Miami student wins grant to study treatment for eye diseases

By Mallory Hackett

A Miami student’s research may lead to a new treatment for glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Phuong Thai Lam’s work has earned her the Young Investigator Student Fellowship Award for Female Scholars in Vision Research from the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness.

Lam is a student in Miami’s Cell, Molecular, and Structural Biology graduate program. Her research involves a screening method that may offer a realistic approach to identify the factors that promote human retina regeneration. The elements may be able to cure damage to the retina caused by injury or diseases.

She and her advisor, Michael Robinson, believe their research could make a difference in people’s lives.

“We hope that this study can translate into clinical research one day,” Lam said. “We hope that this can turn into a potential drug that can help people restore their vision.”

The grant is worth $5,000 and will help give Lam some freedom to focus on her research.

“Financially, it gives me peace of mind,” Lam said. “But I’m also proud that of all the applications, they picked me.”

The fellowship was created in 2005 and has supported 47 other female’s vision-related research projects in Ohio.

“The growth of vision loss and the overall impact of vision problems on individuals, their families, and our society inspired the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness to establish the Young Investigator Student Fellowship Award for Female Scholars in Vision Research,” said Sherry Williams, president, and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “Our goal is to encourage female scientists at the beginning of their careers to pursue vision research that can contribute toward the early detection and treatment discoveries that will be needed to curb the growth of vision loss.”

Lam plans to graduate with her doctorate degree in the spring and go on to continue her work in vision research at a pharmaceutical company.

“Lam has kind of carved an entire niche in my lab, and it’s one of the reasons I’m going to be very sad when she leaves because it’s going to be a big hole to fill,” Robinson said.

The grant recipients will present their findings at a Prevent Blindness Scientific Forum in November 2019. The organization is currently accepting applications for next year’s award, and the deadline is Feb. 15, 2020.