Research Leadership Award: Wallace Thoreson, Ph.D.

April 18, 2014

Image with caption: Wallace Thorseon, Ph.D.

Wallace Thorseon, Ph.D.

This profile is part of a series to highlight the 16 researchers who will be honored at a ceremony for UNMC's 2013 Scientist Laureate, Research Leadership, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

The Research Leadership Award is being given for the first time this year. This new award category is intended to honor scientists previously recognized as Distinguished Scientists who have a longstanding research funding history and also serve as research leaders and mentors on campus.

  • Name: Wallace Thoreson, Ph.D.
  • Title: Gilmore Professor and vice chair of UNMC Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, professor of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience
  • Joined UNMC: 1993
  • Hometown: Columbia, Mo.

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.
Some of my research directly addresses therapies for retinal disease, but most of my work has focused on the fundamental question of how visual information collected by rod and cone photoreceptors is converted into a neural code for transmission to the brain and how this process shapes what we see. For these experiments, we use sophisticated electrophysiological and optical techniques to study the behavior of individual cells and single proteins in the retina of the eye.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?
Knowing how the eye works is needed to understand how eye disease can arise when visual mechanisms go awry, as well as how to replicate or repair these mechanisms by therapeutic intervention with molecules, stem cells or prosthetic devices.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?
To succeed in biomedical research, I should prioritize my activities as if I am a sub-contractor to the NIH.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I enjoy fishing. As a boy, I won a municipal fishing contest in Columbia by catching the largest fish of the day: a whopping 8 oz. golden shiner!
  • I'm an avid science fiction fan. My favorite authors are Alastair Reynolds and the late Iain M. Banks.
  • I worked on an archaeological crew that excavated a Paleo-Indian site along the final section of I-35 remaining between Minneapolis and Dallas. At the time, the site was believed to be one of the oldest occupied sites that had been found in North or South America.


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Aaron Mercer
May 05, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Congrats Wally!

Susan Mayberger
April 20, 2014 at 5:01 PM

What wonderful recognition. In addition to being an accomplished scientist, you are also a truly good person.

Charles D. Fritch M. D.
April 20, 2014 at 7:38 AM

Congratulations. Charles D. Fritch M. D.

Quan Dong Nguyen, MD, MSc
April 18, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Dear Wally, The Truhlsen Eye Institute is very proud to have you as a family member and a colleague. We wish you continuing success and the very best on your endeavors. ... And the excavation ... priceless! Quan Dong Nguyen

Marlene Novotny
April 18, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Congratulations, Wally!