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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

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

Mark Rosenfield MC Optom, PhD
Myopia and Retinal Defocus

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

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

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

Suresh Viswanathan, OD, PhD
Visual dysfunction in glaucoma and mild traumatic brain injury

Stefanie Wohl, PhD
The Role of microRNAs in Retinal Glia Function

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

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

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: Dr. Qasim Zaidi

Zhehao Huang received his Bachelor of Science from the School of Psychological and Cognitive Science, Peking University. He entered the PhD program in 2015, and now is a second year student in Dr. Qasim Zaidi’s lab. During the first year, he focused on a sequential attraction in human color perception, and has presented in VSS 2016.


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: Dr. Robert McPeek

Rakesh Nanjappa graduated in 2014 from 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 the same university. His broad research interest is to investigate the relationship between eye movements and attention. His masters thesis explored the effect of image features on fixational eye movements. Now he is studying patterns of eye movements made by human participants while they aim and shoot in a computer simulated shooting task. This will reflect the role of eye movements and attention in a high acuity visuomotor task. He has recently presented a poster titled ‘Contextual Saccadic Adaptation as a tool to investigate sequential saccades’ in VSS 2016, St.Pete’s Beach, Florida.


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

Carson Wong
Carson K. Wong earned a B.S. Electrical Engineering, University of California – Berkeley and an O.D. Optometry, SUNY College of Optometry. His Masters Research Advisor is Dr. Qasim Zaidi. The title of his research project is “Matched Filters For Decoding 3D Shape From Texture Cues.” Previous research has shown that 3D patterned surfaces contain signature orientation modulations in the retinal image, and humans effortlessly perceive the 3D shapes conveyed by these orientation modulations. Since many textures contain multiple orientations, these modulations will have to be extracted in the presence of other orientations. The parallel extraction of multiple orientations at every retinotopic location by the striate cortex is perfectly matched to the demands of this task. We will explore how extrastriate neurons that receive neural connections from the striate cortex can evolve to become matched filters to detect these signature orientation modulations.

Class of 2017

Jinyoung Choe
Advisor: Dr. Mitchell Dul

Jinyoung received a B.A. in Integrative Biology from the University of California at Berkeley. Her research advisor is Dr. Mitchell Dul.

Kim Duong
Advisor: Dr. Kathryn Richdale

Kim Duong graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Biology and Minor in East Asian Studies from the University of Virgina. Her Thesis Advisor is Kathryn Richdale, OD, PhD. The title of her Masters Thesis project is “Changes in Tear Inflammatory Mediators Following a Short Period of Daily and Overnight Wear– A Pilot.” The focus of the research is to investigate changes in ocular surface inflammatory markers after short-term daily and overnight soft contact lens wear in healthy full-time soft contact lens wearers using Multiplex Assay and ELISA.

Celia Gong
Advisor: Dr. Kathryn Richdale

Celia Gong received a B.A. from University of California, Berkeley. Her Thesis Advisor is
Kathryn Richdale, OD PhD FAAO. Her research focuses on “The effect of multifocal contact lenses on accommodation and phoria in children.” Her research project is a prospective, randomized, crossover study performed on myopic children with normal accommodation and binocularity, and no history of myopia control treatment. A total of 16 subjects, aged 10-15, were fit with Coopervision Biofinity single vision (SV) and multifocal (MF) (+2.50 D center distance add) contact lenses. Accommodative responses and phorias were measured at four distances (>3m, 100cm, 40cm, 25cm). Secondary measures included high and low illumination logMAR acuity, contrast sensitivity, accommodative amplitude and facility. Differences in MF and SV contact lenses were analyzed using repeated measures regression and paired t-tests. Children wearing MF exhibited reduced accommodative responses and more exophoria at increasingly higher accommodative demands than with SV contact lenses. There was also a small decrease in high and low illumination visual acuity and contrast sensitivity with MFs. There were no significant differences in accommodative amplitude or facility.

Patricia Nguyen
Advisor: Dr. Miduturu Srinivas

Trish Nguyen has a Biology B.S. with a minor in Philosophy from the University of Virginia. Her M.S. Research Advisor is Miduturu Srinivas, Ph.D. Her research is on the “Functional effects of Cx50 mutations associated with congenital cataracts.”

Mariya Skreydel
Advisor: Dr. Daniella Rutner

Mariya received her B.A. in Biochemistry from Hunter College. Her M.S. Research Advisor is Benjamin Backus, Ph.D. The title of her research project is “Quantifying the effects of reverse patching on binocular combination in amblyopes.”

Laura Zuker
Advisor: Dr. Benjamin Backus

Laura received her B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan. Her M.S. Research Advisor is Benjamin Backus, Ph.D. The title of her research project is “Investigating neural correlates as amblyopes participate in binocular vision training.”

Class of 2018

Ayah Ahamed
Advisor: Dr. Jerome  Sherman

Ayah Ahamed graduated with a BA in Natural Science from Fordham University. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Optometry program at the SUNY College of Optometry. Ayah entered the Masters in Vision Science program in Fall 2014 and is currently working under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Rosenfield. Her current project aims to evaluate the accuracy and repeatability of a handheld autorefractor in astigmatic eyes. While there have been a wide number of published studies which have evaluated both the precision and repeatability of different autorefractors, relatively few studies have exclusively examined these parameters in eyes with significant amounts of astigmatism. A higher level of accuracy is critical in these eyes, since relatively small errors, particularly in the axis of astigmatism, will have a marked negative impact on a patient’s visual acuity. Ayah finds research in vision science particularly rewarding, and is confident that this research experience will strongly enhance her ability in the clinical setting.

Roa Al-Abdalla
Advisor: Dr. Suresh Viswanathan

Roa Al-Abdalla received her BA in Biology at the Albert Dorman Honors College at New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, New Jersey in 2014. She is currently a third year student in the combined Doctor of Optometry and Masters program at SUNY College of Optometry. Roa works with Dr. Suresh Viswanathan to investigate the functional and structural effects of mild traumatic brain injury on retinal ganglion cells.

Emily Freeman
Advisor: Dr. Suresh Viswanathan

Emily Freeman received her B.A. in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology at Lewis & Clark College (Portland, OR). Her Thesis Advisor is Dr. Suresh Viswanathan. Emily’s research project title is “Retinal Ganglion Cell Damage in Glaucoma.” The aim of this study is to measure changes in retinal electrophysiology, specifically the photopic negative response (PhNR), as a consequence of primary open angle glaucoma. Measuring these changes and correlating them to standard automated perimetry and ocular coherence tomography, the current gold-standards of glaucoma diagnosis and management, may help us develop a more objective way of monitoring glaucomatous changes to the eye and allow for earlier diagnosis of primary open angle glaucoma.

Kathleen Hoang
Advisor: Dr. Joan Portello

Kathleen Hoang received a B. Sc (Hons.) at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Her Thesis Advisor is Dr. Mark Rosenfield. Her research project is titled “Autonomic Innervation and Digital Eye Strain.” In today’s world, the viewing of electronic displays has become ubiquitous. However, up to 90% of individuals may experience significant ocular and visual symptoms when viewing digital screens. Previous work from our laboratory and others has shown changes in blink patterns and the position of the upper eyelid when reading from electronic displays. This study seeks to determine whether these changes are produced by variations in autonomic innervation to the eye during the course of a sustained near task. Accordingly, pupil diameter, blink rate, the vertical palpebral aperture dimension, systemic blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored during the course of a series of tasks which vary in their cognitive and visual demands. These findings may identify the physiological mechanisms underlying digital eye strain.

Jennifer Nguyen
Advisor: Dr. Suresh Viswanathan

Jennifer Nguyen received her BS in Bioengineering from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2007. She is a 3rd year student in the Doctor of Optometry program at SUNY College of Optometry and is working concurrently to complete her Masters in Vision Science. Jennifer works with Dr. Viswanathan to investigate changes in spatial contrast sensitivity function in mild traumatic brain injury. She also aims to study other effects of mild traumatic brain injury on the visual system such as temporal contrast sensitivity function and structural alterations in the retina.

Meredith Stallone
Advisor: Dr. Tracy Nguyen

Meredith Stallone received a B.S. in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her M.S. Research advisor is Dr. Tracy Nguyen. Her research project is the “Analysis of tear film proteins in subjects with dry eye disease.” The focus of this study is to characterize the expression and interaction of certain tear film proteins in subjects with dry eye compared to normal subjects

Danica Yang
Advisor: Dr. Jerome Sherman

Danica Yang, a third year OD/MS candidate at SUNY College of Optometry, is currently conducting research under Dr. Jerome Sherman. She graduated from Barnard College with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Behavior. Her previous research includes topographical mapping of visual attention network in humans using fMRI technology. Her current thesis, titled “Constructing a Natural History of Early-Onset Stargardt Disease Using Multimodal Imaging” investigates the early pathogenesis of Stargardt disease using SD-OCT imaging, ultra widefield AF, and cone contrast testing. The goal of the study is to identify early biomarkers of Stargardt Disease that can potentially lead to earlier diagnosis and earlier treatment of the condition

Class of 2019

Rita Neiu
Advisor: Dr. Alexandra Benavente-Perez

Rita Nieu attended the University of California, Davis and received a Bachelors of Science in Genetics with minors in Psychology and Communications. She worked as a research technician in the lab of John Vogel at the USDA before enrolling in the OD/MS program at SUNY College of Optometry. In collaboration with her mentor, Dr Benavente-Perez, her research is focused on detecting changes in retinal function during myopia progression in a primate model through the use of ERG and VEP.

Tatsiana Palavets
Advisor: Dr. Mark Rosenfield

Tatsiana Palavets received her B.A. in Biological Sciences from Hunter College, CUNY. She is currently in OD/MS in program at SUNY College of Optometry. Her Masters Thesis Advisor is Dr. Mark Rosenfield, MC OPTOM, PHD. Her Research project focuses on the “Use of Blue-Blocking Filters to Reduce Digital Eye Strain.” Digital Eye Strain (DES) refers to the visual and ocular symptoms commonly experienced when viewing digital screens. The study examined the effect of a blue-blocking filter on these symptoms while reading continuously from a tablet computer for 30 minutes. In addition, ocular accommodation, pupil size, and the size of the vertical palpebral aperture were also monitored during the task. Preliminary results suggest that the blue-blocking filters do not reduce symptoms of DES.

Brenda Tan
Advisors: Dr. Stewart Bloomfield, Dr. David Troilo

Brenda Tan graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Brown University. Her M.S. Research Advisors are Dr. Stewart Bloomfield and Dr. David Troilo. Her research project focuses on the “Attenuation of Myopic Progression Seen in a Connexin 36 Knockout Mouse Model of Myopia.” The aim of this project is threefold—first to establish a mouse model of myopia, second to examine the environmental effect of dim lighting on myopic progression and third to understand its genetic component by using a knock out model of Connexin 36. In order to perfect the mouse model and provide insight into the widespread variation in measurements amongst labs, I looked at three methods of refraction—1) on the awake and lightly restrained mouse, 2) on an awake and cyclopleged mouse and 3) on a cyclopleged and anesthetized mouse. Refraction was measured using an infrared power refractor modified by Dr. Frank Schaeffel and axial length measured using an OCT.

Nolan Wilson
Advisor: Dr. Qasim Zaidi

Nolan Wilson graduated from Yale College in 2015 with a B.S. (Int.) in Chemistry. His research was towards the syntheses of two amino-sugar moieties of a cancer metabolite. Now, his research under Dr. Qasim Zaidi uses object segmentation to understand the evolutionary significance of human L- and M-cones. He has enjoyed going from the chemistry of color to the perception of color.