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Eye-Opening Research


By Kristen Hardy '17

Published Jul 1, 2017 8:00 AM

Clint Thodos was impacted by UCLA even before he was accepted, and now he’s contributing to the research that helps him see.

Photo courtesy of Clint Thodos.

What if your dream school changed your life before you were even accepted there?

In the summer after his freshman year of high school, Clint Thodos suffered a seizure, which led to the discovery of a tangle of abnormal blood vessels in his brain. Removing the abnormality required a nine-hour surgery. The procedure was successful, but multiple strokes during the surgery left him with hemianopia, which caused significant impairment in the left half of his visual field.

“The experience gave me a whole new outlook on life,” says Thodos. “Now I pursue my dreams; I go after what I want.”

That drive was clearly at work as Thodos pursued higher education. When he wasn’t accepted at UCLA out of high school, he was undaunted. He moved to Los Angeles from the San Francisco Bay Area to attend Santa Monica College, with hopes of transferring to UCLA. Then his dream school became even more important to him.

Through a random click on a friend-of-a-friend’s Facebook page, Thodos discovered the UCLA EyeSee Research Study, which was seeking patients with left hemianopia. Less than a week later, he was at the Stein Eye Institute, testing new technology.

The EyeSee team has developed an app that pairs with headmounted displays like Google Glass to expand hemianopic patients’ fields of vision. Thodos compares the technology to the rearview mirror in a car: “I look up to it and it basically shows everything that you would see.”

EyeSee’s founder, research Assistant Professor Navid Amini M.S. ’10, Ph.D. ’12, says that although the study was begun to help glaucoma patients with tunnel vision, the original project expanded as the team saw how many people could benefit from the technology.

And Clint? His dream came true when he was accepted to UCLA as a transfer student. As a Bruin, he reaches out to others with left hemianopia to participate in the study. “It’s really cool that as an undergrad I can contribute to research that will affect my life,” he says.