News Release

Seeing success and recognition for research on retinal disease and regeneration

SUNY Optometry Ph.D. students take top honors with national awards

Grant and Award Announcement

State University of New York College of Optometry

New York, NY:   Two SUNY College of Optometry PhD candidates received national awards this summer for their work on retinal disease and regeneration.  Seoyoung Kang, MMSc, was awarded the Minnie and Roseanna Turner Award for Impaired Vision Research in June for her project on "Retinal Regeneration and Glia Reprogramming."  She presented part of her work at the GLIA 2023 meeting in Berlin, Germany in July.   Daniel Larbi, OD, was awarded the Trainee Professional Development Award (TPDA) from the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) for his work in "Understanding Müller Glia Function in Retinal Disease."  He will present his poster entitled "The Impact of microRNA Loss in Müller Glia on Retinal Degeneration and Gliosis" in the upcoming Neuroscience 2023 Meeting in Washington D.C. in November. 


Both students currently work in the Wohl Lab at SUNY College of Optometry under the guidance of Dr. Stefanie Wohl, Ph.D.  “I am thrilled and more than proud of my two Ph.D. students who received these awards,” Dr. Wohl noted, “Both students worked very hard and had many setbacks caused by the pandemic. These awards are an outstanding accomplishment, and I am excited and grateful to see them getting the recognition they deserve.”

Seoyoung Kang joined SUNY Optometry as a Ph.D. student in 2019 and began working in the Wohl Lab in July 2020 after a successful lab rotation. Her project is about the role of microRNAs in postnatal retinal development and in glia cell reprogramming. This work is funded by the NIH/NEI (R01EY032532).


Prior to joining SUNY Optometry, Seoyoung Kang received her Bachelor of Optometry in 2015 and is a licensed optician in South Korea. In 2017, she received her Master of Medical Science from Konyang University, Medical School, South Korea. During her Master's studies, she worked on a project about the role of Wnt signaling on blue-light induced photoreceptor cell damage in the mouse retina. The blue-light light damage is a model for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). She is a certified member of the American Board of Opticians (ABO) and National Contact Lens Experts (NCLE) of the State of California and completed an internship at Visus Contactlinsen GmbH Hamburg, Germany, in 2013.



Daniel Larbi received his Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana, and completed a year as a teaching and research assistant at the same university. It was there he studied myopia (near-sightedness), in particular the correlation between the shape of the eye and myopia progression, and focused on peripheral refraction in high myopes.


In 2019, Daniel Larbi was accepted at SUNY Optometry as a Ph.D. student. He joined the Wohl Lab in July 2020 after a successful lab rotation to pursue his passion for research. He had no wet lab experience at this time but a very strong interest in understanding molecular mechanisms of injury and disease. His project focuses on the impact of glial microRNAs on cell function and overall retinal health and was partially funded by the Empire Innovation Program (EIP) grant.


Dr. Stewart Bloomfield, SUNY College of Optometry Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research noted, “These recent awards to Seoyoung Kang and Daniel Larbi are a testament to the importance of their thesis research towards new treatments for eye disease and the exceptional mentorship provided by Dr. Wohl.  The awards also highlight the cutting-edge vision research being carried out at the SUNY College of Optometry and the excellent training offered by our graduate program."

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