LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 7, 2023) — Ann Morris, a professor in the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky, is one of 16 University Research Professors for 2023-24.
The University Research Professorships honor faculty members who have demonstrated excellence that addresses scientific, social, cultural and economic challenges in our region and around the world.
College leadership develop criteria for excellence within their area of expertise and then nominate faculty who excelled at these criteria. Each University Research Professor receives a one-year award of $10,000.
"I’m honored to receive this recognition from the university, and excited to engage with my fellow research professors over the coming year and to learn more about their work," Morris said. "I would also like to express my gratitude to the biology department and the College of Arts and Sciences for their continual support of our research program. Finally, I am especially indebted to all the members of the Morris lab, past and present, for their commitment to our lab’s research goals, their hard work, and their scholarship; I am very proud and thankful to have the opportunity to work with these outstanding scientists.”
Morris’ research explores the genetic pathways that control the development and regeneration of vertebrate vision.
Morris' lab studies zebrafish: small, minnow-like fish with eyes that form similarly to humans during embryonic development. Unlike humans, however, zebrafish have the ability to regenerate retinal cells following an injury. In humans, photoreceptor degeneration associated with ocular diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy is a significant cause of visual impairment and blindness, for which there is currently no cure.
By unraveling the molecular mechanisms of photoreceptor development and regeneration in animals like zebrafish, Morris and her team are seeking ways to improve therapeutic strategies for treating retinal degenerative diseases in humans.
Morris, who came to UK in 2009, is an established leader in UK's Department of Biology, previously serving as associate chair and interim chair. In 2018, she received $1.87 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support her research in retinal development and regeneration.
Morris is the recipient of the Pew Foundation’s Biomedical Scholar award from 2011-2015 and has received grants from the Fight for Sight Foundation, the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation, and the Retina Research Foundation for her work.
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