John Ubels

John Ubels


  • B.S., Biology, Calvin College, 1974
  • Ph.D., Animal Physiology, Michigan State University, 1979
  • Post-doctoral Fellow, Physiology and Ophthalmology, Medical College of Wisconsin, 1980-82

Professional Experience

  • Instructor, Biology, Calvin College, 1980
  • Scientific Consultant, Alcon Laboratories, Fort Worth, TX, 1980-2012
  • Associate Professor of Physiology and Ophthalmology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, 1982-1991
  • Associate professor of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 1991-1995
  • Professor, Department of Biology, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, 1995-2016
  • Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, 1996-present
  • Visiting Scientist, Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003-2005
  • Visiting Professor, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 2010
  • Professor, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine 2016-present 


Dr. Ubels recently retired from teaching but continues to maintain  an eye research lab at Calvin in collaboration with students. Over the past 40 years he has published papers on every part of the eye of fish, amphibians and mammals, including humans. He also leads an interim service-learning course to Tijuana, Mexico in which students provide glasses to people without adequate access to eye care. Dr. Ubels enjoys sailing, cross country skiing, and classical music.

Academic interests

Research and Professional Interests

  • Function of the lacrimal gland and cornea as related to dry eye disease. We are currently studying secretion of potassium ion by the lacrimal gland and the possible role of the relatively high concentration of potassium in tears in protecting the corneal epithelial cells from ultraviolet light. This research is funded by the National Eye Institute.


  • Singleton KR, Will DS, Schotanus MP, Haarsma, LD; Koetje LR, Bardolph SL, Ubels JL. Elevated extracellular potassium inhibits apoptosis of corneal epithelial cells Exposed to UV-B Radiation. Experimental Eye Research 89:140-151, 2009.
  • Ubels JL, Van Dyken R, Louters JR, Schotanus MP, Haarsma LD. Potassium ion fluxes in corneal epithelial cells exposed to UVB. Experimental Eye Research 92:425-431, 2011.
  • Lim ML, Hurst RK, Konynenbelt BJ, Ubels JL. Cytotoxicity testing of multipurpose contact lens solutions using monolayer and stratified cultures of human corneal epithelial cells. Eye and Contact Lens. 35:287-296, 2009.
  • Konynenbelt BJ, Mlnarik DS, Ubels JL. Effects of peroxide based contact lens disinfecting systems on human corneal epithelial cells in vitro. Eye and Contact Lens 37:286-297, 2011.
  • Schotanus MP, Koetje LR, Van Dyken RE, Ubels JL. Stratified corneal limbal epithelial cells are protected from UVB-induced apoptosis by elevated extracellular K+. Experimental Eye Research 93:735-740, 2011.
  • Ubels JL, Gipson IK, Spurr-Michaud SJ, Tisdale AS, Van Dyken RE, Hatton MP. Gene expression in human accessory glands of Wolfring. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 53:6738-6747, 2012.
  • Kuipers DP, Scripture JP, Gunnink SM, Salie, MJ, Schotanus MP, Ubels JL, Louters LL.  Differential regulation of GLUT1 activity in human corneal limbal epithelial cells and fibroblasts. Biochimie. 95:258-263, 2013.
  • Stoddard AR, Koetje LR, Mitchell AK, Schotanus MP, Ubels, JL. Bioavailability of antioxidants applied to stratified human corneal epithelial cells. Journal of Ocular Pharmacology Therapeutics. 29:681-687, 2013.
  • Ubels JL, Glupker CD, Schotanus MP, Haarsma LD. Involvement of the extrinsic and intrinsic pathways in ultraviolet B-induced apoptosis of corneal epithelial cells. Experimental Eye Research. 145:26-35, 2016
  • Glupker CD, Boersma PM, Schotanus MP, Haarsma LD, Ubels JL, Apoptosis of corneal epithelial cells caused by ultraviolet B-induced loss of K+ is inhibited by Ba2+, Ocular Surface. 14:401-409, 2016.

In the news


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