Celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage


Daniel Sun, OD, PhD - The curious eye: A journey of curiosity and contribution in vision science


Daniel Sun, OD, PhD, is an assistant professor in ophthalmology at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye & Ear in Boston, Mass. His research interests grew while completing a MS and PhD in optometry at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Following that, he moved to Boston and completed his postdoctoral fellowships at Massachusetts General Hospital, then Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.


Sun currently works on understanding the functions that a type of glial cell, called astrocytes, have in the retina and optic nerve in glaucoma. He has been supported by the Fight for Sight Grants-in Aid, the Brightfocus Foundation and the National Institutes of Health R01 and R21.

Tell us a little about yourself

I was born in Indonesia, and at a young age my family immigrated to Australia looking for a better life. I grew up in Australia and eventually did my PhD in New Zealand, then came to Boston for my postdoctoral fellowship.


As a child, I always wanted to be an airline pilot. I enjoy architecture, design, and I'm a huge foodie and will often travel looking for good food. In Asian culture, food is strongly associated with family, happiness, friendship and relationship. 


How did you get into the eye and vision field?

I thought that the training required to be a medical doctor was very long and I wasn't interested in dentistry. You could say I fell into optometry, fortuitously, rather than choosing it. During the years of training, I found learning about posterior diseases of the eye to be the most interesting subject. I wanted to know why the diseases manifested the way they did in the clinic and so began my entry into research. 


What are some things in your field that you love/enjoy?

The journey of discovery, curiosity, finding things out for the first time, and sense of contribution. I have always loved biology, medicine and science.


Who is your greatest influence and why?

I’m always inspired by the life and work of Daisaku Ikeda, a peace builder, Buddhist philosopher, educator, author and poet. His philosophy of human transformation is empowering on the individual level as it teaches how we can create hope, value and refresh our spirits amid the challenges of daily life. Something we all need in this day and age.


Tell us how you found opportunities to help you grow in your career.

It’s important to continuously network, meet different people and create new friendships. This may require us to get out of our comfort zone. but in this effort we can find new creativity and opportunities for our career.


Do you have any pearls of wisdom for young Asian/Pacific Americans entering or currently in the field?

In addition to my answer to the above question it would be:

  • To look for mentors, multiple mentors. Someone whom you trust, can be frank with, and that you feel is really looking out for you.
  • Know thyself.
  • You need lots of persistence and perseverance in science.