This program is offered to top students worldwide who are interested in scientific research or case study related to clinical practice. It is designed to engage students to explore the broad field of vision science through basic, translational, or clinical research. The curriculum provides fundamental knowledge about all facets of vision and visual performance, including (but not limited to) physiological optics, anatomy and physiology of the human eye, visual perception/cognition, visual neuroscience, eye diseases, public health vision care, sports vision, eye movements, visual search, visual function in learning, and human-computer interaction, as well as other aspects of applied vision. Students will engage in both laboratory-based and clinical-relevant research and exposed to the basic concepts and techniques central to their specialized research topics. The program was created to provide high quality optometric education combined with customized rigorous research training. Overarching program goals are to develop students into highly proficient clinicians and talented researchers who are well prepared for careers in vision science whether in academia, industry, or leadership in government- supported/non-profit organizations.
Degree completion usually takes three years but may vary depending on whether the student enters with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or any advanced standing (e.g., an OD degree or a post-ungraduated degree in vision science related field). The total time allowed to complete the PhD degree requirements is seven years. Students entering PhD without an MS degree should complete the MS requirements within five years and the PhD degree requirements within seven years from the student’s enrollment for graduate study. Students who fail to reach the milestones may be removed from both degree programs.
Students must conduct and present a research study before applying for the Ph.D. Candidacy Exam. This requirement can be met by successfully defending a Master’s thesis, by submitting a Master’s thesis in a vision-science related field before entering the program, or by submitting a manuscript accepted by or published in a peer-reviewed journal with the student being the first author or the corresponding author. The previous Master’s thesis or peer-reviewed paper must be reviewed and approved by the VSG Committee.
Comprehensive Knowledge Examination
PhD students must pass the Comprehensive Knowledge Examination (in written and oral forms) to ascertain the breadth of their comprehension of fundamental knowledge in the field of vision science. After successfully completing all Advanced Seminars in VSC 811, 821, 831 (or 833 and 834), and 841, the student may request to take the exam. The VSG Committee appoints the student’s Comprehensive Knowledge Exam Committee, which shall be comprised of all instructors in the Advanced Seminar courses. The committee is tasked with designing the exam for the student, and shall be configured to assure eventual student expertise in the following areas of vision science:
- Vision and Optics
- Ocular Anatomy and Physiology
- Eye Diseases and Public Health
- Oculomotor Functions and Visual Performance
The Comprehensive Knowledge Examination includes two components, a written exam and an oral exam. The written exam is conducted first, and the oral examination shall be administered within four weeks after the written examination. During the oral examination, the Comprehensive Knowledge Committee will test the student knowledge within the selected topical areas.
Ph.D. Candidacy (Qualification) Examination
In consultation with the student, a research advisor is appointed to replace the academic advisor. The research advisor works with the student and the Director of the Graduate Program to form a Doctoral Dissertation Committee to guide the student’s dissertation work. The dissertation committee requires at least four members with expertise related to the student’s dissertation topic, including:
- The research advisor, who shall serve as the committee chair;
- At least two committee members who are faculty of the College of Optometry;
- One Pacific University faculty member who is not a part of the College of Optometry, who shall be included for the final defense for the purpose of evaluating the dissertation defense. If a non-optometry Pacific University faculty member is not available to serve on the dissertation committee, a College of Optometry faculty will be substituted.
- Other experts may be included as appropriate, although inclusion of more than four committee members generally is not recommended.
If changes in the approved advisor or committee become necessary, a written request must be approved by the VSG Committee.
At least one semester after passing the Comprehensive Knowledge Exam, a student may submit a dissertation research proposal for the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination to the student’s dissertation committee. The proposal should be formatted as for grant application (e.g., NIH grant proposal) and include the following (or equivalent) elements:
- Specific aims: Describe the main research questions, the major hypotheses and outline the experiments to test them.
- Background and significance: Include a focused literature review on the topics and rationale for the importance of the research.
- Preliminary studies or progress report: Describe the relevant preparation or research that has been done by the student toward completing his/her dissertation.
- Research design or Methods: Describe the planned research.
Once the Preliminary Examination has been passed, the student is advanced to PhD Candidacy and may begin his/her doctoral dissertation research as approved by the dissertation committee.
Written and Oral Defense of a PhD Dissertation and Dissertation Submission
The final examination for the degree is a defense of the research and its write-up in front of the dissertation committee, invited guests, and the public. The PhD candidate must present the results of an original research study and give evidence of excellent scholarship and proficiency in critically relevant research techniques.
At the time of applying for dissertation defense, a PhD candidate must indicate how the research proficiency pertaining to his/her research topics has been fulfilled. This can be shown as completion of VSC 862 - Laboratory Study with a satisfactory grade and, when applicable, mastery of other relevant research skills (e.g., computer programming skills, advanced statistical methods, neuroimaging techniques, etc.). The candidate’s dissertation committee will evaluate the candidate’s research proficiency as part of the dissertation defense.
To successfully pass the dissertation defense, the student must deliver to the director of the graduate program and the university library an electronic file of the dissertation approved by each of the student’s Dissertation Committee members along with a scanned signature page signed by the Committee before the degree will be conferred.