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Areas of Interest
ocular biomechanics, glaucoma

Publications                                                                              Lab Site

Secondary Appointments
Professor of Biomedical Engineering (UAB, Tulane University, and Oregon Health and Science University)
Professor of Computer and Information Sciences (UAB)


J. Crawford Downs, Ph.D., is Professor of Ophthalmology, Biomedical Engineering, and Computer and Information Science at UAB. Dr. Downs joined the faculty in 2012. His current NIH-funded research program focuses on the impact of intraocular pressure (IOP), ocular perfusion pressure (OPP) cerebrospinal fluid pressure (CSFP), optic nerve head biomechanics, mechanobiology, aging, and African heritage on the development and progression of glaucoma.

Dr. Downs is a native of Alexandria, Louisiana. He received his Bachelor of Arts (1991) and Master of Arts (1992) in economics from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. He then attended the University of New Orleans, where he completed the undergraduate coursework necessary to qualify for graduate school in engineering. He received his Masters of Science (1998) and Ph.D. (2002) in biomedical engineering from Tulane University under the direction of Richard T. Hart, Ph.D., and Claude F. Burgoyne, M.D. After a brief postdoctoral fellowship at the LSU Eye Center under Dr. Burgoyne, Dr. Downs transitioned to Assistant Research Professor in August of 2002. Dr. Downs joined the faculty at the Devers Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon, in 2005. There he directed the Ocular Biomechanics Laboratory and developed the IOP telemetry system and computational and experimental ocular biomechanics methods.

Service to Science

Dr. Downs is on the Editorial Board of Current Eye Research, and frequently reviews for the leading ophthalmology, vision science, and engineering journals. He is also a frequent grant reviewer for the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, foreign governments, and foreign and domestic foundations. He is past Chair of the Animals in Research Committee of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), and currently serves as the ARVO representative to the AAALAC Board of Trustees.


Dr. Downs is married to Georgia Houk Downs, an architect who has built a professional career in product design. They have two children, James and Julia. Dr. Downs is an avid cook and woodworker, and he and Georgia have won several regional awards for their collaborative furniture designs.

Research Program

The role of intraocular pressure (IOP) in the development and progression of glaucoma is still unclear, even though IOP is the principal risk factor for development of the disease. The eye is a pressure vessel, and we believe that the eyes of each person deform differently in response to IOP. This could explain, in part, the variations in susceptibility to IOP-related damage in glaucoma. To investigate the relationship between IOP and glaucoma, Dr. Downs’ laboratory studies the eye as a mechanical pressure vessel using a combination of engineering-based experimental and computational approaches in both animal models and human donor eyes. Experimentally, we perform in vivo imaging to quantify the mechanical response of the optic nerve head while eyes are normal and through glaucoma development. We use eye inflation testing to determine the stiffness of the various load-bearing tissues of the eye for use in our computational eye models. We have also developed a telemetry system to characterize the levels of IOP, ocular perfusion pressure (OPP) and cerebrospinal fluid pressure (CSFP) as they change throughout the day. Computationally, we use multi-scale computer models of individual eyes with realistic anatomic geometries that are used to predict the forces and IOP-induceddeformations of the ocular load-bearing tissues. The results of this work will improve our understanding of the role of IOP in glaucoma, and hopefully lead to better clinical screening and diagnostic tools.

Education & Training

Undergraduate Degree
Tulane University, Economics

Graduate Degrees
Economics (MA); Biomedical Engineering (MS and PhD)

Postdoctoral Fellowship
LSU Eye Center; Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

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