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Rebecca K. Zoltoski, PhD

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

Rebecca K.




Why ICO?

My transition to ICO was a rough one. I had never done any teaching or research related to the eye and felt as if I had landed in a foreign country without really knowing the language. When I was hired to teach biochemistry, I was not even confident I knew why optometrists needed to know biochemistry. By the end of my first week here, I had learned why they needed to know it, but it took me a bit longer to be able to convey those important ideas to the students. At the end of my second year, I was given the opportunity to attend a course designed to assist medical educators in becoming better instructors. I turned my course on its head, and I finally enjoyed teaching by using cases to help the students see the value of what they were learning. About the same time, I was fortunate to find some colleagues in the Chicago lens research community to accept me into their lab and my research found a new meaning as well. More recently, I have been able to bring some of that research back into ICO so that I am now more able to combine my research and teaching, as I set out to do so many years ago. Students at ICO have not only the educational/clinical community to gain experiences from, but they also have the larger Chicago community. ICO offers programs that strive to increase cultural awareness and diversity within the school and the clinic, as well as vision screenings, health clinics, and tutoring programs that allow the students to reach out to our neighbors in Bronzeville, as well as across the Chicagoland area. It is the diversity, not only in our clinic, but also in our student body, that makes ICO an unending educational experience.


While completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Zoltoski fell in love with research. Her early experiences in sleep anatomy research led her to pursue a PhD in pharmacology and neurosciences at Wake Forest University. In her postdoctoral training positions at University of California, San Diego, and Brock University, she realized she wanted a career where she could combine teaching and research. She came to ICO in 1997 to teach biochemistry, with courses in neuroanatomy and evidence-based health care to be added later. She also has established an active research laboratory working with clinicians on a wide variety of topic ranging from dry eye to vision therapy. Her main focus has been changes in lens ultrastructure with age and accommodation, for which she has received federal funding to pursue this research. Her background has provided her with the training necessary to add this important component to ICO. She has been fortunate enough to mentor more than 100 students, and feels that her research is successful today in large thanks to the excellent clinicians as well as her students at ICO.

Special Interests

Lens form and function and how it changes with age and accommodation, nutrition, aberrations, dry eye and vision therapy.


1993 University of California, San Diego, Sleep/Pharmacology Postdoctoral Fellow
1989 Wake Forest University, PhD
1985 University of Pennsylvania, BA


1997-present Illinois College of Optometry
1994-1997 Brock University
1993-1994 San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Awards & Honors

2009 Excellence in Education Award, Illinois College of Optometry Alumni Council
1998-2000, 2004 Teacher of the Year, First Year Professional Students

Professional Organizations

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
International Society for Eye Research


Frantz, K.A., Elston, P., Templeman, C.D., and Zoltoski R.K. (2011). Comparison of Fixation Disparity Measured by Saladin Card and Disparometer. Optom Vis Sci 88: E733-41.

Nowak, R.B., Fischers, R.S., Zoltoski, R.K., Kuszak, J.R., and Fowler, V.M. (2009).

Tropomodulin 1 is required for membrane skeleton organization and hexagonal geometry of fiber cells in the mouse lens. J Cell Biol 186: 915-28.

Chung, J., Berthoud, V.M, Novak, L.A., Zoltoski, R.K. I’ Heinobrunn, B., Minogue, P.J., Liu, X., Ebihara, L., Kuszak, J.R., and Beyer, E. C. (2007). Transgenic overexpression of connexin 50 induces cataracts in mice. Exp Eye Res 84: 513-28.

Tang, Y., Lliu, X., Zoltoski, R.K., Novak, L. A., Herrera, R., Richard, I, Kuszak, J.R., and Kumar, N.M. (2007). Calpain 3 disruption delays cataract formation in á3 connexin 46 knockout mouse lens. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 48: 2685-94.

Kuszak, J.R., Mazurkiewicz, M., Jison, L.R.A., Madurski, A., Ngando, A., and Zoltoski, R.K. (2006). Quantitative analysis of animal model lens anatomy is related to fiber structure and organization. Vet Ophthalmol 9,5: 266-280

Kuszak, J.R., Mazurkiewicz, M., and Zoltoski, R.K. (2006). Computer modeling of secondary fiber development and growth: I. Nonprimate lenses. Mol Vis 12: .

Kuszak, J.R., Zoltoski, R.K., Tiedemann, C.E. (2004). Development of lens sutures. Internat J Develop Biol 48: 889-902.

Kuszak, J.R., Zoltoski, R.K., Sivertson, C. (2004). Fiber cell organization in crystalline lenses. Exper Eye Res 78(3): 673-687.

Al-Ghoul, K.J., Kirk, T., Kuszak, A.J., Zoltoski, R.K., Shiels, A., and Kuszak, J.R. (2003). Lens structure in MIP deficient mice. Anat Rec 273A(2): 714-730.

Sandilands, A., Prescott, A.R., Wegener, A., Zoltoski, R.K., Hutcheson, A.M., Masaki, S, Kuszak, J.R., and Quinlan, R.A. (2003). Knockout of the intermediate filament protein CP49 destabilises the lens fibre cell cytoskeleton and decreases lens optical quality, but does not induce cataract. Exper Eye Res 76(3): 385-391.

Gross, S. M., Zoltoski, R.K., Cornick, M.L., and Wong, K.K.W. (2000). Student self-assessment of professional communication skills at the Illinois College of Optometry. Optom Ed 25(4): 107-115.

Rosengren, K. J. and R. K. Zoltoski (2000). HIV, AIDS and universal precautions: The optometry curriculum’s effect on students’ knowledge, attitudes and implementation. Optom Ed 25(3): 74-81.

Kushida, C. A., Zoltoski, R. K. and Gillin, J. C. (1995). The expression of m1-m3 muscarinic receptor mRNAs in rat brain following REM sleep deprivation, NeuroReport, 6, 1705-1708.

Zoltoski, R. K., Velazquez-Moctezuma, J., Shiromani, P. J. and Gillin, J. C. (1993). The relative effects of selective M1 muscarinic antagonists on rapid eye movement sleep, Brain Res, 608, 186-190.

Block, S. M., Barnes, K. D. and Zoltoski, R. (1991). Central alpha-1-adrenergic control of vasopressin secretion in newborn lambs, Pediatr Res, 30, 50-54.

Avakian, E. V., Dunlap, III,C.E., Zoltoski, R. K. and LeRoy, M. R. (1987). Effects of chronic cocaine administration on cardiac beta-receptor concentration in rats, Proc West Pharmacol Soc, 30, 299- 301.

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