The Visual Sciences Training Program

The Visual Sciences Training Program (VSTP) is comprised of a multi-disciplinary vision sciences research community at Case. This program is funded by a T32 Training Grant from the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Interactions between faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in the VSTP and the broader research community at Case and University Hospitals Case Medical Center create an excellent training opportunity in vision science. Please click here to view a pdf version of the VSTP Trainee Handbook.

Eric Pearlman, Ph.D., Program Director

"As Director of Research for the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, together with Douglas Rhee, M.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, I would like to invite graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to consider study and training in the Visual Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. We have assembled more than forty researchers who are working in multiple disciplines to assure a solid training in this growing research area. The National Eye Institute strongly supports training and vision research at Case Western Reserve University by funding the Visual Sciences Training Grant, the Visual Sciences P-30 Core facility grant, and over twenty individual investigator grants. The experience and expertise of the faculty will ensure that you will have a successful and productive experience."

- Eric Pearlman, Ph.D.

Training Faculty and Research Areas

Click here for a complete list of VSTP Training Faculty.

Predoctoral Training

Predoctoral students apply through the Biomedical Scientist Training Program (BSTP) or Predoctoral Training in Neurosciences program in the fall or early winter for admission in the next academic year, when they will be based within an active Ph.D.-granting program in the School of Medicine and subject to the degree requirements of the respective department. Trainees conduct research in any of the five VSTP areas of emphasis: Aging and Diabetes in the Eye, Ocular Inflammation and Infection, Phototransduction, Retinal Development and Disease, and Translational Visual Sciences. During the first and second years of graduate education, trainees will participate in research lab rotations, complete any coursework required by the respective department and select a dissertation advisor. The third and fourth years are dedicated to laboratory research, preparing a written dissertation, presenting a public thesis seminar and orally defending their work before a committee.

Postdoctoral Training

Postdoctoral Candidates are those with a Ph.D., M.D., or M.D./Ph.D. degree by the start of training. The intent of postdoctoral training is to attract individuals from non-vision areas who can creatively apply contemporary research approaches toward understanding problems in visual sciences and possess the ability to synthesize literature and technology in an area of interest. Recent Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent doctoral-degree recipients must perform mentored research full-time under the supervision of a faculty member. The training period on the T32 is usually one to two years.

Research Experience Component

The strength of the VSTP is that all trainees will receive departmental- and research-specific mentoring. The laboratory-focused experiences that will collectively equip graduates with insight into a full range of research issues include ocular genotype, cell/molecular biology of the visual system and structural and functional phenotypes of eye diseases. As trainees progress toward the status of independent, NEI-funded investigators, they will be able to pose biologically and clinically relevant questions without being restricted by either discipline or methodology. All trainees participate in journal clubs, departmental seminar programs, VSRC group presentations and the annual VSRC retreat.

Current Topics in Vision Research - PHRM 432 (Spring 2014)

Current Topics in Vision Research is a required course for all pre-doctoral trainees in the Visual Sciences Training Program (VSTP). Postdoctoral trainees of the VSTP can also take the course for credit and will be supported by the training grant. All other post-docs can audit the course. Vision research is an exciting and multidisciplinary area that draws on the disciplines of biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, structural biology, neuroscience, and pathology. This graduate level course will provide the student with broad exposure to the most recent and relevant research currently being conducted in the field. Topics will cover a variety of diseases and fundamental biological processes occurring in the eye. Regions of the eye that will be discussed include the cornea, lens, and retina. Vision disorders discussed include age-related macular degeneration, retinal ciliopathies, and diabetic retinopathy. Instructors in the course are experts in their field and are members of the multidisciplinary visual sciences research community here at Case Western Reserve University. Students will be exposed to the experimental approaches and instrumentation currently being used in the laboratory and in clinical settings. Topics will be covered by traditional lectures, demonstrations in the laboratory and the clinic, and journal club presentations.

Application Process

Initiating an Application: Students enrolled in a Case Western Reserve University PhD or MD/PhD program can apply, providing they are US citizens or permanent residents. Underrepresented minorities are encouraged to apply.

Please submit a single PDF file with the following information:

From the student: Cover letter, biosketch, graduate school transcript, description or proposed research project (2 pages maximum which should not be a copy of the mentor's grant proposal)

From the mentor: Letter of recommendation and proposed training plan.

Please send the PDF to

Visual Sciences Training Program
Dr. Eric Pearlman
Research Director, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine
2085 Adelbert Road, Institute of Pathology, Rm 109
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-4960