Graduate Student Amber Frye Inaugural Recipient of Jean Temple Award

We are pleased to announce Amber Frye as the inaugural recipient of the Jean Temple Award for Retinal Disease Research.

img_1399-1From early childhood, Amber has been fascinated with the eye, from the complex process of retinal development to the degeneration of retinal cells during disease. Her passion has led her to develop a career in retinal disease research, focusing primarily on glaucoma and age related macular degeneration (AMD). Her long term career goal is to continue to pursue this research and potential therapies. In thinking about her research focus, Amber was impacted by learning that people fear going blind more than getting cancer. Even as her own father fought cancer, he told Amber that he would still rather have cancer then go blind, which further strengthened her resolve. As there are few therapies that slow or prevent blinding diseases, this is an area of great unmet medical need, and Amber is determined to make a difference.

Through dedication to scholarship and a true passion for understanding the way biological systems work Amber is the first member of her family to go college. She completed her undergraduate degree in 2009 at Utah State University and since then has worked in several laboratories, contributing to research programs, often working full time, and taking graduate courses in Neuroscience, Molecular biology and biomedical sciences with the goal of eventually attending graduate school. For four years she worked as a researcher on retinal physiology and glaucoma at the University of Utah. Amber’s work is published in Scientific Reports and her achievement resulted in an invitation to speak at the 2012 annual Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting, an honor given to only a few select researchers. Her work on TRPV4, a molecule that helps detect intraocular pressure changes in the eye, is important not only for people who develop glaucoma, but also for individuals who suffer traumatic injury to the eye.

In 2015 Amber joined the Retinal Stem Cell Consortium at the Neural Stem Cell Institute, to help bring a novel stem cell therapy into the clinic for Age Related Macular Degeneration. Amber has proven to be a wonderful, dedicated team member who consistently performs at the highest level, and who generously gives help wherever it is needed.

In September 2016, Amber entered the Master’s degree program in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University at Albany, finally attaining her goal to enter graduate study. She is using cutting edge stem cell technology to understand how the retina develops, and to identify new ways to generate human retinal cells that could, in the future, be used for transformative therapies to prevent and reverse blindness. Amber’s passion and dedication to research, her positive and helpful attitude and generosity of spirit, and her enthusiasm to take on significant challenges, make her a most worthy recipient of the inaugural Jean Temple award for Retina Disease Research.

Jean Temple Award for Retinal Disease Research

Jean Temple was soft spoken with a gentle spirit and a wonderful sense of humor. She not only cared for her loved ones, but also her community, dedicated to her work as a nurse for over 30 years. She enjoyed the simple pleasures of life: reading, baking, gardening and visiting with friends. Her diagnosis of Age-Related Macular Degeneration was devastating to her and those who loved her. Macular degeneration takes away the ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, such as reading, it takes away the ability to see faces and interact with others, but most importantly, it takes away one’s independence. Jean Temple passed away at age 90 in February 2016, but her generosity, strength and spirit will be remembered through this award. As she cared for her family and community, we care for her memory by honoring a dedicated and passionate young scientist who seeks to understand and develop therapies for retinal disease.

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