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Graduate Research Faculty

Graduate Research Faculty

Jose-Manuel Alonso, MD, PhD
Functional Circuitry of the Thalamus and Cortex

Benjamin Backus, PhD
Learning in Visual Perception

Alexandra Benavente-Perez, PhD, McOpt, MS
Visual control of eye growth, Alzheimer’s disease and glaucoma, biometric and physiological factors in human ocular perfusion

Stewart Bloomfield,PhD
Functional Roles of Gap Junctions in Retinal Physiology and Pathology

Kenneth Ciuffreda, OD, PhD
Abnormal Oculomotor Systems/Head Trauma

Mitchell Dul, OD, MS
Perimetry/Visual Fields/Psychophysics/Glaucoma

Ralph Gundel, OD
Contact Lens and Cornea and Keratoconus

Philip B. Kruger, OD, PhD
Stimuli for Accommodation/Wavefront Aberration

Robert McPeek, PhD
Neural Mechanisms Underlying Attention and Visually-Guided Actions

Tracy Nguyen, OD, PhD
Corneal Diseases

Jordan Pola, PhD
The Control of Smooth Pursuit Eye Movement

Joan K. Portello, OD, MPH, MS
Computer Vision Syndrome

Kathryn Richdale, OD, PhD
Patient-Based Research in Presbyopia and Contact Lenses

Mark Rosenfield MC Optom, PhD
Myopia and Retinal Defocus

Daniella Rutner, OD, MS
Visual Rehabilitation

Harold A. Sedgwick, PhD
Perception of Spatial Layout in Low Vision

Jerome Sherman, OD
Ocular Disease

Miduturu Srinivas, PhD
Gating and Pharmacology of Lens Gap Junction Channels

David Troilo, PhD
Visual Development, Accommodation, Refractive Error, Myopia

Qasim Zaidi, PhD
Color Perception/Three-Dimensional Shape Perception

Postdoctoral Fellows
Abram Akopian
Cecilia Chao
Martin Giesel
Anshul Jain
Jianzhong Jin
Sandeep Kumar
Xiaobing Li
Feng Pan
Hari Ramakrishnan​
Kadir Toychiev
Ali Yoonessi
Yushi Wang

Doctoral Students in Vision Science

Reza Azadi
Advisor: TBD


Romain Bachy
Advisor: Dr. Qasim Zaidi

Romain Bachy graduated with an MSc in Photography with specialization in image technology from Ecole Nationale Supérieure Louis-Lumière, Paris, France. For 3 years, he taught and provided expertise in alternative processes and digital colorimetric workflow. He then graduated with an MSc in Computer Science with imaging specialization from Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France. He has been a PhD candidate at the Graduate Center for Vision Research of the State University of New York since 2012.  His present research concentrates on color process from retina to inferior-temporal cortex.


Lanya Cai
Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Backus

Lanya Cai is graduate student starting the 4th year of her PhD program. She came to the program with an inter-discipline educational background including biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, and psychology. During her PhD training, she studied binocular combination, global motion perception, and amblyopia with Dr. Benjamin Backus. Her current research focuses on (1) to identify the parameter space in which binocular global motion perception is measurable, (2) to develop a new model of binocular global motion process that can quantitatively describe human perceptual behaviors during our experimental measurements.  She has presented her work on VSS by a talk in 2013 and two posters in 2014 and 2015.


Zhehao Huang
Advisor: TBD

Zhehao Huang is a first year doctoral student.  He is currently rotating in Dr. Qasim Zaidi’s laboratory.  His research interest is in color perception.  He came to the program with a B. Sci., Department of Psychology, from Peking University, 2011-2015.


Michael Jansen
Advisor: Dr. Jose-Manuel Alonso


Nabin Joshi
Advisor:  Dr. Suresh Viswanathan

Nabin Joshi completed a Bachelor of Optometry from Tribhuvan University, Institute of Medicine in 2009 My research advisor is Dr. Suresh Viswanathan.  His research interests can broadly be categorized as translational/ clinical research. He is currently working towards objective quantification of retinal ganglion cell functioning in humans. I am working with multiple ERG protocols, psychophysics, pupillometry and imaging in glaucoma patients; focusing on early diagnosis and objective management of the disease.

Recent publications:

  • Joshi N, Viswanathan S, Dul M. Intensity response function of the Photopic Negative Response (PhNR) in glaucomatous eyes. Optom Vis Sci 2015; E-abstract 155111.
  • Joshi N, Ly E, Viswanathan S. Intensity Response function of the Photopic Negative Response (PhNR). Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2015; 56(7): 487.
  • Joshi N, Viswanathan S. Dynamics of pupil responses to short wavelength light. Optom Vis Sci 2014; E-abstract 145171.
  • Joshi N, Viswanathan S, Llerena–Law C. Test retest variability of pupil responses mediated by intrinsically photosensitive ganglion cells. Invest Ophthal Vis Sci 2015; 55(13): 4117


Erin Koch
Advisor: Dr. Qasim Zaidi

Erin Koch received her BS and MA in Mathematics from American University.  She was an adjunct faculty member for one semester and a term faculty member for a year in American University’s Mathematics and Statistics Department.  Erin entered the PhD program at the Graduate Center for Vision Research of State University of New York in the Fall of 2013.  She is currently studying how different regions of cortical topography shape response properties via physiology and neural modeling.  She is also interested in extracting 3-D shape from motion and texture cues.   She has presented at both VSS 2015 and SFN 2015.


Cristina Llerena Law
Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Backus

Cristi Llerena Law,  a fourth year Ph.D. candidate, is a Doctor of Optometry and a member of the optometry faculty at Nova Southeastern University. Prior to relocating to south Florida in the summer of 2015, she was clinical faculty at SUNY Optometry for nine years.  With the help of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Research Development Award (K-grant), Dr. Law has been working on transitioning into a career in translational research.  Her area of interest is visual neuroplasticity in adult amblyopia and she is currently working with her advisor, Dr. Benjamin Backus to assess and develop binocular treatment modalities for this population.  Her work with Dr. Backus in this area has led to several abstracts and publications.  In addition, she will continue to work on other projects which have now gained federal funding through her collaboration with Dr. Backus and other colleagues within and outside of SUNY.  Her most recent publication, “Stimulus Characteristics Affect Assessment of Pupil Defects in Amblyopia” was published in Optometry and Vision Science in May, 2015.”


Rakesh Nanjappa
Advisor: TBD

Rakesh Nanjappa graduated in 2014 from School of Medical Science, University of Hyderabad (India) with Integrated Masters in Optometry and Vision Science, after which he did one year of course work in M.Phil Cognitive Science from Center for Neural and Cognitive Science, University of Hyderabad.  His broad research interest is to investigate the relation between eye movements and attention. His current specific interest is to study the functions of involuntary eye movements during fixation (microsaacades and ocular drifts) and their possible role in attention and visual perception through psychophysical experiments.  Masters Thesis : Effects of image blur and brightness on microsaccade rate and visuomotor performance in a shooting target.


Maria Pons-Torres
Advisor: Dr. Jose-Manuel Alonso

Maria Pons-Torres completed her degree at the Medical School of the University Miguel Hernández (Alicante, Spain). Her ultimate goal is to complete my Doctorate in Vision Science at SUNY Optometry with her advisor, Dr. Jose Manuel Alonso in order to improve her own competence in such an interesting field. She would like to focus her research career towards achieving two objectives. Firstly, opening new horizons and helping to increment our knowledge in this field and secondly, pioneer new ways that will contribute to the development of medical curative processes. She proposes to meet these two goals by developing a working model where laboratory research is closely related to clinical work. Her aim is to bridge the gap between basic research and clinical practice. For example, use the experience acquired in clinical work to improve experimental design in basic research.


Kaushambi Roy
Advisor: Dr. Stewart Bloomfield

Kaushambi  Roy is a third year graduate student in Dr. Stewart Bloomfield’s lab. She completed her BS and MS in University of Calcutta, India. She uses techniques like electrophysiology, pharmacology, confocal imaging and immunohistochemistry to study the role of gap junctions in the retina. Her work particularly involves understanding the role of gap junction in correlated firing between remotely located retinal ganglion cells. Kaushambi was always interested in neuroscience and retina was a model system she wanted to work on. She finds the ongoing research in Dr. Bloomfield’s lab fascinating


Nefeli Slavi
Advisor: Dr. Miduturu Srinivas

Nefeli Slavi studied Biology in the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece and completed her Master’s in Medical Neuroscience in Charité, Germany. She came to the U.S. in 2012 to work as a research technician in the lab of Dr. Srinivas at SUNY College of Optometry, where she now conducts her Ph.D. thesis. Nefeli’s research as a graduate student focuses on the role of gap junction channels in the development of age-related nuclear cataracts (PMID: 25294879), and in ischemic retinopathies using genetics, molecular and cell biology techniques and electrophysiology.


James Truong
Advisor: Dr. Kenneth Ciuffreda

James Truong received a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He completed a Masters in Business Administration from the Northeastern State University of Oklahoma and a Doctor of Optometry from the Southern California College of Optometry.  He also completed an Optometric Residency from the Northeastern  State University of Oklahoma, College of Optometry.  James is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. in Vision Science Program at the SUNY College of Optometry.  His current research interest is the field of  mild traumatic injury and the phenomenon of  photosensitivity.  His goal is to find objective biomarkers for these two conditions through dynamic pupillometry.


Kevin Willeford
Advisor: Dr. Robert McPeek

Kevin Willeford attended the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida and received a Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience with minors in Chemistry and English. Next, he earned a Doctorate in Optometry and a Masters in Vision Science at the SUNY State College of Optometry in New York City.  He chose to continue his studies through enrollment in the Ph.D. program. His research interests involve exploration of visual processes and psychological states with electrophysiological methods. Kevin is currently working with Dr. McPeek, and aims to elicit the role(s) of the superior colliculus and frontal eye fields in programming of attentional processes and saccadic eye movements.


  • Willeford, Kevin T., Vanessa Fimreite, and Kenneth J. Ciuffreda. “The Effect of Spectral Filters on VEP and Alpha-Wave Responses.” Journal of Optometry (2015).
  • Willeford, Kevin T., Kenneth J. Ciuffreda, and George Zikos. “Objective assessment of eye-dominance using the VEP.” Eye and Contact Lens (2015) in press.
  • Kunzevitzky, Noelia J., Kevin T. Willeford, William J. Feurer, Monica V. Almeida, and Jeffrey L. Goldberg. “Amacrine Cell Subtypes Differ in Their Intrinsic Neurite Growth Capacity.”~Investigative ophthalmology & visual science~54.12 (2013): 7603-7613.
  • Willeford, Kevin T., Kenneth J. Ciuffreda, and Naveen K. Yadav. “Effect of test duration on the visual-evoked potential (VEP) and alpha-wave responses.” Documenta Ophthalmologica 126.2 (2013): 105-115.
  • Willeford, Kevin T., Kenneth J. Ciuffreda, Naveen K. Yadav, and Diana P. Ludlam. “Objective assessment of the human visual attentional state.” Documenta Ophthalmologica 126.1 (2013): 29-44.
  • Willeford, Kevin T., and Jerry Rapp. “Smoking and age-related macular degeneration: biochemical mechanisms and patient support.” Optometry & Vision Science 89.11 (2012): 1662-1666.


Lauren E. Wool
Advisor: Dr. Qasim Zaidi

Lauren obtained her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Dartmouth College, having worked in the lab of Yale Cohen on stimulus categorization in primate auditory cortex. As a member of Qasim Zaidi’s lab at SUNY Optometry, her research interests are color-vision psychophysics, attentional salience, the chromatic circuitry of primate retina, and putative nonlinearities of the short-wavelength (S) color pathway. Through a collaboration with Dennis Dacey at the University of Washington, her current research project is examining color opponency in retinal ganglion cells—in particular, how S cones may contribute to the canonical color tuning of midget ganglion cells.


  • Wool, L. E., Komban, S. J., Kremkow, J., Jansen, M., Li, X., Alonso, J.-M., & Zaidi, Q. (2015). Salience of unique hues and implications for color theory. Journal of Vision, 15(2), 1–11.


  • Wool, L.E., J. Kremkow, S.J. Komban, M. Jansen, X. Li, Y. Bereshpolova, H. Swadlow, Q. Zaidi, and J.-M. Alonso. (2013) Electrophysiological correlates of color salience. Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA, USA.
  • Wool, L.E., S.J. Komban, Q. Zaidi, and J.-M. Alonso. (2012) Salience of unique and other colors. International Colour Vision Society, Winchester, UK.
  • Wool, L.E., S.J. Komban, Q. Zaidi, and J.-M. Alonso. (2011) Salience of unique and other colors. Society for Neuroscience, New Orleans, LA, USA.

OD-MS Students
Class of 2016

Tobin Ansel Vijayan
Advisor: Dr. Alexandra Benavente

Jenny Bartov
Advisor:  Dr. Qasim Zaidi

Vanessa Fimreite
Advisor: Dr. Kenneth Ciuffreda

Beth Kuhr
Advisor: Dr. Mitchell Dul

Matt Siu
Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Backus

Class of 2017

Jinyoung Choe
Advisor: Dr. Mitchell Dul

Kim Duong
Advisor: Dr. Kathryn Richdale

Celia Gong
Advisor: Dr. Kathryn Richdale

Patricia Nguyen
Advisor: Dr. Miduturu Srinivas

Mariya Skreydel
Advisor: Dr. Daniella Rutner

Laura Zuker
Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Backus

Class of 2018

Ayah Ahamed
Advisor: Dr. Jerome  Sherman

Emily Freeman
Advisor: Dr. Suresh Viswanathan

Kathleen Hoang
Advisor: Dr. Joan Portello

Jennifer Nguyen
Advisor: Dr. Suresh Viswanathan

Meredith Stallone
Advisor: Dr. Tracy Nguyen

Danica Yang
Advisor: Dr. Jerome Sherman