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

To complete our Ph.D. program, students must complete a minimum of 120 units. These units can be earned by taking VISCI 260A, VISCI 260B, VISCI 260C, VISCI 260D, VISCI 298, VISCI 201A, VISCI 201B, and VISCI 300. Students in our program are also allowed to take course across campus as it fits into their research and progress towards their thesis. 

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 program's interdisciplinary nature, 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 program's interdisciplinary nature, 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

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. A complete list of graduate academic departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Doctoral Degree Requirements


As a Ph.D. student, you are eligible to take any course on campus during the academic year. This is a great perk and should be taken advantage of, but please be aware that your tuition and fees do not extend into the summer, so any summer courses will be paid out of pocket.

Core Curriculum 

The Core Curriculum comprises a series of four courses split between the Fall and Spring semester of your first year. The series is intended to provide a general overview of the main topic areas in Vision Science for students of widely varying backgrounds. The Core Curriculum requirement must be fulfilled by the end of their first year. Each course must be passed with a B or better. Failure to achieve a B or better will require the course to be retaken the following year for a letter grade.


The goal of this course is to introduce first-year students to the faculty and labs in the Vision Science program. During the first year of the graduate program, students are presented with an overview of the various research opportunities represented in the Vision Science group. Weekly one-hour lectures and/or lab tours are presented by the Vision Science faculty.


The goal of the Student Evening Research Seminar (SERS) is to provide a forum for VS graduate students to discuss and develop strategies for giving effective presentations and to have an opportunity to practice giving scientific presentations in an informal setting. SERS is a required course for all first-year and second-year students although all graduate students, faculty, and postdocs are welcome and encouraged to attend.


This course will provide an overview of the early stage limits to human vision, from the eye’s optics to sampling and processing in the retina. Students will learn basic optical properties of the eye as well as objective and subjective techniques on how to measure the limits of human vision. The class will comprise a combination of lectures and active learning by the students in the form of a project, to be presented at the end of the semester.


This course will provide an overview of eye development, anterior eye ocular anatomy and physiology, and ocular disease. The course will be a combination of didactic lectures and problem-based learning.


This course will provide an overview of the neuroscience of vision, spanning the entire neural pathway from retinal neurobiology to cortical processing of visual signals. The class will comprise a combination of lectures and active learning by the students in the form of a project, to be presented at the end of the semester.


This course will provide an overview of how we see in time (temporal signal processing, eye motion, motion detection), space (stereo vision, depth perception), and color as well as the anatomical and physiological factors that facilitate these capabilities. The course will be a series of didactic lectures.


In preparation for participation in research, each student is required to take the Ethics in Scientific Research course for a letter grade within the first 2 years of enrollment. Training in the responsible conduct of research is required for all students. This course examines a range of ethical issues that arise in the process of doing science.


Oxyopia seminars are presented to the Vision Science and campus community on a weekly basis during the academic year. These seminars are given by local and visiting researchers and are an excellent way for students to become more familiar with the most recent developments in vision research. All graduate students, faculty, and postdocs are welcomed and encouraged to attend. All first-year and second-year students must take Oxyopia for a letter grade. Starting in their 3rd year, all VS students are required to make an annual presentation on a current research project at the Oxyopia lecture series.


As Graduate Student Instructors in the School of Optometry, all first-year students are required to enroll in a teaching methods course. This course provides instruction in teaching methods and materials and opportunities to practice teaching in classrooms and laboratories.

Additional Coursework

The following represent fields of study that may be beneficial for student success but are not required courses.


Strongly recommended for most areas of Vision Science. Meet with your Graduate Advisor to discuss your statistics background and appropriate courses for your intended area of research.

advanced courses and seminars

These are given as a continuation of the different themes established in the proseminar series. Courses offerings vary, and a complete list will be provided each semester. Please visit the Schedule of Classes for the most current listing.

Beyond vision science

Students may also consider courses offered by other departments on campus, according to their needs. Additional coursework is not recommended during the first 2 semesters. Students are encouraged to meet with their research advisor to discuss their needs and the options that are available to them.


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


Vision Science

Contact Information

Graduate Group in Vision Science

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Program Chair

Rowland Taylor

Phone: (510) 643-8459

Assistant Director, Vision Science & Residency

Alex Marquez (she/her)

380 Minor Hall

Phone: 510-642-9537

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