I am a retinal neuroscientist. My scientific work involves understanding the topology of neural circuitry, and what the evolution of neural circuitry can teach us about information processing. Understanding how we perceive the world through neural circuits involved in vision is compelling enough. But understanding how those circuits are altered in disease like retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration drives the work. Elucidating how retinal tissues are connected at the ultrastructural level is fundamental to understanding how retinas and therefore neural circuits process information, but also discovering how that circuitry is altered in disease. Defects in neural wiring reveal potential therapeutic interventions targeted at restoring or preventing vision loss. This work is responsible for discovering the substantial clinical significance of negative neuronal remodeling in retinal degenerations and extends to both animal disease models of, and human retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. Specifically, exploring plasticity and remodeling in the retina along with glial reactions and neuronal death which are part and parcel of understanding pathological circuitry, particularly earlier in the disease process by creating complete network diagrams with rich data including classes, cell patternings, and complete connectivities. This work evolved into a new field called retinal connectomics, where I've been one of the pioneers. We created possibly the world's first retinal connectome, but certainly the first one with enough resolution to resolve synapses and gap junctions. My lab has also produced the very first pathoconnectome, in any tissue. This pathoconnectome or connectome of disease tissue was completed using retinal tissues via NIH/NEI funding, consonant with the goals of the NEI to understand normal retinal circuitry and how it is changed in disease.
I am also a some time photographer as a tacit personal reminder of why I work in retinal and visual sciences. My photographic work has been published or discussed in: NPRs Science Friday, National Geographic, The Smithsonian, Wired, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Science, the Washington Post, MSNBC, io9, Mother Nature Network, The Guardian UK, CNET, the Huffington Post, NewScientist, The Washington Times, Defense Technology International, Boing Boing, War is Boring, The Washington Independent, The NIH Director’s Blog, World Politics Review, Combat Aircraft, Mental Floss Magazine, USA Today, Warships International and others. I’ve also had gallery work presented in the Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich and Art Access in Salt Lake City and had materials used in documentary films.
Research Interests: Retinal vision, synaptic transmission, neuronal circuitry, retinal cell biology, metabolism, connectomics
Moran Eye Center
Huntsman Cancer Institute
University of Utah
University of Utah