Research Roundup

The latest news from the Wildermuth Optometric Research Clinic
Wildermuth Optometric Research Clinic - Research Roundup

Congratulations to Dean VanNasdale, OD, PhD, recipient of the 2023 Jenny Pomeroy Award for Excellence in Vision and Public Health from Prevent Blindness, the nation’s leading eye health and safety organization. This award is presented annually to an individual, team, or organization that has made significant contributions to the advancement of public health related to vision and eye health at the community, state, national, and/or international level. Dr. VanNasdale collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vision Health Initiative to develop state profiles related to vision health and is conducting pioneering work in Ohio, using multiple surveys and administrative sources to estimate the impact of state policies on improving access to eye care. The goal is for this work to serve as a template for similar analyses in other states. More recently, he collaborated with VisionServe Alliance to develop a series of innovative state-level profiles regarding vision and health status among older people.

In addition to teaching students at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, Dr. VanNasdale serves as a mentor to master’s and PhD students working in population health. He currently serves on the advisory committee for the Center for Vision and Population Health at Prevent Blindness. He is a member of the Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System (VEHSS) expert panel, an initiative of NORC at the University of Chicago, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Marjean Kulp (OD’91, MS’93), was awarded a $2,000 Beta Sigma Kappa- COVD Research Grant for her study, Novel Amblyopia Treatment with Dichoptic, Disparity-guided, Visual-Motor Enhanced, Virtual-Reality Games. Treatment of amblyopia with an assortment of games using a virtual reality headset is expected to increase adherence to home therapy. Dr. Kulp will evaluate the effect of the VividVision automated Smart Assist home amblyopia therapy on visual acuity, binocularity, contrast sensitivity, oculomotor function, visual-motor integration, and quality of life in children.

Timothy J. Plageman, PhD, was awarded $433,125 by the National Eye Institute for his proposal Characterization of the lens fiber cell tricellular junctional complex and its dependency on delta-catenin. He will investigate the role of the protein delta-catenin in the protein complex that forms the tri-cellular junction in the hexagonal array formed by lens fiber cells in the lens. Human mutations in the gene for this protein are associated with cortical cataracts and high myopia, suggesting that the protein is important for lens physiology.

Congratulations to OD/MS student Tyson Montgomery (’25), who was awarded $2,000 from Beta Sigma Kappa for his research, Characterizing Intraocular Pressure Variation beyond Clinic Hours in Healthy Patients and in Patients Who are Glaucoma Suspects. He will compare intraocular pressure profiles taken during clinical care with those taken at home using a portable rebound tonometer to determine if more comprehensive data could lead to more personalized glaucoma management. He will complete his work under the supervision of his thesis advisor, Phillip Yuhas (OD/MS’14, PhD’19).

The new Vision Science Training Program grant is a T32 training grant awarded to The Ohio State University College of Optometry by the National Eye Institute to support optometrists as they earn their PhD in vision science. This grant recognizes the great need for clinicians to be trained in the scientific process to maintain the pipeline of individuals appropriately trained to advance knowledge in ocular and vision health. Through this grant and a partnering sponsorship from The Ohio State University, optometrists will receive tuition support and a stipend for up to three years of their PhD training. This grant will allow trainees to focus 100% of their effort on their PhD program while receiving compensation beyond what a typical residency stipend offers. This award aims to build on the already strong record of clinician-scientist training in the college’s vision science graduate program. Any interested applicants can contact the chair of the Graduate Program in Vision Science, Heather Anderson OD, PhD, at anderson.3881@osu.edu.

Congratulations to Marielle Reidy (OD/MS’18), two-time recipient of a William C. Ezell Fellowship! The Ezell Fellowship is a prestigious award given by the American Academy of Optometry Foundation to recognize and assist talented individuals in vision research with their pursuit of advanced degrees in optometric research and education. Dr. Reidy is a PhD student advised by Don Mutti, OD, PhD, and has been awarded the John N. Schoen Ezell Fellowship this year. 


2023 T35 program

Each year, the College of Optometry selects first-year optometry students interested in optometric research to participate in its National Eye Institute-funded summer research training program (T35). These nine students spent the summer exploring their interest in research with College of Optometry faculty mentors. The goal of the program is to encourage professional students to embark on careers in eye research.

T-35 Students
T-35 Students left to right: Matt Andrew (’26), Mason Clutter (’26), McKenna Gardner (’26), Elise Frazee (’26), David Stout (’26), James Chung (’26), Michael Nye (’26), Sonia Patel (’26), and Mora Boatman (’26)

Matthew Andrew

Advisor: Melissa Bailey (OD/MS‘01, PhD‘04)

Why the T35 program is important to me:
The T35 program has been an invaluable opportunity for me to have dedicated time each day to progress toward my master’s degree without the pressures of the OD curriculum. I am learning important skills that will allow me to use evidence-based medicine throughout my career to best meet the needs of my future patients. I’m very thankful for this experience and all that my advisor and classmates have taught me so far in my Ohio State journey!

What I’m doing:
I am studying the relationship between the sagittal depth of soft contact lenses and their corresponding fit on the corneal surface along with the incidence of corneal infiltrative events. Our theory is that patients who have atypical corneal shapes are more likely to develop this type of complication due to a suboptimal lens fit. The hope from this research is for optometrists and industry leaders to work together to find better ways to fit atypical patients into contact lenses without increasing their risk of an infiltrative event.

McKenna Gardner

Advisor: Phillip Yuhas (OD/MS’14, PhD’19)

Why the T35 program is important to me:
As someone who didn’t take part in research prior to optometry school, the T35 program gave me the perfect start. It allowed me to understand the research process and dip my toes in the water without the stress and pressure of our normal course load. This program helped build my confidence in the field of research, gain a head start on my master’s degree, and develop a great relationship with my advisors.

What I’m doing:
This summer I have been gathering a baseline dataset for normal aging changes seen in the Henle fiber layer and how it affects the overall shape of the foveal pit. We visualized this layer via directional optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging, which will later be analyzed to trace out the anterior and posterior boundaries. The data from this study have the potential to solidify our understanding of the macula and will provide comparison data for potential early neurodegenerative disease diagnosis such as glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.   

James Chung

Advisor: Melissa Bailey (OD/MS’01, PhD’04)

Why the T35 program is important to me:
One of the reasons I decided to attend Ohio State Optometry is its emphasis on research, and the T35 is one of the ways the college and the NIH have provided students with the opportunity to pursue research that is impactful and meaningful. Being a T35 student, I have learned that research is truly the foundation of guiding clinical excellence and improving patient care. Through this unique program, I have learned immensely from my PI, Dr. Bailey, and my peers who encourage me to think outside the box to contribute to clinical research.

What I’m doing:
Patients with presbyopia sometimes discontinue their soft contact lens use. Though many cite dry eye as the reason for their contact lens dropout, our project delves deeper into the specifics of how the fit of a contact lens influences this phenomenon. Utilizing the Zeiss Visante Anterior Segment OCT, we measure and compare the sagittal depth of participants’ corneas to their habitual/former soft contact lenses. Measurements such as the participant’s horizontal visible iris diameter (HVID), corneal topography, and history or presence of dry eye are also taken into consideration in evaluating soft contact lens fit and how it influences dropout.

Mason Clutter

Advisor: Nick Fogt (OD/MS‘92, PhD’96)

Why the T35 program is important to me:
I really enjoyed doing research during my undergraduate studies, and I was excited to learn that Ohio State Optometry offers the T35 program as an opportunity for students. Working one-on-one with a research advisor provided me personalized guidance, mentorship, and the opportunity to delve deeper into my research, enhancing my learning experience.

What I’m doing:
My project this summer has been monitoring eye movements of batters when they swing at a pitched ball versus simply standing still and observing the ball’s passing height. We are looking to determine if people make anticipatory saccades and whether they occur during one or both actions. This determination could influence future field trainings of baseball and softball players.

Elise Frazee

Advisor: Bradley Dougherty (OD/MS’07, PhD’13)

Why the T35 program is important to me:
I want to not only practice optometry but to be involved in the innovative ways in which optometry is practiced. It’s clear that our Ohio State Optometry faculty and my peers share the same curiosity and love for learning. I believe the T35 program will make me a better clinician and critical thinker.

What I’m doing:
Vision impairment is a prevalent global health concern that interferes with everyday quality of life. Driving cessation is often an issue in  the low vision community, compromising their feelings of autonomy and independence. Policies regarding vision requirements for driving licensure rely on existing literature, yet there is little in-depth research surrounding the relationship between vision and collision rates, especially in low vision bioptic telescope drivers. My project will be comparing self-report driving behaviors and near-collision rates with in-vehicle monitoring data of bioptic drivers and age-matched controls.

Michael Nye

Advisor: Phillip Yuhas (OD/MS’14, PhD’19)

Why the T35 program is important to me:
The T35 program has allowed me to see more of what optometry has to offer. Research is one arm of optometry that opens the door for a whole new side of clinical care; working directly with patients while searching for an answer not yet known is exciting and challenging. This program also allows me to gain valuable experience in educating patients and gain vital insight into communicating with patients more effectively.

What I’m doing:
My study uses the ocular response analyzer (ORA) to measure and potentially characterize a glaucoma match index (GMI) that may be used to diagnose glaucoma before clinical symptoms arise. To create this GMI, I am measuring the biomechanical response of the eyes in patients with primary open angle glaucoma. The GMI will be adjusted to account for characteristics that affect the biomechanics of the cornea including age, corneal disease, ocular surgery, and diabetes mellitus.

Sonia Patel

Advisor: Jennifer Fogt (OD’99, MS)

Why the T35 program is important to me:
Throughout my undergraduate career and during my gap years, I was given the opportunity to participate in research. From these experiences, my interest in research grew, and the T35 program allows me to continue to grow as a researcher, especially in a clinical setting. I am thankful that I have been able to work on my project throughout the summer, rather than having to balance it during the academic year. So far, this experience has been great, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds!

What I’m doing:
I am working on a study designed to describe how waterline eyeliner affects the tear lipid layer. Due to the placement of waterline eyeliner on the Meibomian glands, we hypothesize that the application of this makeup may affect the tear lipid layer and play a role in dry eye symptoms. Through this study, I will be learning how to use the Stroboscopic Video Color Microscope (SVCM), which measures the tear lipid layer thickness, as well as using various other measurements to compare changes in patients with and without waterline eyeliner application.

David Stout

Advisors: Nathan Doble, PhD, and Stacey Choi, PhD

Why the T35 program is important to me:
I have always been interested in research as a potential career path, whether as a faculty member or by pursuing research in industry. The T35 program has given me a chance to explore this option a little bit more while also helping me to deepen my understanding of a particular area in the field of optometry.

What I’m doing:
I am using an adaptive optics flood-illuminated fundus camera to obtain in vivo, cellular-level, high-resolution retinal images. The goal of my project is to determine if certain cells in these images, which are illuminated by multiply scattered light, are rods, cones, or retinal pigment epithelium. The properties of these cells will be investigated by placing obscuring masks at different locations, thereby allowing us to elucidate their identity.

Mora Boatman

Advisor: Jeffrey Walline (OD, MS’98, PhD’02)

Why the T35 program is important to me:
T35 has been a great opportunity to see how research drives progress in optometry and provides evidence for clinical practices. Participating in the summer program has given me the time and resources to begin working on my master’s thesis without the additional pressures of classes and studying. I am grateful to have been able to ask questions and learn from advisors who are leaders in the field while also being encouraged by my peers and their own projects.

What I’m doing:
This summer I split my time between research and shadowing in the BV/Peds clinic. I am working with a large dataset from the Bifocal Lenses in Nearsighted Kids (BLINK) study to answer questions about seasonal variation in myopia progression and myopia control. When shadowing, I get to see how research manifests clinically while also learning about myopia management. In addition to the T35 experience, spending the summer in Columbus has also allowed me to participate in events like the Ohio Optometric Association (OOA) Optometry Day at the Statehouse (ODASH) and Realeyes.