Vision Science

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Vision is one of the most valuable sensory modalities. It is also the source of a rich array of research questions relating to how we see, how and why vision fails, and what can be done about it. Investigators in Vision Science conduct human and animal research and modeling, yielding cutting-edge discoveries and applications in disciplines that include molecular genetics, clinical care, adaptive optics, neurobiology, cell biology, infectious disease, bioengineering, perception, and public health.

This  PhD program emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of vision science research through broad exposure to the basic concepts and techniques used in specialized fields. Engaged in both laboratory-based and clinical research, our students are working with faculty advisers whose research matches their own interests. Current research topics include biomedical optics, perception and visual cognition, molecular and cell biology, neuroscience, computational vision, genetics, immunology, microbiology, and clinical science.

Vision Science alumni are represented on the faculty of world-class universities — in medical schools, schools of optometry, and a wide range of other disciplines spanning psychology, physiology, bioengineering, and ophthalmology. Many others hold research positions in private institutes and federally sponsored agencies, including NASA and the NIH. Still, others can be found in the research and development divisions of the industry. Ophthalmic and biotechnology companies are among the major recruiters of our graduates.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, we accept students with various backgrounds including psychology, optometry, engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry, biophysics, neuroscience, mathematics, molecular and cell biology, and integrative biology. 

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Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, we accept students with various backgrounds including psychology, optometry, engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry, biophysics, neuroscience, mathematics, molecular and cell biology and integrative biology. Because this program is designed to develop research scientists, it is also important that applicants are familiar with an experimental lab setting. Program specific admissions guidelines can be found here.

Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. If the applicant is admitted, then official transcripts of all college-level work will be required. Official transcripts must be in sealed envelopes as issued by the school(s) attended. If you have attended Berkeley, upload your unofficial transcript with your application for the departmental initial review. If you are admitted, an official transcript with evidence of degree conferral will not be required.
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, not the Graduate Division.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

If applicants have previously been denied admission to Berkeley on the basis of their English language proficiency, they must submit new test scores that meet the current minimum from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years.


Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Doctoral Degree Requirements


Courses Required
VIS SCI 201ASeminar in Vision Science2
VIS SCI 201BSeminar in Vision Science2
VIS SCI 299Research in Vision Science (two required lab rotations)1-12
VIS SCI 298Group Studies, Seminars, or Group Research1-6
VIS SCI 230Ethics in Scientific Research2
VIS SCI 300Teaching Methods in Vision Science1
Core Curriculum
VIS SCI 260AOptical and Neural Limits to Vision3
VIS SCI 260BIntroduction to Ocular Biology3
VIS SCI 260CIntroduction to Visual Neuroscience3
VIS SCI 260DSeeing in Time, Space and Color3
Electives per approved individualized study list

Additional Requirements

Please refer to the Vision Science website


Vision Science

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Martin S. Banks, Professor. Stereopsis, virtual reality, optometry, multisensory interactions, self-motion perception, vision, depth perception, displays, picture perception, visual ergonomics.
Research Profile

Lisa F. Barcellos, Associate Professor. Public health, genetic epidemiology, human genetics, autoimmune diseases, multiple schlerosis, lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, epigenetics, genomics, computational biology.
Research Profile

Sonia Bishop, Professor. Neural mechanisms supporting attention, emotion and their interactions; individual differences in cognitive control and emotional responsivity; neural substrate of anxiety; genetic factors modulating recruitment of cortical control and limbic affective mechanisms.
Research Profile

Lu Chen, Professor. Corneal Inflammation, Lymph/Blood Vascular Biology, Immunology, Transplantation.
Research Profile

Susana Chung, Professor. Optometry, low vision, vision science, pattern vision, reading.
Research Profile

Emily Cooper, Assistant Professor. 3D vision, depth perception, computational neuroscience, augmented and virtual reality, perceptual graphics.
Research Profile

Yang Dan, Professor. Neuronal circuits, mammalian visual system, electrophysiological, psychophysical and computational techniques, visual cortical circuits, visual neurons.
Research Profile

Hany Farid, Professor. Digital forensics, digital image analysis, human perception.
Research Profile

John Flanagan, Professor. Glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, neurscience and neurobiology.
Research Profile

John Flannery, Professor. Neurobiology, optometry, vision science, cell and molecular biology of the retina in normal and diseased states.
Research Profile

Suzanne Fleiszig, Professor. Immunology, eye, microbiology, infectious disease, corneal physiology, tear film physiology, bacterial pathogenesis, contact lenses, pseudomonas aeruginosa, epithelial cell biology, innate immunity.
Research Profile

Jack L. Gallant, Professor. Vision science, form vision, attention, fMRI, computational neuroscience, natural scene perception, brain encoding, brain decoding.
Research Profile

Xiaohua Gong, Professor. Optometry, vision science, eye development and diseases, lens development.
Research Profile

Karsten Gronert, Professor. Inflammatory diseases, innate immune responses, lipid mediators, lipidomics, leukocytes, inflammatory resolution, eicosanoids, fish oils, omega-3 PUFA, Dry Eye, Keratitis, wound healing, lipxoygenase, cycloooxygenase, resolution pharmacology.
Research Profile

Na Ji, Associate Professor. Physics, molecular and cell biology.
Research Profile

Stanley A. Klein, Professor. Optometry, vision science, spatial vision modeling, psychophysical methods and vision test design, corneal topography and contact lens design, source localization of evoked potentials, fMRI, amblyopia.
Research Profile

Richard H. Kramer, Professor. Cells, synaptic transmission, chemical signaling between neurons, ion channels, electrical signals, chemical reagents, synapses.
Research Profile

Dennis Levi, Professor. Optometry, vision science, pattern vision, abnormal visual development.
Research Profile

Meng Lin, Associate Professor. Contact lenses, vision, clinical trials (phase I - Phase IV), clinical trial designs, tear film, biomedical devices, ocular surface.
Research Profile

Maria Liu, Assistant Professor. Epidemiology, optometry, vision science, myopia, refractive errors, accommodation, eye growth, contact lens, optical myopia control, pharmacological myopia control, aberration, bifocal, emmetropization, multifocal, orthokeratology, pediatric vision exam, RGP, clinical trials.
Research Profile

Jitendra Malik, Professor. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Biosystems & Computational Biology (BIO), Control, Intelligent Systems, and Robotics (CIR), Graphics (GR), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Signal Processing (SP) .
Research Profile

Nancy McNamara, Associate Professor. Pathogenesis of autoimmune-mediated eye disease, Sjögren’s International Collaborative Clinical Alliance (SICCA).
Research Profile

James O'Brien, Professor. Computer graphics, fluid dynamics, computer simulation, physically based animation, finite element simulation, human perception, image forensics, video forensics, computer animation, special effects for film, video game technology, motion capture .
Research Profile

Bruno Olshausen, Professor. Visual perception, computational neuroscience, computational vision.
Research Profile

Deborah A. Orel-Bixler, Professor. Optometry, vision science, visual abilities in infants, children and special-needs population, visual evoked potentials, vision screening, photorefraction.
Research Profile

Teresa Puthussery, Assistant Professor. Retinal Neurobiology and Neurophysiology.
Research Profile

+ Clayton J. Radke, Professor. Surface and colloid science technology.
Research Profile

Austin John Roorda, Professor. Adaptive optics, eye, vision, ophthalmoscopy, scanning laser ophthalmoscope, ophthalmology.
Research Profile

Michael Silver, Associate Professor. Cognitive neuroscience, pharmacology, learning, attention, visual perception, neuroimaging.
Research Profile

W. Rowland Taylor, Professor. Retinal circuit function, neural architecture, immunohisochemical studies.
Research Profile

William Tuten, Assistant Professor. Probing spatial and chromatic vision with small-spot psychophysics and structure-function relationships in retinal disease.
Research Profile

Wayne Verdon, Professor. Optometry, clinical electrophysiology, color vision.
Research Profile

David Whitney, Professor. Cognitive neuroscience, cognition, attention, visual perception, vision, visually guided action.
Research Profile

Christine Wildsoet, Professor. Optometry, vision science, myopia, refractive errors, accommodation, aberrations, eye growth, ocular therapeutics, optical myopia control, pharmacological myopia control, ocular tissue engineering, ocular stem cells.
Research Profile

Emeritus Faculty

Anthony J. Adams, Professor Emeritus. Vision in diabetes, retinal function.
Research Profile

Ian L. Bailey, Professor Emeritus. Low vision, visual ergonomics, clinical optics, optometry .
Research Profile

Ralph D. Freeman, Professor Emeritus. Vision science, organization of central visual pathways.
Research Profile

Robert B. Mandell, Professor Emeritus. Contact lenses, structure, growth, and physiology of the cornea.
Research Profile

Kenneth A. Polse, Professor Emeritus. Optometry, vision science, tear mixing, epithelial barrier function, contact lens extended wear.
Research Profile

Lynn C. Robertson, Professor Emeritus. Cognitive neuroscience, attention, psychology, representations of objects and space, visual search, binding mechanisms, perceptual organization in normal and neurological populations, functional hemisphere asymmetries, spatial deficits.
Research Profile

Clifton M. Schor, Professor Emeritus. Stereopsis, optometry, vision science, binocular vision, ocular motility, strabismus, accommodation, presbyopia.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Graduate Group in Vision Science

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Admissions and Student Affairs Office

Sha'Nice Robinson

380 Minor Hall

Phone: 510-642-9537

Program Chair

Rowland Taylor

Phone: (510) 643-8459

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