Research Opportunities

Leaders in ophthalmology must not only practice what is known, but also advance the field through research and publication. Each resident is expected to design, conduct, and publish a research study on a clinical, surgical, educational or evidence-based medicine research question in the field of ophthalmology. Research findings will be presented at the UTMB Health OVS Summer Resident Research Day or another professional conference. ARVO abstracts are due in December. Effective on January 2015, the Ophthalmology Departments at the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Houston Methodist Hospital will sponsor the Annual National Resident Research Conference (NERC). Residents in the department will have opportunities of participating in and organizing the NERC.
Every clinical research project (even chart reviews) must have UTMB Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. Every research project using animals must have UTMB Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval.
Statistic analysis for the projects is supported by Dr. Yong Fang-Kuo, Director of Office of Biostatistics in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health (E-mail:; phone: 25276) or Sarah Flores (E-mail:; phone: 979-450-9776).

Research Rotation

Our residents are given four weeks protected time during the first year to develop and complete a research project. Drs. Wenbo Zhang (Associate Program Director for research) and Massoud Motamedi (Vice Chair for Research) will coordinate research facilities in the campus and facilitate residents to develop publishable projects after residents are enrolled in the program. With the assistance of our faculty, our residents are expected to submit at least one article for publication during their residency.

Post -Residency Ph.D. Program

OVS offers a unique program for clinicians with a strong research interest in visual sciences. In conjunction with the UTMB Health graduate program, residents can begin graduate work towards a Ph.D. in Neuroscience or Neurobiology during their time here.
Clinicians who have finished their residency work also are eligible. Depending on research progress, it is estimated that residents can earn Ph.D. degrees within two years of residency completion. The OVS research faculty are recognized experts in cell and molecular biology and bioengineering.

Faculty Research

Clinical Faculty


Matthew Crookston

Matthew D. Crookston, MD
Assistant Professor
Research interests:
1. Myopia control in children
2. Ways to improve LASIK screening techniques and pre-operative data collection in order to improve refractive surgery outcomes
3. Training techniques to improve eye-hand coordination in athletes

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Kevin Merkley

Kevin H. Merkley, MD
Assistant Professor
Research interests:
1.  Incidence of microketatome flap complications in a large series
2. Correlation of keratometry changes with refraction changes after LASIK
3. Accuracy of LASIK surgery in a series of higher myopes
4. Comparison of post operative pain using two techniques for PRK 

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Mohamed Soliman

Mohamed Soliman, MD
Assistant Professor
Research interests:
1. Retinopathy of Prematurity related research
2. Resident education related research
3. Congenital Nasolacrimal duct obstruction research

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Praveena Gupta

Praveena Gupta, OD, PhD
Research interests:
1. Immunotherapeutic interventions for treating dry age related macular degeneration
2. Characterizing tau pathology in the retina of alzheimers mice knock out
3. Approaches on corneal crosslinking

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Misha Syed

Misha F. Syed, MD
Associate Professor
Research interests:
1. Surgical management of glaucoma (especially advanced complicated cases)
2. Resident education / training approaches in ophthalmology, surgical simulation training
3. Theories of glaucoma pathogenesis, including oxidative stress model

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Janice Contreras

Janice E Contreras, MD
Assistant Professor
Research interests:
1. Cataract surgery
2. Dry Eye Syndrome
3. Blepharitis

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Irene Tung

Irene T. Tung, MD
Assistant Professor
Research interests:
My research interests include any subject related to pediatric ophthalmology - strabismus, nasolacrimal duct obstruction, cataracts, ROP

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Andrew G. Lee

Andrew G. Lee, MD
Adjunct Professor
Chair, Department of Ophthalmology
Houston Methodist Hospital
Research interests:
1. Optic nerve
2. Ocular motor cranial neuropathy
3. Graduate medical education
5. OCT Papilledema and IIH
6. NMO and Optic neuritis
Dr. Lee has multiple book chapters and residents are welcome to join the authorship.

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Gianmarco Vizzeri

Gianmarco Vizzeri, MD
Associate Professor
Vice-Chair for Clinical Services
Research interests:
1. Intrasession and Intersession Reproducibility of the Imaging Instruments in Glaucoma
2. ocular imaging, electrophysiology, ocular blood flow in glaucoma
3. glaucoma surgery
4. Visual Impairment and Increased Intracranial Pressure (VIIP)
5. Correlation between the Spectral Domain OCT and the Humphrey Field Analyzer
6. Effect of Age on Retinal Structures on Healthy Human Subjects
7. Evaluation of hindlimb suspension as a model to study ophthalmic complications in Microgravity
8. Mapping by VESGEN of blood vessels in the human retina undergoing bed rest for increased understanding of visual impairment and increased intracranial pressure (VIIP)
9. Effect of short-term hypercapnia during head-down bed rest on ocular structures and cerebral blood flow in healthy human subjects

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Emma K. Loucks

Emma K. Loucks, MD
Assistant Professor
Research interests:
1. Clinical Research
2. Research related to surgical outcomes
3. Research related to imaging in ophthalmology, ie OCT

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Brian Wong

Brian Wong, MD
Associate Professor
Research interests:
1. Cataract evaluation, treatment and and results
2. Eyelid disorders, including blepharoptosis
3. Orbital disease
4. Lacrimal abnormalities

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Jaafar El-Annan

Jaafar El-Annan, MD
Assistant Professor
Research interests:
1. Immune mechanisms in corneal diseases
2. Immune mechanisms in retinal diseases
3. Membrane Biology (signal transduction)
Ongoing project: Retinochoroidal changes in Pre-eclampsia

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Research Faculty

Massoud Motamedi

Massoud Motamedi, PhD
Professor and Vice Chairman
Dr. Motamedi's research interest is development of a multi-modal imaging platform for high-resolution cellular and molecular imaging of the retina.

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Jiyang Cai

Jiyang Cai, PhD
Assistant Professor
Dr. Cai's research interest is on mechanisms of aging and age-related degeneration in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE).
1. Rodent model related to AMD
2. Autologous transplant of RPE derived from IPSCs
3. Exosomal microRNA from the RPE

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Yan Chen

Yan Chen, PhD
Assistant Professor
Dr. Chen's research interest is directed toward characterizing the functional roles of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)-mediated signaling in aging of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and AMD.

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Arnold Vainrub

Arnold Vainrub, PhD
Associate Professor
Research interests:
1. Tunable aptamer sensors for specific capture and release of living cells and monitoring their metabolic products
2. Advanced diagnostics of cancers and retinopathy using super-resolution optical microscopy


Wenbo Zhang, PhD

Wenbo Zhang, PhD
Assistant Professor
Associate Program Director for Research
Dr. Zhang's research interest is to understand mechanisms of retinal injury in ischemic retinopathy such as diabetic retinopathy, retinopathy of prematurity and glaucoma.

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Research Support

National Eye Institute, National Science Foundation, NASA, Department of Defense, International Retinal Research Foundation, BrightFocus Foundation, Retina Research Foundation, American Heart Association, Ted Nash Long Life Foundation, Carl Marshall & Mildred Almen Reeves Foundation, Departmental Faculty Development Funds.