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Welcome to the Center for Vision Research

William Brunken, PhD

Research That Heals

Our center is dedicated to discovery science in the visual system with an emphasis on ocular tissues, including the cornea, retina, and trabecular meshwork. Our work is rooted in a fundamental understanding of the neurobiology of the retina and central visual system, as well as the cell, molecular and developmental biology underpinning ocular disease. We employ model systems from Drosophila through to primates, including tissue-engineered biomimetic human organoids. Our research efforts span the entire visual system from the corneal surface to the visual cortex. Our ultimate goal is to understand the mechanisms of disease and develop therapeutics that eliminate blindness.

To achieve this goal, we have created a collaborative research team that reflects the great diversity of our state and our mission. Our faculty and staff scientists have come to Syracuse from the world over—Italy, Japan, Argentina, California, Iowa and even Queens. Our faculty, as of 2020, are 42% women, 17% Latinx, and 8% LGBTQ. Our trainees and staff are similarly diverse, drawn from the best schools in the US, China, India, Canada, Russia and South America.

"I have had the pleasure of working in some of the best research and training environments in the US. I can say without a doubt that the collaborative spirit that pervades the CVR is unsurpassed."

Another goal is to train the next generation of vision researchers. To achieve this goal, we have developed a collaborative network of faculty and senior mentors for students at all levels. Our commitment to this collaborative effort is reflected in our busy schedule of group meetings, shared student training, and mentoring. I have had the pleasure of working in some of the best research and training environments in the US. I can say without a doubt that the collaborative spirit that pervades the CVR is unsurpassed.

Our new home—in the Neurosciences Research Building—is the result of years of careful planning to promote and foster this collaborative spirit. The heart of the building is a two-story light-filled atrium off of which are our laboratories, meeting rooms and offices. The NRB houses shared microscopy and imaging facilities that are state-of-the-art including a super resolution microscope and multi-photon confocal microscopy. Specialized ophthalmic imaging includes Micron IV fundus camera and Bioptigen Envisu Optical Coherence Tomography for visualizing the retina and anterior segment in living animals. In addition, CVR faculty maintains a cutting edge physiological and behavioral core to study visual system. University core facilities extend the range of our experimental techniques providing the CVR investigators with virtually unlimited capacity. Our extensive world-wide collaborations provide even more resources.

In 2014, I was recruited to lead the Center for Vision Research to carry on the legacy of our founding director, the late Professor Robert Barlow. Our growth since then has been outstanding, starting with a nucleus of eight faculty in three departments, we recruited a new chair for Ophthalmology along and then five additional research faculty. Several more research recruitments are planned.

Along the way, our growth in extramural funding has been dramatic, more than doubling in the last few years. Reaching historically higher levels each year. We acknowledge and are very grateful for the research support that our investigators have received and continue to receive from: National Eye Institute (a division of the National Institutes of Health); BrightFocus; The Glaucoma Foundation among others. We are particularly proud to be among the small number of Universities with funding from Research to Prevent Blindness. We acknowledge the long-standing contributions and support of the Lions Clubs of Central New York along with philanthropic support from the Mayer family.

Please browse our pages and learn about our center. If you are interested in a career in vision sciences, please check our training programs and job opportunities. If you want to support our efforts or advocate for increased research funding, please follow the links on this page.

William J. Brunken, PhD, FARVO
Director of the Center for Vision Research
Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Ophthalmology