In Memoriam: Valerie Morash

Photo of Valerie Morash


The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute mourns the tragic loss of one of its most outstanding scientists, Valerie Morash PhD. Val was an amazing researcher and a wonderful person who breathed not only scientific brilliance but empathy and good humor into everything she did. With degrees from MIT and UC Berkeley in engineering, statistics and psychology, her skills had extraordinary breadth as well as depth.

Val applied these talents to her chosen area of research aimed at improving the braille, tactile and haptic skills of blind and visually impaired people, and at solving other issues faced by blind people including access to information and education. 

Val was a true pioneer in research on tactile and haptic perception, exploring many understudied issues about which objective knowledge has been sorely needed in order to improve training programs for blind students and consumers. For example, what are the optimal methods of reading braille – using one or two hands, single or multiple fingers? What type of scanning strategies are best? Similarly for exploring and learning tactile objects and graphics, what are the optimal cues and strategies for the fingers and hands? Answers to these and related questions are vital if blind people are to get maximum benefit from braille and tactile materials of all types.

Val was also interested in how to reduce barriers to educational assessment including IQ tests and mathematical achievement – currently these are mostly inaccessible or difficult to apply to blind students and can lead to incorrect assessment of abilities and aptitudes, in turn leading to inappropriate decisions on streaming and curricula in education. She also conducted research and development of assistive technology aimed at directly helping blind students in such problems as understanding graphics, and at helping Teachers of the Visually Impaired better understand and integrate assistive technology into their work. 

Aside from her outstanding academic and technical skills, Val was known for being the most helpful, pleasant and collaborative colleague possible. Always ready to help other scientists with their problems, whether in statistics, engineering or any other subject, Val was the ultimate team player.

It is hard to put into words the feeling of devastating loss and grief felt for Val by all her colleagues at Smith-Kettlewell.  We deeply mourn her passing, and share the grief of her family, friends and other colleagues and collaborators.


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