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

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. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  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, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  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.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement 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 for Graduate Organizations. 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 prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


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

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.
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John Flanagan, Professor. Glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, neurscience and neurobiology.
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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.
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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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Program Chair

Rowland Taylor

Phone: (510) 643-8459

Coordinator, Vision Science & Residency

Valerie Moss

380 Minor Hall

Phone: 510-642-9537

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