Susana Marcos, an internationally recognized expert in the optics of the eye and the interactions of light with the retina, will become the David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester.
Her appointment will take effect July 1. The named position is endowed with a $2 million gift from John and Barbara Bruning. John, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees and retired CEO of Corning Tropel Corporation, and his wife, Barbara, have been generous supporters of the University.
Marcos will also hold a joint appointment in the Department of Ophthalmology, and will be the inaugural holder of the Nicholas George Professorship at the University’s Institute of Optics, which was named in 2015 for George, a professor emeritus of optics and former director of the institute, in recognition of his influence in the world of optics and on his students.
Marcos, a professor at the Instituto de Óptica, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IO-CSIC) in Madrid, Spain, succeeds Williams, who has served as director of the Center for Visual Science for the last three decades. His research group pioneered the use of adaptive optics to image individual retinal cells in the living eye. The methods that Williams’s team developed are also used throughout the world to improve vision correction technologies such as contact lenses and laser refractive surgery. Williams will continue his research.
“The Center for Visual Science has established itself as the world standard for vision research under the leadership of David Williams,” Marcos says. “Moreover, the University of Rochester has a global reputation as a hub of optics and photonics. And coming from the Instituto de Óptica, which is the oldest in Spain, to the Institute of Optics here, with an even longer tradition, is a dream come true.”
Her goals for the center include fostering internal and international multidisciplinary collaborations in vision science, attracting talented students, creating inspirational models for women in science and technology, and accelerating the transfer of research discoveries to industry.
“Dr. Marcos is a respected scientist globally, pioneering new directions in visual sciences that bridge the basic sciences to commercial applications. She is a perfect fit for the University of Rochester,” says Rob Clark, the University’s provost and senior vice president for research.
Leaders of Medical Center and River Campus optical and vision science programs also praised the appointment.
“We are thrilled to have Susana Marcos join us in Rochester,” says David DiLoreto Jr., professor and chair of ophthalmology and director of the Flaum Eye Institute. “Her understanding of optics and ophthalmology gives her an unparalleled ability to translate her work from the bench to the eye. This work not only is helping to improve vision but is helping us improve our understanding of vision.”
Scott Carney, director of the Institute of Optics, adds: “Susana is an amazing talent. She is a brilliant scientist, an accomplished engineer, and a successful entrepreneur. She will be a fantastic addition to the faculty of the institute and will lead the Center for Visual Science into a new era of discovery and understanding of the eye, the mind, and all the mysteries of human vision.”
The University is recognized worldwide for its vision research. The Center for Visual Science connects 42 Medical Center and River Campus faculty members representing seven departments, who are engaged in research ranging from understanding how the normal eye and brain allow us to see to restoring vision in the blind. The expertise of these faculty spans multiple disciplines, including biomedical engineering, neuroscience, physics, vision science, psychology, psychiatry, and optics.
As director of the Visual Optics and Biophotonics Lab at CSIC, Marcos oversees more than 25 members from six different nationalities and from multidisciplinary backgrounds that include physics, biomedical, optical, biomechanical, computer and electrical engineering, visual sciences, ophthalmology, and chemistry.
Marcos completed BS, MS, and PhD degrees in physics, applied physics, and visual optics, respectively, from the University of Salamanca. She has coauthored more than 200 publications in high-impact journals, with more than 12,000 citations. She holds 20 patents—including 14 licensed to companies—and is cofounder of 2EyesVision SL in Madrid.
Marcos has made significant contributions to ocular speckle interferometry, wavefront sensing, adaptive optics, and quantitative anterior segment optical coherence tomography, with applications in laser refractive surgery, intraocular lenses, and the treatment of keratoconus and presbyopia, among others.
She is a fellow of the Optical Society (OSA) and also served as an OSA director-at-large from 2012 to 2105. Her awards include the OSA Adolph Lomb Medal, the ICO Prize awarded by the International Commission for Optics, the Ramon y Cajal Medal by the Royal Society of Sciences (named after the father of neuroscience), the Rey Jaime I Award in New Technologies (which included 18 Nobel laureates in the jury), the de Alcon Research Institute Award, and the 2019 Leonardo Torres Quevedo National Research Prize in Engineering.
Marcos’s husband, Pablo Postigo, an expert in nanophotonics at the Institute for Micro and Nanotechnology at CSIC, will also serve as a professor at the Institute of Optics. His research focuses on the design, fabrication, and characterization of new nanophotonic devices that respond to current and future technological needs in optics and photonics. This includes the manufacture of new nanomaterials like quantum dots and new nanostructures like photonic crystals for photonic devices with enhanced properties.
A prominent optics entrepreneur, John Bruning has been a University trustee since 2009 and also serves on the University’s Dean’s Advisory Committee for the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics Visiting Committee, the Technology Development Fund Executive Committee, and the Optics Blue Ribbon Panel. He and Barbara have been consistent supporters of the University, especially to facilitate growth at the Institute of Optics. In 2007, John made the lead gift that helped create the Robert E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design & Engineering at the University; he also established the Brian J. Thompson Professorship in Optical Engineering in 2006.
“We are deeply grateful to John and Barbara for their remarkable commitment to make an enduring difference not just for the University of Rochester, but also for society,” says Sarah Mangelsdorf, University president and G. Robert Witmer, Jr. University Professor. “Their generosity plays an important role in recognizing pioneers in their field such as Susana Marcos.”