Principal Investigator | Douglas Vollrath, M.D., PhD

Description: Professor Douglas Vollrath earned a B.S. with Honors from the University of Wisconsin, and M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University. He conducted postdoctoral studies in human genetics at the Whitehead Institute in Boston. He is a Professor of Genetics and of Ophthalmology (by courtesy).

Interests: Professor Vollrath’s research interests focus on understanding mechanisms that underlie degeneration of photoreceptors, with particular emphasis on the role of the retinal pigment epithelium in diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. His laboratory performs genetic studies in mouse models and cultured human cells to test hypotheses about disease mechanisms. Professor Vollrath and colleagues identified the gene responsible for retinal degeneration in the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat strain, a widely used animal model that has played an important role in testing new therapeutic approaches such as neuroprotection, cell transplantation, artificial retina, and viral gene transfer.

Positions and Awards: Professor Vollrath serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) and completed four-year terms as a standing member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Eye Institute, and of the BVS/BDE NIH study section. He was a Basil O’Connor Scholar of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, a recipient of the Basic Vision Research Project Award of the Karl Kirchgessner Foundation, and has received research grants from the NIH, FFB, Bright Focus, Steinbach, E. Matilda Ziegler, and Thome Memorial foundations, among others.

Post-Doctoral Scholar | Ming Chen, PhD

Description: Dr. Ming Chen earned a B.S. in Biotechnology from Peking University and a Ph.D. in Cell Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He joined the Vollrath lab for his postdoctoral studies in 2017 and now has extensive expertise in the creation and characterization of mouse genetic models involving the outer retina, and in RPE stem cell models. Dr. Chen also has competence in differential gene expression analysis of RNA-seq data.

Interests: Cell biology, metabolism, and disease pathogenesis of the outer retina

Awards: Merit student of the university of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Academic scholarship of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


Former Post-Doctoral Scholar | Melissa Calton, Ph.D.

Melissa earned her B.S. from Missouri State University and her doctorate from the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF). During her postdoc in the Vollrath lab, she spearheaded experimental studies of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) in cultured fetal RPE cells. She currently is an Associate Director at a biotechnology company.

Former Life Science Research Professional | Lily Kim, M.S.

After several years in the Vollrath lab working with mouse models of photoreceptor degeneration, Lily is now happily toiling away in the D.V.M. program at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Former Life Science Research Professional | Marielle Beaulieu, B.S.

Marielle pioneered our first in vivo studies using CRISPR/Cas9 in the mouse retina. She is close to completing her doctoral studies in the Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate program at the University of Washington.

Former Life Science Research Professional | Gillie Benchorin, Ph.D.

Gillie’s post-baccalaureate studies in the Vollrath lab yielded authorship on several papers. She moved on to graduate school at Columbia where she earned her doctorate in Biological Sciences. She currently works as a Life Sciences Specialist at a consulting firm.