SALT LAKE CITY – Dr. Brittany Coats, an Assistant Professor starting her third year in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah, received a Career-Starter Research Grant earlier this year from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation. Dr. Coats will be exploring pediatric ocular biomechanics with the grant, which has been largely neglected in the research community.

The mechanical properties of ocular structures in adults were first evaluated in 1971, and they continue to be extensively characterized today. In stark contrast, only three studies have investigated material properties of the pediatric eye. Because of this disparity, computational models designed to advance vision research are flourishing for adult ocular disorders, but are practically non-existent for pediatric ocular disorders. Until age dependent material property data are collected, pediatric vision research will continue to be at a severe disadvantage. To correct this disparity, Dr. Coats and her lab plan to conduct a series of studies to comprehensively evaluate material properties in the pediatric eye and identify changes throughout early and late development. This data will provide pediatric vision researchers with an improved understanding of ocular mechanics in children.

Knights Templar with Brittany Coats
Utah Knights Templar present Dr. Coats with an Early Career Starter Award.

Dr. Coats will use the data to develop a viable model of the pediatric eye to enhance and accelerate pediatric ocular research. On June 25, Dr. Coats gave a seminar presenting the research she has done in pediatric ocular biomechanics up to this point, and how she is going to further her research with this grant. Several members from the Utah Commandery of Knights Templar attended the seminar and presented the check to Dr. Coats on behalf of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation.

About the Knights Templar Eye Foundation

The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is committed to support research that can help launch the careers of clinical or basic researchers focused on preventing or curing potentially blinding diseases in infants and children. They support clinical or basic research on conditions that can be treated or prevented. Examples include amblyopia, congenital cataract, congenital glaucoma, retinopathy of prematurity, ocular malformations, congenital nystagmus, and other hereditary eye diseases such as retinal dystrophies or retinoblastoma.

About Dr. Coats

Dr. Brittany Coats is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah and holds adjunct appointments in the Departments of Pediatrics and Bioengineering. She is the principal investigator of the Pediatric Injury Biomechanics Laboratory which focuses on characterizing the microscopic and macroscopic mechanical properties of the head and eye throughout early development. Her overall objective is to use age and patient specific biomechanical data to significantly improve the understanding and treatment of injury and disease in children.