by Caleb Jones

Lawrence Sincich, PhD, professor of vision science and director of the graduate program at the UAB School of Optometry, has received the 2022 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. This honor recognizes full-time regular faculty members at the university who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching.

“In many ways, the honor represents the culmination of the many thoughtful and inspiring teachers I have had, going all the way back to grammar school," Sincich said. "Every one of those teachers was memorable because they had a way of clearly communicating concepts that simply made learning work.

“My hope is that those lessons are now part of my practice when I teach, always keeping in mind that students are hearing the (sometimes mysterious) material for the first time. It is not always easy for students, but I try to make it intuitive and clearly relevant to the larger picture of what they need to know.”

Sincich has been a member of the School’s faculty since 2010. According to Terri Call, OD, assistant professor of optometry, he has proven himself as an invaluable professor, mentor and colleague.

“His students immensely appreciate his genuine concern for their well-being, his willingness to spend extra time tutoring them outside of class hours, and his vast knowledge base in his teaching courses,” she said. “Visual perception and visual psychophysics classes are very difficult courses to teach well, especially given the complicated visual phenomena which are covered, but Dr. Sincich organizes the material and coursework in ways that the students frequently comment on as effective, clear, and concise.”

Sincich said that when he was a student, he was always excited at the chance to learn. “Getting a clear understanding of something, about others, about the natural world, has unfailingly engaged me,” he said. 

Naturally, that attribute led him to become an educator. 

The desire to help students have the same experience: this is what teaching means and why it is so valuable to me,” he said.As part of being a scientist, education is inseparable; one must be able to explain to someone who has never heard of a phenomenon what it is and what it means. This approach has been with me since high school when I was asked to explain something in a physics class, and I sensed that the students finally understood it!

Sincich is also known as an excellent researcher, dedicated to the advancement of the body of knowledge in vision science and to bridging the gap between theory and practice. As director of the Vision Science Graduate Program (VSGP) within UAB, he mentors research students and serves on multiple committees to advise students and faculty as they prepare for grants, all while performing his own research. 

He currently has two active grants through the National Eye Institute through 2024. He also serves the scientific community as an ad-hoc journal reviewer for several neurology, ophthalmology and neuro-ophthalmology journals. He makes a point to apply this research to his lectures, keeping students up to date on innovation and discovery in ways that are directly applicable to their own research and clinical knowledge.

As a researcher, Dr. Sincich has excellent knowledge of the subject he is teaching,” says Lei Liu, PhD, associate professor of optometry. “He has the gift of turning dry scientific data into interesting and inspiring lessons. As a teacher, Dr. Sincich has excellent course management skills—his syllabi are clear, concise, and informative. His lectures and exercise materials are prepared and handed out in a timely fashion.”

“In short,” Liu said, “Dr. Sincich is one of the most committed School of Optometry faculty members I know of. His dedication to teaching, research and service make him an inspiration to students and faculty alike. He is truly deserving of the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.”