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May 30, 2007
DH 07 JH

Professor of Biology Keeps an Eye on the Future of Vision Research

Carson, CA Laura J. Robles, dean of Graduate Studies and Research and professor of biology, was appointed chair of the Diversity Issues Committee for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in May. One of the responsibilities of her two-year appointment will be to organize and host a session at the annual ARVO meeting. Along with other members of the committee, she will organize a presentation to fit the theme, “Leadership in Vision Research,” at the 2008 meeting.

“Most of the major research is done at research intensive universities and in industry,” she says. “Glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts are some of the areas of current interest to scientists and clinicians.”

Robles, who is the director of the California State University, Dominguez Hills branch of the national Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program, will work with the committee to develop workshops and programs that deal with issues such as leadership, succeeding as a woman or a member of an underrepresented group in vision research, and international participation in the research community.

Robles’s research of basic cell biological processes in octopus retina has proven applicable to visual cells in humans and to other cells in general. Aspects such as membrane renewal, light-induced translocation of vitamin A and visual cycle proteins in the octopus retina are hot topics in vision research, she says.

“We are now studying signaling pathways in the retina that lead to cytoskeletal rearrangements in photoreceptors and a change in the shape of the cell,” she says. “The cytoskeleton in involved in the change in shape of this region of cell. Octopi are active in the dark, and presumably if that part of the cell enlarges, there is room for more visual transduction molecules and consequently, the retina can see better in the dark.”

ARVO was founded in 1928 in Washington, DC, by 73 ophthalmologists. Originally named the Association for Research in Ophthalmology, the organization added the word "vision" in 1970 to better reflect the scientific profile of its members. ARVO's membership of more than 11,500 individuals is multidisciplinary and consists of both clinical and basic researchers, including doctors, ophthalmologists, optometrists, osteopaths and veterinarians.

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Last updated May 30, 2007, 4:06 p.m.
by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore