Application & Review Timeline

  • Call for Submissions (January 7, 2022)
  • Letter of intent submission deadline (February 18, 2022)
  • Invitation to submit proposal (March 14, 2022)
  • Grant proposal submission deadline (June 10, 2022)
  • Review Committee completes review of proposals (September 2, 2022)
  • AAO Board of Directors ratifies review committee recommendations (October 2022)
  • Notification of awards (at Academy 2022 San Diego)
  • Funds disbursed January 2023

Applications and questions should be directed to Helen Viksnins, Senior Director, Programs, at


Eligibility Requirements


Past Recipients

Rationale and basis for the funding of this award: 

The American Academy of Optometry (AAO) is pleased to announce the development of a scientific research career development award for optometric faculty. Priority is given to those at American schools or colleges of optometry. It has been recognized for some time that young investigators, including optometric investigators, take many years after the inception of their careers before successfully acquiring Federal research funding. In fact, the mean age of first time National Institutes of Health (NIH) grantees is over 40 years of age. These funds are critical not only for individual faculty members, but the health and sustainability of our optometric institutions. In an effort to positively influence and reduce the age at which optometric researchers attain large scale federal support and to increase the number of optometrists who receive such support, the Academy has launched this new initiative.

Basic Structure of the award: 

This award is designed for optometric educators and scientists involved in research (clinical, patient-oriented, educational, etc.) as long as a case can be made for good potential to acquire future extramural funding. Preference is for innovative, original, independent, Principal Investigator (PI)-driven projects, and is not intended as a supplement to senior investigator research projects. The AAO will provide a maximum of $50,000 in direct costs per year for up to two years, potentially renewable once for a total of up to four years of funding (pending evidence of significant progress and justification for additional time). The applicant’s institution will be required to provide matching funds, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 per year for each year of funding. Matching funds must be new funds to the researcher and cannot include existing support to the applicant. No indirect (i.e., facilities and administration) costs will be provided; the applicant’s institution cannot use the award for these costs. Allowable expenses, with detailed budget justification, include: PI and/or staff/student salary and benefits and research-related costs. Additional expenses such as computers, travel to the American Academy of Optometry annual meeting, and/or travel to another laboratory for additional training to enhance completion of the project are allowable, but require approval from the Board. Budgets will be evaluated as part of the review process and funding is contingent upon justification. The Academy reserves the right to reduce the budget to that judged appropriate for the amount of research effort.


Eligibility Requirements: 

  1. Eligible applicants must be faculty at schools and colleges of optometry in the United States . The applicant must hold a full time academic appointment at the level of assistant or associate professor at their institution. The applicant must also be a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.
  2. Applicants with a prior NIH R01, R21, R34, or U10 award, NSF grant, or VA Career Development Award, or Department of Defense (DOD) funding are ineligible. Previous and current NIH K grantees are eligible and K awards may be held concurrently with this program. However, there should be minimal overlap in the two projects. No co-PIs are allowed. Note: the goal is not to fund senior scientists’ laboratories by funding their junior colleagues through this mechanism.

Letter of Intent Requirement: 

1. Prospective applicants should submit a letter of intent (LOI) for the purposes of defining the applicant’s eligibility and their institution’s material support of their potential success in obtaining future federal funding. The LOI must stipulate that the applicant is an optometrist, a full time faculty member at the assistant or associate professor level, and a Fellow of the AAO. Applicants with a faculty appointment contingent on receiving this award or who are not at the assistant or associate level at the time of application are ineligible.

Download the required letter of intent form.  

2. If there are exceptions to the requirements described above, these should be defined, and a case should be made in the Letter of Intent why the respective eligibility requirement should be waived.

3. A senior academic administrator with institutional signing authority should provide a letter of support verifying the university’s commitment to the applicant including the availability of matching funds and protected time for research of at least six calendar months.

4. In a given application cycle, an applicant can only submit one letter of intent and upon eligibility approval, one proposal. Additional LOIs or proposals from the same applicant (PI) per funding cycle will not be considered.

5. After review of submitted LOIs, a notice will be sent to the applicants inviting those selected to submit a full proposal.

Full Proposal Requirements: 

1. The grant proposal should follow the standard NIH format with the following modifications as outlined below. Instructions and forms can be found at the following web site:‎.

Applications should be in Arial 11 font with half-inch margins and be single spaced.

2. In general the following items should be included in the proposal:

a. Cover Letter
b. Title Page with Approval from Institutional Signing Official
c. Table of Contents
d. Detailed Budget and Justification for All Years
    *budget must include a statement that describes the importance of the investment to optometry and           optometric practice. 
e. Biosketch(es) in NIH format
f. Resources and Environment
g. Scientific Abstract
h. Specific Aims, Growth Potential*, and Scientific Impact (2 pages)
i. Significance and Innovation (1 page)
j. Career Development Plan with Timeline, including Time-Specific Goals (2 pages)
k. Research Plan (6 pages)
l. Literature Cited
m. Human Subjects (inclusion of women, children, etc.), if applicable
n. Animal Care and Use, if applicable
o. Biohazards, if applicable
p. Letters of Support from Collaborators
q. Applicant’s Highest Impact and/or Relevant Paper Published or In Press
r. *Response to: “How will funding of this proposal make you more competitive for extramural funding 3-5 years from now?”

Review Process: The AAO Research Committee and external reviewers with topical expertise, as needed, provide a scientific merit review. All applicants will receive a detailed summary statement. Following scientific review, the Programs Approval Committee (PAC) selects recipients based on merit and programmatic goals. Results are provided to the Foundation Board for final decisions on funding.

Review Criteria: The overall scores are based on: significance, investigator qualifications, innovation/novelty, approach and environment, with consideration for potential for growth and future major extramural funding. A 1-9 NIH priority score scale will be utilized. Projects must be in line with the purpose of the award and have relevance to optometry. While mentorship is not required, it is encouraged. In areas where the applicant is expanding or developing their skill set, the inclusion of a senior collaborator or advisors to assist them would be an asset and strengthen their research team.

Resubmission: One resubmission (two submissions total) will be allowed. An LOI is required for a resubmission application. One additional page, “Introduction to Revised Application,” will be required in the resubmission. The applicant must submit the first summary statement with the resubmitted application.

Program Notes

In accepting a Career Development Award, recipients agree to:

  • comply with all programmatic requests and to notify AAOF of changes in faculty or project status
  • submit an abstract to the Academy Scientific Program in the year of application submission/review and all years of funding.
  • plan to attend the full Annual Meeting and the AAOF Celebration Luncheon in the application submission/review and all years of funding.
  • consider submitting a manuscript from the funded research to Optometry and Vision Science
  • acknowledge the AAOF in written and oral presentations

Grants Management: Awards will not be made unless appropriate human subjects and/or animal care and usage approvals are in place. Annual progress reports are required, with a summary of goals achieved, detailed timeline for accomplishments for year two, and a detailed report on funds expended. No more than $12,500 can be carried forward to any successive year. No-cost extensions will not be granted.

Materials must be emailed to Helen Viksnins, Senior Director, Program at

  • 2015    Dean VanNasdale, OD, PhD, FAAO
                 The Ohio State University
  • 2017    Fuensanta Vera-Diaz, PhD, OD, FAAO
                 New England College of Optometry
  • 2018    Stacey Choi, PhD
                 The Ohio State University
  • 2019    Alexandra Buenavente-Perez, PhD
                 State University of New York College of Optometry
  • 2020    Aparna Raghuram, OD, PhD, FAAO
                 Harvard Medical School
  • 2021     Not Awarded