R.V. Paul Chan, MD, MSc, MBA
Co-Founder, Co-Executive Director

R.V. Paul Chan, MD, MSc, MBA

R.V. Paul Chan is Co-Executive Director of the Artificial Intelligence in Ophthalmology (Ai-O) Center and Professor and Head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at UIC. He is the Co-Director of the Vitreoretinal Fellowship and serves as Director of the Pediatric Retina and Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) Service.

Dr. Chan’s research interests focus on utilizing new technologies and imaging techniques to better evaluate and manage pediatric retinal disease. He is a core team member of the Imaging and Informatics for ROP (i-ROP) consortium and a global leader in using digital imaging, telemedicine and tele-education to improve access to care.

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Darvin Yi, PhD
Co-Executive Director

Darvin Yi, PhD

Darvin Yi is Technical Director of the Artificial Intelligence in Ophthalmology (Ai-O) Center and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Bioengineering (by courtesy). As Director of the Medical Computer Vision (MCV) group, he leads efforts in novel algorithm development for imaging problems in all forms of biomedical imaging.

The MCV group investigates the optimization of deep neural networks and other machine learning techniques for computer aided decision support. Of particular interest is dense prediction tasks, such as abnormality detection and segmentation.

Raised in Cherry Hill, New Jersey (suburbs of Philadelphia), Darvin received his undergraduate degree in Physics at Princeton University and a PhD in Biomedical Informatics from Stanford University. His chief hobbies include studying nutritional science, lifting weights, and breaking video games.

Thasarat Sutabutr Vajaranant, MD, MHA
Director of Data Sourcing and Strategy

Joelle A. Hallak, MS, PhD

As an ophthalmic surgeon, physician-scientist and educator, Dr. Vajaranant focuses on clinical service, research and teaching. Her clinical expertise in managing complex glaucoma and cataract has been recognized by Castle Connolly as one of America’s top doctors (10 consecutive years), by Best Doctors in America, and by Super Doctors in Chicago. She leads a wide range of research projects, including clinical studies and epidemiological analysis. Dr. Vajaranant serves as a site PI for a multi-center clinical trial investigating new glaucoma treatments. Her clinical and research interests primarily focus on glaucoma epidemiology, optic nerve aging, women’s eye health, structural and functional testing of the optic nerve, and management of glaucoma after corneal transplant. Throughout her tenure, she has also had the honor of serving in multiple professional organizations. Present and past positions include American Glaucoma Society (AGS) Lead Ambassador, Editorial Board Member of Ophthalmology Glaucoma, a member of the AGS research committee, an American Academy of Ophthalmology Scientific Reviewer for the glaucoma section, and a member of the Prevent Blindness America scientific committee.

Yannek Leiderman, MD, PhD
Director of Surgical Data Science

Joelle A. Hallak, MS, PhD

Yannek I. Leiderman, MD, PhD, is a surgeon, vitreoretinal specialist, and translational researcher at The Illinois Eye & Ear Infirmary and Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the Director of Surgical Data Science at the Artificial Intelligence in Ophthalmology Center, and Director of the Fellowship in Vitreoretinal Surgery.

The Vitreoretinal Microsurgery Lab is a cross-disciplinary laboratory group developing tools and technology for intraoperative surgical guidance, assessment, and training in ophthalmic microsurgery. Lab team members have deep expertise in bioengineering, surgical guidance, image processing, surgical navigation, surgical simulation, and artificial intelligence. Translational investigations are directed toward two principal areas: 1) Development of technology and techniques for the integration of surgical instrumentation, visualization, and imaging; 2) the design and implementation of high-fidelity ophthalmic surgical model systems to support training in advanced surgical techniques, adoption of novel surgical devices and technologies, and experimental techniques in microsurgery. A primary research direction of the group is to decode microsurgery, i.e., to begin to measure and understand the learning processes in microsurgery, and to deepen our understanding of the attainment of expert performance. Work in clinical applications and commercialization utilizes artificial intelligence methodologies coupled with surgical instrument tracking to create an enhanced microsurgical environment for ophthalmic surgery. We have received research funding from the National Eye Institute, foundational grants, and a variety of partners in industry. 

Dennis Edmonds
Technical Director

Dennis Edmonds

Dennis joined the Ai-O center in 2021 as a senior research specialist, and moved into his role of technical director in 2022. His research interests include tool-building and playing with novel experimental structures.

Dennis’s background includes everything from working for America’s Funniest Home Videos to fieldwork in the Amazon, but he is an engineer by trade and at heart. His current work at the Ai-O center includes proof of concept development for future projects as well as dataset development.

Advisory Council

Joelle A. Hallak, MS, PhD
Advisor for Real World Data Science, Co-Founder, Former Co-Executive Director

Joelle A. Hallak, MS, PhD

Joelle Hallak is Co-Executive Director of the Artificial Intelligence in Ophthalmology (Ai-O) Center and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology. She is also the director of the Ophthalmic Data Science (ODS) Laboratory, where she leads the development of predictive and explanatory statistical modeling techniques for personalized medicine applications.

The ODS group includes members with epidemiology, biostatistics, and computational science backgrounds. This interdisciplinary group investigates novel feature selection methods, for multi-view data with mixed data types from clinical, genetic and imaging sources, to measure interpretable associations for clinical translations.

Joelle received her MS and PhD degrees in epidemiology from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health, and her undergraduate degree in health sciences from the University of Balamand in Beirut, Lebanon. She enjoys photography: capturing moments with her family, sunsets and street art.

Pete Setabutr, MD
Advisor for Oculoplastics Science

Joelle A. Hallak, MS, PhD

Dr. Setabutr is the Director of Oculoplastic and Orbital Surgery at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He joined the department in 2009. He is a fellowship-trained, board-certified ophthalmologist specializing in oculoplastic and reconstructive surgery. He is one of only a select group of surgeons worldwide to have completed an American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASOPRS) approved fellowship. Dr. Setabutr has a strong interest in global health, specifically in Southeast Asia. His work in this region has helped build sustainable training and educational programs in the field of oculoplastics and orbital surgery. He lectures extensively in not only this region but around the world. He has a strong interest in clinical research that focuses on maximizing surgical outcomes. He’s published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.


Jacob Love

Homa Rashidisabet, PhD

Jacob Love is a master’s student in Computer Science at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and an artificial intelligence researcher at the Artificial Intelligence in Ophthalmology (Ai-O) Center at UIC. Previously he received undergraduate degrees in Cellular-Molecular Neuroscience and Physics from the Loyola University of Chicago, where he discovered a passion for computer science while working in a circadian biology lab.

Jacob’s research interests involve using artificial intelligence to aid in understanding and operating complex systems. His current research includes developing computer vision algorithms for advancing clinical ophthalmology and theoretical work furthering gradient descent methods for multiagent systems. Outside of research, his hobbies include drawing, reading, and listening to music.

Simon (Jiechao) Ma

Homa Rashidisabet, PhD

Simon is a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering department. His current research focuses on investigating deep neural networks for abnormality detection and disease classification in ophthalmic images.Born in Guangzhou (also known as Canton), China, Simon received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at China Agricultural University, and a PhD in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Purdue University. He loves playing table tennis, soccer, and 3d printing.

Rogerio Garcia Nespolo

Homa Rashidisabet, PhD

Rogerio Nespolo is a third-year Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering with a research appointment at the UIC Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. His work comprises surgical guidance via computer vision and surgical data science for ophthalmic procedures.

Homa Rashidisabet, PhD

Homa Rashidisabet, PhD

Homa is a Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering department at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Her doctoral research focuses on developing predictive models for abnormality detection in real-world ophthalmic images via deep learning (e.g., predicting glaucoma disease from Fundus images), as well as developing predictive models for digital phenotyping from real-world sensor data (e.g., predicting depression relapse from actigraphy data via deep-learning-based multivariate timeseries anomaly detection methods).

She is interested in using AI to transform medicine from a reactive to a proactive discipline.

Homa holds a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Tehran in Tehran, Iran. She enjoys swimming, singing, studying astronomy, and ancient history.

Abhishek Sethi

Abhishek Sethi

I am a second year medical student interested in the intersection between computer science, engineering, and medicine. My research interests include computer vision, natural language processing, and robotics.

Mahtab Faraji

Abhishek Sethi

Mahtab is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Sahand University of Technology, Iran, in 2014, she completed her Master’s degree in the same field at Iran University of Science and Technology, in 2018. Her research passion lies in applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods to enhance computer-aided diagnosis, with a primary emphasis on Ophthalmology and Cardiovascular medicine. In her free time, she enjoys social activities, running, and dancing.


Minhaj Nur Alam, PhD

Abdullah Aleem, MS

Sasha Kravets, PhD

Nooshin Mojab, PhD

Kate Romond