2021 saw the introduction of new leadership in postgraduate education with Associate Professor Juno Kim and Dr Vinod Maseedupally taking up the role as joint program authorities for postgraduate coursework in the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW Sydney.
These programs ventured into yet another year of challenges due to the changing landscape of imposed restrictions on coursework study for our postgraduate students due to COVID-19.
Despite the challenges, there were new opportunities that emerged.
Our students based in China who enrolled in the Master of Optometry were able to quickly adjust to online study. They were able to not just undertake coursework studies remotely, but also were able to engage in their research projects by taking advantage of emerging technologies and the power of online experimentation.
In one of these projects, Ms Xiaona Ping led an exciting new development with Associate Professor David Pye on imaging of the anterior eye using portable smartphone devices. They have developed a new portable and cost-effective system for assessing the integrity of the ocular surface and allow RGP contact lens patients to receive remote aftercare visits using inexpensive smartphone technologies.
In another project, Ms Yuyang Cai conducted online experiments to assess the appearance of surfaces and materials using real-time graphical modelling and simulation. The findings of her research have valuable benefits for representing the material composition of objects on standard computer displays, as required for anatomical simulations in health.
On one occasion, both students were able to meet up in person in China to connect online for our weekly catch up with international students (pictured).
Overcoming the challenges of online learning and training also saw the Master of Optometry program undergo transformation of its own with the ability for students to now diversify their studies beyond optometry. Students can now enrol in courses offered externally to SOVS by the School of Population Health (Public Health) and UNSW Business School (Management and Marketing).
Students have traditionally enjoyed the higher-level experience they gain form enrolling in clinical postgraduate coursework offerings in optometry. However, students have also greatly welcomed the diverse and inspiring learning they experience in the new external elective courses.
For example, the first cohort of students undertook electives at UNSW Business School in Term 3 this year. Students enrolled in Entrepreneurship and New Venture Management and found the learning they received was highly valuable for complementing their training which focused on clinical optometry.
Our other postgraduate programs have also successfully been undertaken in 2021, including our new Graduate Diploma in Orientation and Mobility (led by Dr Sharon Oberstein) and our Graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics (led by Dr Alex Hui).
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the leaders of these programs have been able to work with stakeholders to implement effective adjustments for the successful management of remote placements.
Highly informative masterclasses were presented on 3 November 2021 for the Graduate Diploma in Orientation and Mobility (https://youtu.be/0t7B6KsUngw) and on 16 November 2021 for the Master of Optometry degree (https://youtu.be/jOsxDdIUW9Q).
Associate Professor Juno Kim
Postgraduate Coursework Program Authority
Dr Vinod Maseedupally
Postgraduate Coursework Program Authority
Postgraduate coursework 2020 wrap-up: online learning, lockdowns, Zoom calls and wonderful students.
What an unexpected year 2020 has been for our postgraduate coursework students!
Little did we know that our lovely morning tea introduction in mid-February would be our last chance to meet as a group in person. Looking back, I am so grateful that we could meet and welcome our new international students who had just arrived from China, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. 2020 was particularly tough on this cohort who arrived in Sydney just in time for the Pandemic lockdowns! They have shown themselves to be a wonderfully resilient, pro-active and friendly group, and have made impressive contributions to our social Zoom calls (who knew we had recruited such musical talents!), and to the regular online PG Club while becoming well-integrated members of the School’s research groups.
In 2020, we bid goodbye to a handful of graduating MOptom students including Tashy Sherpa and Abdulla Altamimi who have returned to Nepal and Saudi Arabia respectively, and Sukanya Jaiswal who has begun her PhD journey. The School is very proud to add this group to our alumni.
In June 2020 we welcomed over 20 optometrists from all over Australia into our new online Graduate Certificate in Optometry, as part of the Australian Government’s Higher Education package. Recent and not-so-recent graduates have had the opportunity to upskill and obtain a taste of UNSW offerings in areas ranging from ocular disease and therapeutics to myopia management.
The Gradate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics students faced some challenges this year due to the pandemic limiting clinical placements. We are hopeful that they will be able to complete these placements and have their certificates become therapeutically endorsed in 2021.
In 2021 I hand over the reins to Dr Vinod Maseedupally and Associate Professor Juno Kim, who will together coordinate postgraduate courses at the School of Optometry and Vision Science. I am very pleased to stay connected with the School’s postgraduate community and will coordinate the MOptom research projects from 2021 onwards. On that note, I would like to extend a huge thank you to Associate Professor Michele Madigan, who has been a wonderful and very generous convenor of the coursework research projects for the past decade. The introduction to research provided by these projects and by A/Prof Madigan’s thoughtful guidance has started off many a research career.
Associate Professor Blanka Golebiowski
Director of Postgraduate Coursework
Academic staff at the School welcomed a number of visitors during 2019.
During February 2019 we welcomed to the School Professor Kiyofumi Matsuda from the Optical Information Processing and Systems Engineering Lab, The Graduate School for the Creation of New Photonics Industries, Japan and an Emeritus Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology. Professor Matsuda was hosted by Dr Maitreyee Roy. He is a distinguished researcher in the field of optical imaging and processing and last year was presented with Conferment of a Decoration, by Japanese emperor and Prime minister Abe for his contribution to science. Professor Matsuda and Dr Roy are currently working on collaborative research on “Hard x-ray digital holography for visualising transparent phase objects”.
In April 2019 Associate Professor Jennifer Craig, an academic from the University of Auckland visited SOVS. Associate Professor Craig is an international expert on dry eye disease having co-chaired the 2018 TFOS DEWSII Workshop. SOVS was honoured to have Associate Professor Craig visit us and present a Vaegan Seminar. During her visit she worked on a range of topics relating to dry eye disease and meibomian gland dysfunction and with a range of academics including Professor Eric Papas, Dr Maria Markoulli and Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton.
Dr Waleed Alghamdi visited SOVS in July 2019 as part of his sabbatical leave. Dr Alghamdi is the Head of the Department of Optometry at Qassim University, Saudi Arabia. He graduated with his PhD from UNSW in 2016 where he was supervised by Professor Eric Papas, the late Professor Brien Holden and Dr Maria Markoulli. Waleed's research revolves around dry eye disease and meibomian gland dysfunction. On his sabbatical visit he worked with Professor Eric Papas and Dr Maria Markoulli on understanding the impact that age has on the tear film.
Dr Keiji Sugimoto, Manager at Menicon Japan and one of our longstanding research partners visited Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton in October 2019 and toured the new biological science laboratories, clinical research facilities and myopia control clinic at the School of Optometry and Vison Science.
Dr Yukinobu Okajima from Toho University, Tokyo, Japan visited Australia in October 2019 to attend the ICCLC in Noosa and to visit speciality contact lens practices in Australia, particularly to learn about scleral contact lenses. He visited the biological science laboratories, clinical research and speciality contact lens clinics in the School of Optometry and Vision Science and met with our Japanese research fellows, Masahiro and Ritsue Nakagawa, Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton, Dr Ajay Kumar and Dr Jackie Tan.
October was a busy month for visitors as Dr Nayuta Yoshioka, Dr Juno Kim and visiting researchers Masahiro and Ritsue Nakagawa hosted 16 students visiting from Meikei High School in Tsukuba, Japan as part of their international study tour. Topics discussed included an overview of the visual system, optometry as a profession and the difference in the eyecare system between the two countries. The importance of developing connections and abilities to collaborate with international partners was also emphasised.
Dr Vijaya Gothwal from the LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India visited the School of Optometry and Vision Science during November 2019. She is working with Professor Lisa Keay on “Preventing falls in older people with vision impairment in India.” Whilst here Dr Gothwal and Professor Keay also met with the Dr Michael Stevens from the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering and Professor Stephen Lord and team from NeuRA to discuss investigating falls in older people. She also gave a workshop to staff and students on Rasch Analysis which was well attended.
Dr Jacqueline Ramke from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine visited SOVS during mid-November 2019 to work on collaborative research in Public Health with Professor Lisa Keay and Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert. Dr Ramke’s visit was funded through the Faculty of Science Visiting Fellowship scheme. Jacqui met with School of Optometry and Vision Science and UNSW collaborators in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine and gave a seminar on “How might we leave no-one behind in eye health?”
During the last week of November 2019 Year 10 students visited the Faculty of Science UNSW for ‘Work Experience Week’. The week included visits to various schools in the Faculty, including time at the School of Optometry and Vision Science. During this, the students visited the Optometry Clinic, enjoyed selecting frames and hands-on learning qualities of best-vision, comfortable glasses, visited the Sensory Processes Group and used virtual reality technology to understand how different senses work together, experienced how to do an eye test and looked at live eyes up close and magnified in the consulting room. They also engaged in some hands-on practical eye anatomy including checking pupil responses and tears and 'tear plumbing', very important for a healthy eye surface. To finish the week, the Faculty ran a Q&A and research panel, and each student presented a short talk and reflection on the week and overall experience at UNSW. The students all gave wonderful talks that highlighted how much they enjoyed a week of learning how exciting real-world science can be, meeting new people, and generally experiencing Science at UNSW.