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Alexander Plekhanov

Alexander Plekhanov

2023 Davidson Fellow
$25,000 Scholarship

Age: 17
Hometown: Portland, OR

Science: “Skew-Axis Cylinder Lens Optical System: Physical Properties, Application for Novel Method of Clinical Optometry of Astigmatism, and Engineering Implementation”

About Alexander

I am Alexander Plekhanov, and I am deeply committed to pursuing a path in scientific research and innovation, driven by a desire to make a positive impact on society through my discoveries.

I also believe in giving back to my community. As Founder of my school’s Innovation Club and President of Physics Club, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to spread my love for physics and innovation with others. Through Innovation Club, I led 15 members in working with local non-profit Asha Hope Amanaki to design a 3D-printed STEM kit, to be distributed to 5000+ 4-8th graders in need. Beyond academics, I am also engaged in building a real airworthy two-seater airplane as a part of a charity organization, with proceeds directed for community development. In my free time, I enjoy reading, skiing, and rock climbing.

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"Being named a Davidson Fellow is an incredible honor and a recognition of the hard work and passion I have put into my project. For me, as a young scientist and inventor, this recognition affirms that my ideas and efforts have the potential to make a positive impact on society. The Davidson Institute has provided me with a platform to showcase my work and contribute to the scientific community. I hope that it will also connect me with like-minded individuals who share a commitment to innovation and discovery."

Project Description

Astigmatism is a vision defect affecting 1/3 of the world. If you have ever gone to an optometrist, you know the procedure for its testing: lenses are swapped in front of your eye, and you need to choose between two options, again and again. This century-old procedure is suboptimal, frustrating, and often inaccurate. I invented a novel optical apparatus (SACLOS) and approach that emphasizes subjective perception and intuitive action, allowing a patient to determine the parameters of corrective glasses themselves using a device as simple as a computer mouse. This allows for quicker, easier, cheaper, and more accurate astigmatism optometry.

Deeper Dive

My project, the Skew-Axis Cylinder Lens Optical System (SACLOS) (patent pending), is a groundbreaking innovation in the field of optometry, specifically targeting astigmatism compensation. Astigmatism affects approximately 30% of the global population and has been a challenging vision defect to measure accurately. The current method, subjective refraction using a phoropter apparatus, has limitations such as reliance on verbal communication with the patient, language barriers, and discrete lens power steps that restrict accuracy. Realizing the flaws and driven by a desire to find a better solution, I proposed a novel approach, inspired by optical principles used in binoculars. My invention combines two independently rotatable cylindrical lenses with a computerized controller, which allows patients to intuitively determine their required vision correction using an input device as simple as a computer mouse. By finding the optimal position through this manipulation, the patient effectively determines their prescription, leading to quicker, more accurate, and affordable astigmatism optometry. It has a potential to revolutionize optometry practices, provide cost-effective and accessible eye care, and enhance the quality of life for millions of people with astigmatism, which makes it highly significant and promising.

Developing the SACLOS was not without its challenges. Initially, I struggled to conceptualize a feasible design and barely knew where to start. However, my perseverance led me to the breakthrough idea of combining two independently rotating cylindrical lenses. To complete my project, I had to learn how to use CAD software and a 3D printer, as well as to master optical engineering and professional image analysis. With support and guidance from my physics teacher, Ms. Melissa Shell, and valuable feedback from Dr. Kalinichenko, a physicist, and Dr. Maria Parker, an ophthalmologist, I honed my skills and navigated the complexities of my research. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disrupted my plans for hands-on experimentation and collaboration, it also pushed me to adapt and continue my work independently. Despite the challenges, the knowledge gained from school and the support from my mentors and family played a crucial role in the successful development of the SACLOS.

The SACLOS has the potential to improve the quality of life for individuals with astigmatism in several ways. By providing a more accurate and efficient method of astigmatism correction, it allows optometrists to prescribe more precise corrective lenses, ensuring patients experience clearer vision and enhanced visual comfort. Further, the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of the SACLOS could revolutionize eye care accessibility, especially in developing countries or remote areas where access to optometric services is limited. Potentially, patients could even perform quick and intuitive vision checks at self-service stations in pharmacies and eyeglass shops, reducing the need for appointments, waiting times, and removing multitudes of other barriers. Ultimately, the SACLOS can bring quality, affordable eye care to millions of individuals worldwide, significantly improving their daily lives and overall well-being. I have submitted a manuscript to the peer-reviewed journal Optics Express, and currently have a patent pending (US63312007) for the SACLOS. I am dedicated to driving the implementation of the SACLOS in optometric offices and kiosks, making a positive impact on our world through scientific innovation.


If you could magically become fluent in any language, what would it be?

x86 assembly, because I could never learn it otherwise

Do you have any pets? What are their names?

I have a dog named Tosha

What is your favorite Olympic sport?

Rock climbing and skiing

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In The News

Portland, Ore. – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2023 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 17-year-old Alexander Plekhanov of Portland, Oregon. Plekhanov won a $25,000 scholarship for his project, Skew-Axis Cylinder Lens Optical System: Physical Properties, Application for Novel Method of Clinical Optometry of Astigmatism, and Engineering Implementation. He is one of only 21 students across the country to be recognized as a 2023 scholarship winner.

Download the full press release here