Welcome, Dr. Walter Wu!

The first Fellow-to-Faculty hire joins the college.
Walter Wu
Walter Wu, PhD

Yueh-Hsun (Walter) Wu, PhD, is The Ohio State University’s College of Optometry’s first Fellow-to-Faculty hire, officially joining the college in July 2023. The Ohio State Provost’s Tenure-Track Fellow-to-Faculty Program enables the university to recruit early-career scholars whose accomplishments make them exceptionally competitive for faculty positions.

Dr. Wu earned his PhD in Psychology with a minor in Translational Sensory Science from the University of Minnesota in May 2023. Prior to that, he completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in experimental psychology at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Dr. Wu’s primary research focuses on the impact of impaired vision on individuals’ quality of life and daily activities. His personal experience as an individual with visual impairment provides a distinctive angle to research. His work delves into exploring different technologies and enhanced accessibility designs to improve the quality of life for those with visual impairments.

Question What led you to pursue a career in vision research?

My own low vision has paved the way for a career in vision science. I frequently encounter questions about how impaired vision impacts daily tasks, which has inspired me to think about research on the visual function of individuals with low vision. Although my own visual impairment initially seemed to restrict my path in clinical vision science, everything changed when I came across the inspiring book “Psychophysics of reading in normal and low vision,” authored by my PhD advisor, Dr. Gordon Legge. It revealed to me that I, too, could pursue a career as a vision scientist despite my vision loss.

Question Why did you choose to come to Ohio State?

The College of Optometry at Ohio State has a well-known reputation for its research in vision science and optometric education. During my graduate studies, I had the privilege to meet and even collaborate with a few faculty. What stood out the most was the warm and inclusive environment I experienced during my initial visit to the college for my interview. The Fellow-to-Faculty position offered an excellent opportunity for me as a new PhD graduate to prepare and develop my own research program.

Question What are your impressions of Columbus and Ohio State so far?

Ohio State is one of the Big Ten public universities, much like where I originally came from, which made the campus feel familiar when I first arrived in Columbus. One notable difference I’ve observed so far is the abundance of construction sites on campus. It’s evident that Ohio State and Columbus are continuously evolving and developing. I’m excited to explore the city further and explore more of what both the campus and the city have to offer.

Question Who were your role models who inspired you?

Dr. Gordon Legge, my PhD advisor, is not only my academic mentor but also my life role model. It has been an incredible privilege to work with him during my graduate studies. As a vision scientist with visual impairment, he serves as a true inspiration for students with disabilities. His guidance and unwavering support have allowed me to envision myself thriving in academia, and I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity to learn from him up close.

Question Can you share some of your proudest achievements?

Toward the end of my PhD studies, I had the opportunity to participate in a few three-minute thesis competitions, where I humbly shared the findings of my thesis research. I was fortunate to win the second place and people’s choice award at the University of Minnesota competition. Later on, I was honored to receive the first place and people’s choice award at the American Psychological Association 2022 annual meeting.
Additionally, I was honored to have my first photography exhibition at Vision Loss Resource in Minneapolis in 2018, where I showcased the artistic perspective of someone with low vision. I hope to continue exploring more photography projects alongside my ongoing research pursuits.

Question What are your goals/aspirations in the Fellow-to-Faculty program?

My main goal is to establish my own research program here in the college. I am eager to learn from the experienced faculty within the college and across the campus while seeking collaborative opportunities.

Question How do you feel you’ve made a difference in the lives of others through your work so far?

While it may be premature for me to assess my impact on others, I was fortunate to lead a research project on social isolation in older individuals with sensory loss during the early stages of the pandemic. During each interview session with our participants, we dedicated hours to listening to their stories and experiences with sensory loss amid the pandemic. Some of our participants told us they felt heard and experienced a sense of reduced loneliness after speaking with us. This experience proved to be truly precious and meaningful to me as well.

Question Do you have any stories of people you’ve influenced so far?

As a junior researcher, I am not sure about how I influence others. But one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a mentor was seeing one of my past mentees opt for a career in optometry, while some others pursued paths in various healthcare professions. Additionally, during my graduate training, I had several opportunities to engage with individuals who had vision or hearing loss. One particularly memorable moment was when an elderly lady with low vision approached me, holding my hands, and encouraged me to persist in my work after I gave a talk at a senior living facility. Her heartfelt gesture left a lasting impact on me.

Question What are your strategies for managing such a hectic schedule?

While I’m continuously working on improving my time management skills, one essential practice I’ve developed is prioritizing my physical and mental health, even amidst a busy schedule. I make a conscious effort to set aside time for exercise each week and maintain regular sessions with my therapist. It’s vital for me to ensure my well-being remains a top priority.

Question What advice do you have for optometry students, faculty, and staff, based on your research?

I believe everyone in the College of Optometry can take pride in our work because vision plays a crucial role in our daily functioning. Even individuals with low vision strive to utilize their residual vision to carry out daily tasks. As professionals working with this population, I hope we can occasionally step back and view them as whole individuals. Those with impaired vision are not solely patients in clinics or labs; they can be your colleagues or neighbors and fulfill various roles within society. Recognizing this broader perspective can deepen our understanding and appreciation for the impact of our work.