David Williams


David Williams is the 2015 recipient of Sigma Xi's William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement. The prize has been awarded annually to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to scientific research and has demonstrated an ability to communicate the significance of this research to scientists in other disciplines. 

In addition to a statute, monetary award, and honorarium, the recipient designates a younger scientist to receive a grant-in-aid of research. Williams selected Sarah Walters, a PhD student in the Institute of Optics and Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester.

Williams received his PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 1979. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill in 1980 and joined the University of Rochester in 1981, where he has an appointment in the Institute of Optics as well as in the departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, and Ophthalmology. He is currently the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics. Since 1991, Williams has served as Director of Rochester’s Center for Visual Science, an interdisciplinary research program of 32 faculty interested in the mechanisms of human vision. In 2011, he was appointed Dean for Research of Arts, Science, and Engineering where he is responsible for maximizing opportunities for faculty research and scholarship.

Williams's research marshals optical technology to address questions about the fundamental limits of human vision. His research team demonstrated the first adaptive optics system for the eye, showing that vision can be improved beyond that provided by conventional spectacles. This work lead to wavefront-guided refractive surgery used throughout the world today.

More recently, his group has been deploying adaptive optics to obtain microscopic images with unprecedented resolution in the living eye, which is providing a new way to study blinding diseases of the retina and accelerate the development of therapies for them. Williams is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. Awards he has received include the OSA Edgar G. Tillyer Award in 1998, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s Friedenwald Award in 2006, the Bressler Prize from the Jewish Guild for the Blind in 2007, and the Champalimaud Vision Award in 2012.