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  • David Williams Wins $500K to Advance Adaptive Optics, Human Vision Research

Photonics.com
Aug 2015
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Aug. 14, 2015 — A pioneer in the use of adaptive optics to improve human sight, University of Rochester professor David Williams has received the 2015 Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research.

The award is given annually by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation to an individual who has made transformative breakthroughs in vision research. Williams will receive a total of $500,000, which he said will allow his team to "take risks" in future research.

"These days, research funding is more and more difficult to obtain, and funding agencies are becoming more risk averse," Williams said. "It is this kind of risk-taking that Arnold O. Beckman was famous for and which we hope to emulate in our work going forward."

The award celebrates the friendship between Arnold O. Beckman, an American chemist, inventor, investor and philanthropist, and Ambassador George L. Argyros, chairman of the board of the Beckman Foundation.

Williams' work involves using adaptive optics techniques to image individual retinal cells by looking through the pupil. The techniques created by his research group not only obtain better pictures of the retina by modifying the light leaving the eye, they can also modify the light going into the eye to produce better vision by way of contact and intraocular lenses and laser refractive surgery. The methods are used in many Lasik procedures today.

"As an assistant professor just starting out at the university, I never imagined that my work and my interest in how people see from a very basic science, fundamental point of view would ever have implications for treating eye disease," Williams said. "And that's been a very rewarding aspect for all of us working in the laboratory: to realize what an opportunity we have to use this technology to make important inroads in health care."

Williams was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 and is a fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Optical Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has a bachelor's degree from Denison University and a doctorate from the University of California, San Diego. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J.


GLOSSARY
ophthalmology
The branch of medicine involved in the study of the anatomy, functions, diseases and treatments of the eye.
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