David R. Williams, Ph.D.

University of Rochester

Program Leader: Augmented and Virtual Reality

Personal Information

Dean for Research of Arts, Sciences, & Engineering
William G. Allyn, Professor of Medical Optics
Director, Center for Visual Science
University of Rochester

Williams received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 1979. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill in 1980 and joined the University of Rochester in 1981, where he is William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics in the Institute of Optics. For more than a quarter of a century, Williams has served as Director of Rochester’s Center for Visual Science, an interdisciplinary research program of over 40 scientists interested in all aspects of vision, ranging from understanding the biological machinery that allows us to see to developing cures for blindness. Since 2011, he has also served as Dean for Research in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering where he is responsible for maximizing research opportunities for over 350 faculty. Williams also maintains an active research program that marshals the latest optical technology arising from fields such as microscopy and astronomy to address questions about the fundamental limits of human vision and the causes of retinal disease. His research team demonstrated the first adaptive optics system for the eye, showing that vision can be improved beyond that provided by conventional spectacles. This work lead to wavefront-guided refractive surgery used throughout the world today. His group has also invented a way to obtain the sharpest pictures ever of the retina inside the living eye, which is now providing a new way to study blinding eye diseases and accelerate the development of therapies for them.  Williams is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. Awards he has received include the OSA Edgar G. Tillyer Award in 1998, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s Friedenwald Award in 2006, the Bressler Prize from the Jewish Guild for the Blind in 2007, the Champalimaud Vision Award in 2012, the Beckman Argyros Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 2015, and the Sigma Xi Procter Award in 2015.  He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014.