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NECO Student Researchers Win Awards at National Conference

Two second year students at New England College of Optometry recently received grants and awards for their research at the annual conference for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). ARVO is the largest international research meeting in vision science. Both students are part of the dual OD/MS degree program, which allows students to earn a master of science in vision science while pursuing an OD degree. The MS portion of the program involves an original research program that is often begun during a summer research fellowship program supported by a research training grant (T35) from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

This year, two students who participated in the T35 program at NECO last summer were awarded a $750 Student Travel Fellowship to attend ARVO in Seattle. Lenna Walker, NECO OD18, and Tiffany Yanase, from SCCO, were honored at a reception for Members in Training on May 2nd at the ARVO meeting. 

Leona Walker with her MS Advisors.

At the ARVO conference, Walker and classmate Micaela Gobeille, OD18, were each awarded a $2,000 Beta Sigma Kappa (BSK) student grant for their MS program research projects and poster presentations.

Lenna Walker’s project examined “Blur Perception & Eye Movements: Relationship to Refractive Error” with MS thesis advisors Drs. Fuensanta Vera Diaz and Nancy Coletta, professors and researchers at New England College of Optometry in Boston. 

Student standing in front of research poster at conference.

Walker explained, “Attending ARVO was an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the research being conducted at NECO, but also to hear about the research being done elsewhere. It was exciting to hear about the advances the vision science community is making towards helping to treat people with vision disorders. That's really why research interested me in the first place.”

Micaela Gobeille’s poster detailed her research about “Clinically Meaningful Outcomes of Low Vision Rehabilitation Provided by a Mobile Clinic”.  Her research included data she collected for her Master’s research project around measuring the outcomes of low vision rehabilitation delivered on the New England Eye On-Sight Mobile Clinic.

Student in front of poster discussing content with a conference participant.Gobeille began the project as a work study student helping Dr. Ross in the prepartions for data collection. After she was accepted into the OD/MS program and the T35 research summer program, she selected Dr. Ross as her advisor and began research in earnest.  She explains, “Our goal is to determine if clinical low vision outcomes from services on the mobile clinic are comparable to other low vision delivery models.” Her co-authors for this poster were Drs. Richard Jamara, Gary Chu, Alexis Malkin, and Nicole Ross. 

In addition to the BSK award, Gobeille was selected to receive the prestigious Envision-Atwell Award at the conference. The Envision-Atwell Award honors Constance Atwell, a longtime low vision research supporter who encouraged high quality low vision research. The Envision-Atwell Award is granted to an ARVO student, post-doctoral researcher, or junior faculty member with less than five years of experience who has been engaged in low vision, visual impairment, or visual rehabilitation research. LVRG committee members evaluated the nominations based on the quality of research, presentation, and the nominee’s commitment to Low Vision research.  Gobeille received a $1,000 award and trophy from Michael Epp, manager of professional education at Envision, for this honor.

“This award is significant not only because of its selectivity, but also because it is usually awarded to those in post-doctorate training programs after receiving a PhD, so it is remarkable for a student to earn this award,” notes Dr. Ross, Gobeille’s thesis advisor. Coincidentally, the only other individual who has won this award as a student is coincidentally Dr. Ross, Micaela’s thesis advisor. 

“Presenting at ARVO was an amazing experience,” explains Gobeille. “It was exciting to actually meet the people who have written the papers that I cite in my work and to see some of the projects that they’re currently working on. It was also incredible to share the work I am doing with other low vision researchers.”

Media Contact: Ingrid Hoogendoorn, Director of Communications
phone: 617-587-5722