in the field. The program's tight-knit community, accessibility, and openness of the faculty were some of the highlights. Casual interactions with professors and peers played a key role in enriching my learning experience. My advice to undergraduates considering ViSUR is straightforward: just apply. It's common to doubt your fit or question your abilities. ViSUR not only offers a great educational experience but also a welcoming community where you can explore vision science and discover its many fascinating aspects.

Angeles Ramirez

Undergraduate Institution: California State University, Stanislaus
ViSUR Cohort: 2023

Living and growing up in Ceres in the Central Valley, a place steeped in agriculture and constant change, I couldn’t help but see the effort those around me put into this place as I approached life. Watching my family from Mexico coming to pick peaches and other fruits, prepare for a long day at the cannery, seeing my grandma come home and knit or sew in dim yellow light to make something to sell, and then getting up the next day before the sun rose to do it all over again, made me want to try even harder to become the first generation student I am today.

It was never easy, but it wasn’t hard to stay motivated when my family was working so hard. These family experiences, and seeing the lack of varied and in depth vision healthcare in the valley, have been instrumental in shaping and reinforcing my interest and commitment to working in the field of optometry and vision research, as well as my hopes in providing access to underserved communities in the Central Valley.

During ViSUR, I was entirely immersed in the research environment. I was treated as an equal, and as a consequence expected to think, answer, and learn as if I was one of the people of the research team which had been studying the field. I was pushed to think critically, form conclusions based on what I read, and keep up pace with the world class researchers around me.

I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Wildsoet for being so approachable, sharing her thoughts, and including me in discussions, Dr. Harb for mentoring me and making sure I understood the expectations of the program towards me, and everyone from other researchers, to optometry students, and everyone else for truly making the experience unforgettable and incredibly constructive to not only future research endeavors of mine, but also to the day-to-day perspectives I have on learning. Being a part of ViSUR reinforced and emphasized how learning is a constant critical thinking and ongoing process, and not only facts to be studied.

Picking out one experience that stood out is difficult as many of the spur of the moment activities that occurred such as attending the Centennial Vision Science Research Day, watching The Lost Falculties perform (Dean John Flanagan's band), being invited to other labs’ meetings, and hearing from others allowed me to foster professional relationships, while also being so much fun, and all while learning more about things occurring in optometry and vision science.

Because of all of this, I would absolutely recommend ViSUR. It is not only a great opportunity to learn and observe for those interested in careers in optometry or vision science, but it is also incredibly rewarding for those that decided to learn more about vision science and research in general. Applying is the first step, which involves plenty of proof-reading, researching, and writing skills; all of which are great practice for the program itself, yet it is one I would not hesitate to encourage others to take for this program. The people involved from all over the world are instrumental in making this experience unique, and the incredible intelligence, creativity, and respect for furthering the knowledge of and improvements towards vision, vision health, and specific vision abnormalities such as myopia, truly were an honor and daily motivation to be a part of.

Christopher Bain

Undergraduate Institution: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
ViSUR Cohort: 2022

My name is Christopher Bain, and in the summer of 2022, I had the opportunity to be a part of the ViSUR program. With a background primarily in biomedical research, I wanted to delve into a new scientific realm. ViSUR, unique in its focus on vision science through the lens of optometry, offered an exciting venture into uncharted territories for me.

The highlight of my ViSUR journey was multifaceted. Under the mentorship of Jorge Otero-Millan, I explored corneal refraction and its impact on eye torsion measurements. This project not only allowed me to harness collaborations with the University of Pennsylvania but also provided daily ventures into novel and challenging areas of research. Equally enriching was the community I found in ViSUR. The relationships and connections formed there have been a cornerstone in navigating my internship, the transition to graduate school, and understanding the dynamics of the Bay Area.

To undergraduates contemplating an application, my advice is to seize the opportunity. Embark on this journey with an early start, informed research on potential mentors, and a proactive approach to the application process.

Currently, as I pursue my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech, the imprints of the ViSUR program are evident in my academic pursuits. It broadened my horizons, demonstrating the vast potentialities at the convergence of vision science and engineering. The program's multidisciplinary nature has enriched my approach to research, fostering a holistic and innovative outlook that is indispensable in my current studies and future aspirations.

Kendall Kohout

Undergraduate Institution: University of Rochester
ViSUR Cohort: 2023

I am from the suburbs of Philadelphia and am currently a senior majoring in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester. Last summer, I participated in the ViSUR program and was also appointed as the Center for Innovation in Vision and Optics Junior Fellow, and I highly encourage any undergraduate considering applying to ViSUR to do so. I joined both the Roorda and Tuten laboratories as part of my 8-week experience, and every day I was excited to work with my spectacular mentors and foster strong connections with other members of the labs that are still maintained today.

I also had the opportunity to participate in the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry and Vision Science Centennial Vision Science Research Day, where I attended talks from a large variety of vision scientists representing both academic and industry-focused career paths. Attending these talks, speaking with many faculty, staff, and students one-on-one, and being exposed to the direct industry collaborations that the UC Berkeley Vision Science Graduate Program maintains inspired me to apply for graduate training this past fall.

Prior to ViSUR, I was uncertain about seeking graduate education because I ultimately want to pursue R&D roles in industry settings, and I had incorrectly assumed academic research training was unrelated to that career goal. My ViSUR experience clearly debunked that assumption and has altered my career path for what I believe is the better.

My favorite parts about the ViSUR program were the full integration into the lab culture and the close collaborations with the optometry summer research students. All members of the Roorda and Tuten labs consistently included me in their research and social activities that really made me enjoy my time at UC Berkeley, and starting in my very first week, I was already performing hands-on research training! While in the Roorda and Tuten labs, two optometry students were also engaged in summer research, and I was able to learn about their clinical experiences that I had never been exposed to before.

Additionally, as a ViSUR student, I was invited to attend the weekly optometry student research lectures wherein I could learn more formally about clinical research topics. Thus, I truly value my ViSUR experience and encourage undergraduates hesitant to apply to complete their application and see where it takes you. When I chose to accept my position in the ViSUR program, I was very unsure of what the experience would be like; however, my ViSUR experience was so fulfilling and beneficial to my career trajectory that I am very grateful that I was accepted into this program.

Monica Stapor

Undergraduate Institution: SUNY Binghamton University
ViSUR Cohort: 2023

I always knew I wanted to work in the vision science field, and ViSUR solidified that. Being a first-generation college student from Staten Island, New York, it was an incredible opportunity that I will never forget.

I applied to ViSUR to pursue my interests in analyzing the causes of ocular diseases, specifically the genetic mutations of inherited retinal degradation such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Since the function of proteins related to the genes are unknown, this invigorated my drive to further conduct research in this field. I was lucky enough to be placed in the lab where I was working alongside Dr. John Flannery and PhD student Sonali Singh trying to address a possible solution for AMD.

I witnessed the effects AMD has on individuals through the lens of my grandmother that had the exact mutation studied in the lab. ViSUR allowed me the opportunity to not only understand vision better, but also the coordination required between bright minds to instigate advancements in the field.

One of my favorite aspects of the program would undoubtedly be the supportive and collaborative environment at UC Berkeley. Fellow researchers were willing to share insights, offer guidance, and involve me in their experiments. Every single experience was very beneficial and will stick with me throughout my optometry and vision science career. From eye dissections to learning new wet lab techniques, ViSUR provided me with so many opportunities to improve my analytical skills.

For those considering applying, I highly recommend highlighting your academic achievements while showcasing a true desire to learn more about vision and their related subcategories. Don't miss out on the opportunity to apply for the ViSUR program, as it offers a unique chance to immerse yourself in groundbreaking research.

ViSUR Program