GS:      Where are you from?
LK:      I was born in Ibadan, Nigeria and grew up in Champaign, Illinois. 

GS:      What degree will you receive and when?
LK:      I received my B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005 and I will receive my PhD in Vision Science in 2009.

GS:      How long have you been at UAB?
LK:      I moved to Birmingham for graduate school in July of 2006.

GS:      What is your research? 
LK:      My research compares the inflammatory responses to 30 days of daily versus extended contact lens wear by measuring changes in inflammatory protein concentrations in tears using the cytometric bead-based assay—clinical test results will also be correlated with the changes found in cytokine levels.

GS:      What made you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
LK:      UAB is home to one of the top Vision Science programs in the country. After visiting several other universities, I noticed that UAB faculty, staff and even students were notably more hospitable and accommodating. It was apparent that they put more of an emphasis on how they could contribute to my development as a student and professional than in what I would bring to the program.

GS:      Have you received any awards or honors?
LK:      I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with Academic Distinction for my research in an area completely unrelated to vision; plant biotechnology. I am currently a Comprehensive Minority Faculty Staff and Development Program (CMFSDP) Doctoral Fellow, a Minority Access Inc Student Role Model and honoree and the 2008 First Place Student Research Presenter award winner. 

GS:      What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
LK:      My research would not be possible without the volunteers who participate as research subjects. I have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people—often maintaining contact and developing friendships with them long after they have completed the study. I consider it rewarding to know them not just as patients or research participants but as individuals. It is also particularly valuable for me to know how the challenges they face with vision, specifically with glasses and contact lens wear impact their daily lives.

GS:      Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
LK:      Faculty and staff here are incredibly supportive but my greatest influence at this institution has been Dr. Rod Fullard, OD, PhD. As my mentor, he has been extremely supportive, not only in the lab and academics, but has also taken a vested interest in my future goals as a researcher/clinician.

GS:      What is your motivation in your academics/research?
LK:      The motivation for my research comes from the promising clinical implications and future applications. In the future, this type of work could be used to test the effectiveness of drug treatments and/or therapies for various eye diseases. Measuring levels of immune markers like cytokines in tears will provide more information than traditional clinical test results—which are often unreliable and subjective. It may also be used in disease diagnosis and differentiation of subtypes of complex diseases like dry eye.

GS:      What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
LK:      My plan after graduation is to obtain my Doctor of Optometry degree (OD) from the UAB School of Optometry. I would like to teach and continue to do research with a clinical focus. I have not decided what area but I will most likely focus on ocular surface disease or contact lens research.

GS:      Is there anything else you would like to say?
LK:      I would just like to express my appreciation to all of the faculty and staff at the UAB School of Optometry, the Vision Science Program, the Office for Equity and Diversity for their support, contribution to my work and my personal growth.

Lucy’s advice for other graduate students:
Embrace challenges—a challenge is an opportunity to grow.

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