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ARVO 2019 travel grant recipients share their experiences

ARVO's travel grants allow for aspiring junior researchers to attend the ARVO Annual Meeting at no cost to them. Each grantee is also paired with a mentor to lead them through the Meeting and to provide guidance after they return home. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, more than 350 grant recipients attended the Annual Meeting this past year. Several grantees shared a little about their experience.

Annabel von Studnitz2019 Grant Wood Balkema Memorial Travel Grant Recipient
Recipient, Grant Wood Balkema Memorial Travel Grant
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Department for Ophthalmology

"It was the first time ever for me presenting my research. Not only did I present it in English (which is not my native tongue) but also in a paper session and in front of approximately 100 people. I was nervous and excited, but in the end, everything went better than I thought it would."

2019 Josh Wallman Travel Grant RecipientDenis Plotnikov, MD
Recipient, Josh Wallman Travel Grant
Cardiff University

"I attended the ARVO 2019 Meeting at the pivotal part of my PhD study and it was very helpful to me in terms of career perspective. Now I know what I want to achieve, how I want to do it and whom I need to ask for advice. I will be attending [future] ARVO annual meetings, as I feel my experience this year gave me a stimulus for both professional and personal growth."

2019 Knights Templar Recipients

Kelsey Kubelick
Recipient, Knights Templar Eye Foundation Travel Grant
Georgia Institute of Technology

"I greatly appreciate the opportunity to attend the ARVO Meeting. Although my research is applied to glaucoma, I am an imaging scientist by training. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to extend outside of my imaging comfort zone into the biology of glaucoma and learn about cutting edge treatments to better develop new imaging technologies. It was also extremely beneficial to hear from imaging experts studying other regions of the eye to understand how their technologies could perhaps be adapted for anterior segment imaging."

Ken Kitayama, BA, MPH
Recipient, Knights Templar Eye Foundation Travel Grant
UCLA Stein Eye Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

"This was my first experience giving a paper presentation at a research conference. I was able to develop valuable public speaking skills that will definitely benefit me in my professional development. I was also able to have interesting and productive discussions with others in my field of research that will help to improve my research efforts."

2019 ARVO Foundation Travel RecipientsCassandra Hays, MS
Recipient, ARVO Foundation Travel Grant
University of Nebraska Medical Center

"I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to immerse myself in the very newest techniques and findings in retinal neurobiology in such a beautiful city. This was my first time attending ARVO, and after meeting an array of outstanding researchers and broadening the scope of my retina knowledge, I definitely plan to return. Most of all, I was honored to have received a competitive travel award; it granted me confidence to better present my research."

2019 NEI Travel RecipientsYang Zhang
Creighton University School of Medicine
2019 NEI Travel Grant recipient

"I wanted to express my gratitude in receiving the ARVO travel grant which allowed me to attend the ARVO Annual Meeting in Vancouver. I mostly want the leadership and the trustees to know that the funding program is worthwhile, especially for students like myself, and many of the awardees I met at social events also share this sentiment.

Personally, aside from presenting my poster and sharing ideas with researchers also working in retinal ganglion cell degeneration, I learned a great deal on research and funding opportunities through attending workshops on research and career development. I have thought about combining both research and clinical practice in my future career, but never knew how this would be achieved. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there was a workshop literally titled "How to become a successful clinician-scientist." There, I learned the role of a clinician-scientist in vision research is to integrate both fields of research and clinical to advance novel treatments; furthermore, the emphasis should also be placed on gathering a team of collaborators, because specialized experts are needed throughout every step of product development, manufacturing, and even the FDA regulatory processes, in order to bring a novel idea into clinical practice. The session on what to look for in a first academic job as a clinician-scientist also offered information that I would otherwise not have encountered. I learned what to ask during interviews, the importance of different faculty tracks, and built-in grant mechanisms in both the institution and NIH for early career development. It was nice to see visuals on how the NIH grants (such as the K08, K23, K13) are being dispersed as well as the funding success rates for each of them.

Overall, my experience at ARVO reinforced my desire to continue pursue a career in vision research and gave me a clearer direction on how I can achieve my career goals."

2019 BrightFocus Foundation RecipientsMax Colbert, BS
Recipient, BrightFocus Foundation Travel Grant
NYU School of Medicine

"I was able to give an oral talk about my research in the presence of many scientists and doctors whom I have referenced in my work. Having the opportunity to speak with them and pick their brains was invaluable. This was one of the greatest academic experiences I have had thus far in my career."