Yuchen Wang, PhD, assistant professor of vision science at the UAB School of Optometry, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pathway to Independence Award known as an R00 grant. The goal of this award is to further study the molecular mechanisms underlying retinal synapse formation and function which are critical for retinal visual processing and vision.

The $747,000 three-year grant is part two of the NIH award. He received the first part—an R99 grant—as a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience at the Scripps Research Institute. Considered prestigious, the awards are designed to facilitate a timely transition of outstanding postdoctoral researchers with a research and/or clinical doctorate degree from mentored, postdoctoral research positions to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions.

Wang, who joined the School on the tenure track in July 2022, says the funds allow him to establish a lab, thereby launching his career in academia.

“I’m honored to receive this award,” Wang said. “This recognition from my colleagues comes with the responsibility of continuing to make exciting discoveries that benefit vision research and translational studies. This award also provides the financial support needed to set up my lab and develop new projects.”

Supported by this award, Wang’s lab will study how molecular mechanisms identified in the outer retina play a role in the inner retinal synapse formation and function. Results from this study together with his previous findings will provide a holistic molecular insight into the general principle of retinal circuit assembly and function.