Overview of Fellowship Program

The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute is a non-profit, independent organization dedicated to research on human vision and related studies. It was founded 60 years ago to encourage a productive collaboration amongst laboratory, clinical and rehabilitation scientists. Smith-Kettlewell's research staff, numbering some fifty professionals including about a number of post-doctoral fellows, is drawn from diverse laboratory and medical backgrounds, including ophthalmology, experimental psychology, physiology, engineering, optometry, computer science and physics.

Training Program

The Smith-Kettlewell Fellowship Program consists of pre- and post-doctoral fellowships in basic, clinical and rehabilitation research relating to the areas of interest of the Program Mentors. The Fellowship Program consists of postdoctoral fellowships funded by a National Eye Institute Training Grant, the Rachel C. Atkinson endowment and the C.V. Starr Scholarship Fund at Smith-Kettlewell. The NEI Training Grant requires that fellows be U.S. citizens or permanenent residents. The Atkinson and Starr funds are open to all nationalities. Faculty whose expertise spans the areas of spatial and binocular vision, eye movements, strabismus, central vision loss, low vision and blindness rehabilitation, computer vision and assistive technology are available to mentor trainees.

A number of features make Smith-Kettlewell a uniquely attractive place to receive training in vision research. First, the principal investigators do research full time with few administrative or didactic teaching duties. Training, therefore, comes directly from the conduct of scientific research in daily collaboration with investigators with mutual research interests. The investigators are able to devote an unusual level of attention to the details of research strategy and techniques, and to improving the weak points of each trainee's knowledge and aptitudes.

Second, there is a high level of scientific cooperation at Smith-Kettlewell, resulting in many joint publications. Therefore, during the course of the training period, the trainees have the ongoing opportunity for significant interaction with many researchers other than their primary mentor. For the trainee, these interactions provide easy and comfortable access to the expertise afforded by a variety of researchers and disciplines.

Third, the postdoctoral training program at Smith-Kettlewell provides a unique opportunity for fellows to transition to becoming independent researchers. Fellows have the opportunity to interact with external speakers at our colloquium series, collaborate with researchers in the broader vision science community in the Bay Area including those from UC San Francisco, Berkeley and Stanford, and to develop research projects with visiting scientists. The unparalleled grant-writing support at the Institute includes both scientific mentoring and administrative support.

Historical Background

Pre- and post-doctoral training has been a component of Smith-Kettlewell's scientific activity since its inception. In 1984, Smith-Kettlewell received an endowment from the Myrtle Atkinson Foundation in honor of Rachel C. Atkinson's 90th birthday. The income from this fund was earmarked to support fellowships in vision research. Fellowship program guidelines were completed in April, 1985, and the first RCA fellows were appointed that year. The C.V. Starr Foundation awarded funds to Smith-Kettlewell in 2007 and 2008 for post-doctoral fellowship support. Smith-Kettlewell received its first Institutional Training Grant from NIH in 2002 and more recently again in 2016, allowing it to significantly increase the size of the fellowship program.

In addition to pre- and post- doctoral training in basic research, Smith-Kettlewell has also had a training program for clinical fellows, numbering more than one hundred over the history of the Institute. These trainees have learned new drug and treatment techniques in strabismus management and related disciplines from Drs. Alan B. Scott, Arthur Jampolsky, and William Good. There is an active research/clinical interface for these fellows, who both learn how to apply various laboratory techniques (many developed at Smith-Kettlewell) to clinical situations and have the opportunity to become involved in laboratory research projects. Many clinical fellows have gone on to conduct independent research in the visual sciences and ophthalmology.


Smith-Kettlewell is located adjacent to the campus of the California Pacific Medical Center with access to various patient populations. Smith-Kettlewell's core facilities include a brain imaging center, grant-writing support, a full machine shop, electronic design and maintenance, computer communication and hardware assistance. Easy access to these support mechanisms, particularly the experience of preparing research proposals, augments the training process. Smith-Kettlewell also owns several Victorians within a block from the Institute, which enhance collaboration by providing housing for visiting scientists.