Vision Science Honours involves full-time research (with supervision) in the School of Optometry & Vision Science. The course runs over 3 terms (with no coursework) and involves developing a research hypothesis, aims and project and then undertaking the research, with supervision. 

Advanced training will be provided in selected areas of vision science, emphasising understanding and application of specialised techniques relevant to the research area (for example laboratory-based, sensory/virtual reality, clinical or public health techniques and applications). 

During the Honours year, you’ll also research and write a literature review and research proposal, undertake an ethics application (as appropriate) and prepare a final written research thesis. You’re also required to regularly attend (on-line) vaegan seminars and other seminars. During the Honours year, students will present their work in two research seminars in the School of Optometry & Vision Science. 

Vision Science Honours students can enrol to start in either T1, T2, or T3. 

Applications

Applications are now open for VISN4016 Vision Science Honours

Late applications: please contact Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith or  Science Student Services

Requirements

Prior Study: 3-year full-time bachelor’s degree specialising in Vision Science. (144 units of credit (UOC))

WAM: minimum credit (65) weighted average mark (WAM)

You will need to arrange a supervisor and project before applying for Honours. You can do this by:

  • Contacting the Honours Deputy Coordinator by email or arranging a meeting in person to discuss your interests and to help you find a supervisor
  • Reviewing the SOVS Honours website for a list of supervisors and Honours research projects 

Visiting the SOVS Research Groups page and directly contacting potential supervisors

Potential VISN4016 Honours Projects

Potential projects are listed below. Other projects are available via direct contact with SOVS supervisors and research groups

Please contact the Honours Deputy Coordinator: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith for help with finding a supervisor.

  • Supervisors: Dr Nicole Carnt, Ms Kerryn Hart, Ms Ky Lian, Dr Alexandra Jaworski, Prof Fiona Stapleton and A/Prof Carol Lakkis.

    COVID-19 has focussed attention on infection control in clinical practice. Updated Optometry Australia Guidelines for Infection Control were published in March 2021 in Clinical and Experimental Optometry (CXO), and Australian Standards Organisation is considering the adoption of the International Standards Organization (ISO) “ISO 19979:2018 Ophthalmic optics — Contact lenses — Hygienic management of multipatient use trial contact lenses”.

    This presents an opportunity to translate this collective knowledge into clinical optometric practice. The American Academy of Optometry followed a similar path in 2020 and have produced a technical paper and handy guide. In this project you will use qualitative research methods to conduct and analyse focus group and interview discussions to inform the format of and which  information would be most useful in the Australian context. You will have the opportunity to work with leading researchers in optometric infection control including authors of the CXO paper, Optometry Australia Policy & Standards Advisor and Chair of the Australian Standards Contact Lens Committee. This team   has a track record in making widespread effective change in clinical optometric practice. As well as learning qualitative research skills, you will experience firsthand and understand how effective networking and leadership roles in the optometric profession are able to translate policy into clinical practice.

  • Supervisors: Dr Matt Trinh, Dr Angelica Ly, Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

    Summary: The PPP project aims to improve the precision of clinical measures of retinal integrity, such as OCT retinal nerve fibre layer and total macular thickness, and colour fundus photography vessel diameters, by exploring relationships with non-ocular factors such as natural physiology, systemic disease, and medication use. This project is designed as a retrospective, translational study. Students will learn how to organise and quantitatively analyse large amounts of patient data from the Centre for Eye Health.

    Contact: Dr Matt Trinh m.trinh@unsw.edu.au 

  • We are taught the importance of frequent handwashing, but how well do we wash our hands? Currently, we lack an accessible tool for quantifying how well the hands have been washed, and we instead have been primarily relying on subjective observation or tests that do not provide immediate feedback. This project aims to validate and further develop an automated tool using augmented reality (AR) to measure the effectiveness of different handwashing procedures. The research will have widespread implications for improving community hygiene and health outcomes globally. 

    For further information, please contact Dr Nayuta Yoshioka (n.yoshioka@unsw.edu.au) 

  • Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith and Dr Mohit Shivdasani 

    Retinal prostheses or “bionic eyes” aim to restore vision to those blinded by photoreceptor dystrophies. However, the level of vision provided by present devices is poor. A possible reason is bionic eye implants are designed based on normal retinal anatomy. However, in the blind eye, retinal anatomy is significantly altered and may not be able to transmit signals from bionic eye devices properly. 
     
    This project uses detailed immunohistochemistry in an animal model of retinal degeneration to understand the biological factors that influence the efficacy of a retinal prosthesis. This will allow us to develop new stimulation strategies with the ultimate intention to provide blind retinal implant recipients with improved artificial vision which will significantly improve their quality of life. 
     
    This project is a collaboration between Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith and Dr Mohit Shivdasani at the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering.

    For further information please contact Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith: l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Revathy Mani, Nayuta Yoshioka, Rebecca Dang, Amanda Lea, Sieu Khuu 

    Summary: AC/A measure signifies the relationship between accommodation and vergence mechanisms. Assessment of the AC/A ratio plays an important role in the diagnosis and management of non-strabismic and strabismic anomalies and in prescribing addition lenses. Clinically Gradient AC/A is measured by the Cover Test, Modified Thorington method or using the Howell card.  These methods are based on ocular alignment measured by an examiner or by a subjective response from patients based on the eye’s position using a Howell card or Modified Thorington method. However, such approaches are highly subjective, and no study has measured ocular alignment as an indicator of AC/A using more objective methods. Previous studies have measured accommodative response using an autorefractometer but not ocular alignment.  This study aims to measure ocular alignment and accommodative response objectively using eye-tracking and auto refractometer for the measurement of AC/A. This project will enable students to understand the dynamics of accommodation and vergence while using subjective and objective evaluation of the AC/A ratio.  

    Contact: Dr Revathy Mani revathy.mani@unsw.edu.au 

  • Supervisors: Dr Simin Masoudi, Mr Mukesh Kumar, Dr Ajay Vijay, Professor Mark Willcox

    Summary: Studies indicate that contact lens wear discontinuation mostly occurs because of dryness and discomfort symptoms. Patient-reported symptoms often do not correlate with diagnostic tests. However, a growing body of literature suggests that corneal somatosensory dysfunction resulting from psychological factors (such as stress and anxiety) may be the underlying cause of dryness sensation when other tear functions are assessed as normal. The prevalence of dry eye is higher in individuals with stress, and sleep disturbance. Sleep disturbance may play a potential role in disrupting tear function or aggravating anxiety, leading to worse self-reported ocular dryness symptoms. However, this has not been investigated in ocular dryness/discomfort in contact lens wear. 

    This is a questionnaire-based cross-sectional study involving contact lens and non-contact lens wearers. The study tool will be a validated questionnaire containing questions related to anxiety and sleep disturbance to evaluate their effect on ocular dryness and contact lens discomfort. By conducting this research, you will become familiar with preparing ethics documents and seeking approval, designing an online questionnaire, data collection, and analysis as well as scientific writing

    Contact: Dr Simin Masoudi s.masoudi@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Dr Simin Masoudi, Professor Mark Willcox

    Summary: Multidrug-resistant (MDR) infection is one of the most pressing issues in global public health which needs to be addressed urgently. A few promising approaches such as the use of synthetic cationic antimicrobial polymers, nanoparticles, anti-virulence compounds, and phage therapy have been tested to combat this global health challenge. Even though some of these approaches have strong potential to treat MDR infections locally in the future (e.g., topically treat skin or applied on the contact surfaces of medical devices), many still suffer from low to moderate biocompatibility and multiple aspects are required to be addressed before their systemic administration. Certain lipids in the human body have been recognized as broad-spectrum antimicrobe agents. One important potential benefit of innate antimicrobial lipids is that they do not induce damage to cells, therefore, decreasing the likelihood of side effects The lipid layer is the most superficial layer in the human tear film and is the first barrier between the eye and the environment. The meibum, an oily secretion of Meibomian glands, is the primary source of the tear film lipids, though, cell membranes and lipid-binding proteins may also contribute to the production of the tear lipids. This study aims to evaluate the antimicrobial efficacy of some of the synthetic tear lipids as well as human meibum lipids against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria in vitro. By conducting this research, you will become familiar with laboratory techniques to assess the antimicrobial efficacy of compounds, preparation of ethics documents/approval, human meibum sample collection, collection of data in the clinic and laboratory and their analysis as well as scientific writing.

    Contact: Dr Simin Masoudi s.masoudi@unsw.edu.au 

  • Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, Professor Isabelle Jalbert

    Summary: The Amsler grid is a low-cost, paper-based tool that is widely used by patients with early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to monitor their vision at home. The goal is to assist patients in detecting changes associated with late-stage AMD so they seek intervention more rapidly. This is critical as treatment has the greatest success of restoring vision when administered early.

    Only 55% of patients use their Amsler grid on a regular basis. Attempts to improve compliance such as education, behavioural training or reminder systems have had limited success. A possible reason for this is lack of engagement with patients to determine why they do not use the Amsler grid. This project will address this by performing focus groups and interviews with patients to explore the barriers of Amsler grid use and possible solutions. The student will be involved in patient recruitment, focus group and interview co-ordination, transcription and thematic analysis. The results of this study will then be used to develop meaningful interventions to improve Amsler grid use to potentially improve detection and treatment of late stage AMD.

    Contact: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisor: Dr Juno Kim

    Summary: You will join the Sensory Processes Research Laboratory to undertake research in the field of virtual reality and multisensory integration. You will be responsible for leading a research project examining how we rely on multisensory integration to perceptually infer the physical properties of real and simulated environments. The application of outcomes from this research will have broad implications for industries spanning health and entertainment. If you desire, you may also have an opportunity to engage with industry on collaborative research. This competitive research opportunity directly builds on your learning in the OPTM3201 course.

    For further information please contact Dr Juno Kim.

  • Supervisors: Dr Parthasarathi Kalaiselvan, Dr Ajay Vijay and Professor Mark Willcox

    Summary: As we all know, during COVID-19 there has been increased awareness of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via aerosol. Healthcare workers and the general public have been asked to wear face masks to try to limit the extent of transmission of the virus. There have been claims that simply wearing glasses can protect your eyes from infection.

    Face masks have been made by many manufacturers, often ones that have no previous experience in this area, and most of these have not been investigated thoroughly. The claims of glasses helping to protect your eyes from infection with viruses has not been systematically investigated.

    You will learn how to grow a mouse version of coronavirus, one that cannot infect humans. This virus is recognised by regulatory authorities and scientists as an appropriate surrogate for SARS-CoV-2. You will aerosolise the virus in a closed chamber. Using a mannequin head, you will examine whether glasses of various shapes and sizes can protect the eyes of the mannequin from the virus. You will also use a custom designed test rig that aerosolises the virus and allows you to test whether face masks can prevent the transmission of the virus in the aerosols through them.

    For further information please contact Professor Mark Willcox.

  • Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, Dr Matt Trinh

    Summary: Macular neovascularisation is a major reason for vision loss in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and several clinical trials show that preventing vision loss hinges on treatment the disease early. Thus, tools to predict which patients are at highest risk of developing macular neovascularization and ensure they are monitored closely are desperately needed.

    Our research team has developed a novel, high density analysis tool that can indicate subtle changes in the size and shape of blood vessels of the choroid. As macular neovascularization originates from the choroid, this tool may detect the disease early and help facilitate treatment. 

    This project will involve applying our tool to a population of AMD patients to test this hypothesis. The results of this study will then be used to determine if this tool can be translated into clinical practice. 

    Contact: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Dr Matt Trinh, Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

    Summary: Geographic atrophy causes vision loss in 90% of age-related macular degeneration. However current measures of geographic atrophy are coarse and binary meaning there is limited information for us to better understand of the pathobiology of disease and develop new treatments. 

    We recently established a method of characterising subtle, topographical changes in specific retinal layers. This method generates high-density, topographical maps that could improve clinical interpretation and in-depth research investigation.

    This project will involve applying this method to patients with signs of geographic atrophy and comparing the sensitivity of this method to the established binary measures. The results of this study will then be used to determine if this tool could be helpful in research and clinical care of AMD. 

    Contact: Dr Matt Trinh m.trinh@unsw.edu.au 

  • Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, Dr Matt Trinh

    Summary: Optical coherence tomography angiography, or OCTA, is a revolutionary, non-invasive method to view retinal blood vessels. OCTA however is prone to image artefacts which make it difficult to identify true disease changes. 

    This project determines if a simple (one-minute) in-office hand grip test can improve images of retinal blood vessels using OCTA. The project involves assessing images of individuals before and after the hand grip test to see if image quality is improved. If proven, these results could have a major impact on clinical practice and patient outcomes by enhancing the usefulness of OCTA in a simple, cost-efficient manner

    Contact: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Dr Matt Trinh, Dr Angelica Ly, Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

    Summary: The PPP project aims to improve the precision of clinical measures of retinal integrity, such as OCT retinal nerve fibre layer and total macular thickness, and colour fundus photography vessel diameters, by exploring relationships with non-ocular factors such as natural physiology, systemic disease, and medication use. This project is designed as a retrospective, translational study. Students will learn how to organise and quantitatively analyse large amounts of patient data from the Centre for Eye Health.

    Contact: Dr Matt Trinh m.trinh@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Revathy Mani, Nayuta Yoshioka, Rebecca Dang, Amanda Lea, Sieu Khuu

    Summary: AC/A measure signifies the relationship between accommodation and vergence mechanisms. Assessment of the AC/A ratio plays an important role in the diagnosis and management of non-strabismic and strabismic anomalies and in prescribing addition lenses. Clinically Gradient AC/A is measured by the Cover Test, Modified Thorington method or using the Howell card.  These methods are based on ocular alignment measured by an examiner or by a subjective response from patients based on the eye’s position using a Howell card or Modified Thorington method. However, such approaches are highly subjective, and no study has measured ocular alignment as an indicator of AC/A using more objective methods. Previous studies have measured accommodative response using an autorefractometer but not ocular alignment.  This study aims to measure ocular alignment and accommodative response objectively using eye-tracking and auto refractometer for the measurement of AC/A. This project will enable students to understand the dynamics of accommodation and vergence while using subjective and objective evaluation of the AC/A ratio. 

    Contact: Dr Revathi Mani revathy.mani@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Simin Masoudi, Mark Willcox

    Summary: Multidrug-resistant (MDR) infection is one of the most pressing issues in global public health which needs to be addressed urgently. A few promising approaches such as the use of synthetic cationic antimicrobial polymers, nanoparticles, anti-virulence compounds, and phage therapy have been tested to combat this global health challenge. Even though some of these approaches have strong potential to treat MDR infections locally in the future (e.g., topically treat skin or applied on the contact surfaces of medical devices), many still suffer from low to moderate biocompatibility and multiple aspects are required to be addressed before their systemic administration. Certain lipids in the human body have been recognized as broad-spectrum antimicrobe agents. One important potential benefit of innate antimicrobial lipids is that they do not induce damage to cells, therefore, decreasing the likelihood of side effects The lipid layer is the most superficial layer in the human tear film and is the first barrier between the eye and the environment. The meibum, an oily secretion of Meibomian glands, is the primary source of the tear film lipids, though, cell membranes and lipid-binding proteins may also contribute to the production of the tear lipids. This study aims to evaluate the antimicrobial efficacy of some of the synthetic tear lipids as well as human meibum lipids against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria in vitro. By conducting this research, you will become familiar with laboratory techniques to assess the antimicrobial efficacy of compounds, preparation of ethics documents/approval, human meibum sample collection, collection of data in the clinic and laboratory and their analysis as well as scientific writing.

    Contact: Dr Simin Masoudi s.masoudi@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Simin Masoudi, Mukesh Kumar, Ajay Vijay, Mark Willcox

    Summary: Studies indicate that contact lens wear discontinuation mostly occurs because of dryness and discomfort symptoms. Patient-reported symptoms often do not correlate with diagnostic tests. However, a growing body of literature suggests that corneal somatosensory dysfunction resulting from psychological factors (such as stress and anxiety) may be the underlying cause of dryness sensation when other tear functions are assessed as normal. The prevalence of dry eye is higher in individuals with stress, and sleep disturbance. Sleep disturbance may play a potential role in disrupting tear function or aggravating anxiety, leading to worse self-reported ocular dryness symptoms. However, this has not been investigated in ocular dryness/discomfort in contact lens wear.

    This is a questionnaire-based cross-sectional study involving contact lens and non-contact lens wearers. The study tool will be a validated questionnaire containing questions related to anxiety and sleep disturbance to evaluate their effect on ocular dryness and contact lens discomfort. By conducting this research, you will become familiar with preparing ethics documents and seeking approval, designing an online questionnaire, data collection, and analysis as well as scientific writing

    Contact: Dr Simin Masoudi s.masoudi@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Lisa Nivison-Smith, Isabelle Jalbert

    Summary: The Amsler grid is a low-cost, paper-based tool that is widely used by patients with early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to monitor their vision at home. The goal is to assist patients in detecting changes associated with late-stage AMD so they seek intervention more rapidly. This is critical as treatment has the greatest success of restoring vision when administered early.

    Only 55% of patients use their Amsler grid on a regular basis. Attempts to improve compliance such as education, behavioural training or reminder systems have had limited success. A possible reason for this is lack of engagement with patients to determine why they do not use the Amsler grid. This project will address this by performing focus groups and interviews with patients to explore the barriers of Amsler grid use and possible solutions. The student will be involved in patient recruitment, focus group and interview co-ordination, transcription and thematic analysis. The results of this study will then be used to develop meaningful interventions to improve Amsler grid use to potentially improve detection and treatment of late stage AMD.

    Contact: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, Dr Matt Trinh

    Summary: Macular neovascularisation is a major reason for vision loss in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and several clinical trials show that preventing vision loss hinges on treatment the disease early. Thus, tools to predict which patients are at highest risk of developing macular neovascularization and ensure they are monitored closely are desperately needed.

    Our research team has developed a novel, high density analysis tool that can indicate subtle changes in the size and shape of blood vessels of the choroid. As macular neovascularization originates from the choroid, this tool may detect the disease early and help facilitate treatment.

    This project will involve applying our tool to a population of AMD patients to test this hypothesis. The results of this study will then be used to determine if this tool can be translated into clinical practice.

    Contact: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Dr Matt Trinh, Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

    Summary: Geographic atrophy causes vision loss in 90% of age-related macular degeneration. However current measures of geographic atrophy are coarse and binary meaning there is limited information for us to better understand of the pathobiology of disease and develop new treatments.

    We recently established a method of characterising subtle, topographical changes in specific retinal layers. This method generates high-density, topographical maps that could improve clinical interpretation and in-depth research investigation.

    This project will involve applying this method to patients with signs of geographic atrophy and comparing the sensitivity of this method to the established binary measures. The results of this study will then be used to determine if this tool could be helpful in research and clinical care of AMD.

    Contact: Dr Matt Trinh m.trinh@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, Dr Matt Trinh

    Summary: Optical coherence tomography angiography, or OCTA, is a revolutionary, non-invasive method to view retinal blood vessels. OCTA however is prone to image artefacts which make it difficult to identify true disease changes. 

    This project determines if a simple (one-minute) in-office hand grip test can improve images of retinal blood vessels using OCTA. The project involves assessing images of individuals before and after the hand grip test to see if image quality is improved. If proven, these results could have a major impact on clinical practice and patient outcomes by enhancing the usefulness of OCTA in a simple, cost-efficient manner

    Contact: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Scientia A/Prof Nicole Carnt, Dr Kathleen Watt, Dr Brett Drury, Dr Con Petsoglou

    Summary: It is estimated that 50% of the world will be shortsighted (myopic) by 2050. Short term adverse effects of myopia include poorer outcomes of refractive surgery and greater reliance on refractive correction with the long term complications including vision loss due to myopic maculopathy and retinal detachment. Slowing myopia progression significantly reduces these complications. The most effective method of slowing the progression of myopia is the use of contact lenses in children as young as 6 years of age. A popular contact lens modality effective in slowing myopia is orthokeratology, where large reverse curve rigid contact lenses are worn overnight to reshape the corneal epithelium to neutralise the myopia during the day in a way that delivers light to the retina in such a way that it slows myopia. However, there have been worrying cases of a rare but severe form of corneal infection (microbial keratitis) in children wearing orthokeratology lenses, where 50% of cases result in permanent vision loss. In this project you will work with Ophthalmologists, Dr Brett Drury at Gold Coast Hospital, Dr Con Petsoglou at Sydney Eye Hospital, microbial keratitis epidemiologist, A/Prof Nicole Carnt and Dr Kathleen Watt, an orthokeratology and myopia expert to determine risk factors that are driving these cases of microbial keratitis in order to develop safer guidelines for myopia control. 

    Contact: Dr Nicole Carnt n.carnt@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Scientia A/Prof Nicole Carnt, Dr Flora Hui, Dr Simin Masoudi, A/Prof Andrew White

    Summary: Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the nerves connecting the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in industrialised nations and 50% remains undiagnosed. With the increased aging of the population in many countries, glaucoma is projected to be an increased global social and economic burden. Recent studies suggest that high dose vitamin supplementation may lower the risk of glaucoma and the progression of disease. Our group has developed a mass spectrometry method of analysis of low concentrations of vitamins in the tears. This study will investigate whether high dose vitamin supplementation can be measured in tears and whether this is reflected also in the blood to assess bioavailability. This research will assist in determining whether measurement of tear vitamins can be used as biomarkers in patients with glaucoma and assess the likelihood of progression to glaucoma. The results of this research might help with developing a device that can have a widespread clinical application in measuring the level of vitamins in tears and helps with preventive treatment before any permanent damage has caused irreversible visual loss.

    Contact: Dr Nicole Carnt n.carnt@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Prof Lisa Keay and Dr Sheela Kumaran (primary and at least one co-supervisor)

    Summary: Digital inclusion wears-off with age and drops to a significant low in those over 65 years of age (Australian Digital Inclusion Index =48). Compared to younger counterparts, older people face significant challenges accessing online government, health and business services, connecting socially and being safe online. These challenges are more prominent for people with vision impairments, impacting their mental wellbeing and overall quality of life. Using a mixed methods study design, employing surveys and qualitative research, this study will assess the digital skills and knowledge, confidence, social connectedness, loneliness, online safety concerns and barriers to digital inclusion of old people with vision impairments. This is an exciting opportunity for students interested in low vision and equity to understand the impacts of vision impairment (VI) beyond clinical implications.  The student will be part of a larger team working towards improving digital inclusion for older Australians with VI, including partners at Macquarie University.  Full scope research experience will be gained from ethics application, conduct data collection and analysis including NVivo qualitative software, survey tools such as REDCap/ Qualtrics and quantitative statistical packages (R, SPSS).

    Note this project includes a $5k stipend for the successful candidate

    Contact: Lisa Keay l.keay@unsw.edu.au  or Sheela Kumaran sheela.kumaran@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Michele Madigan and Ling Zhu

    Summary: The macular and peripheral regions of the choroid—the vascular layer nestled between the retina and the sclera—differ significantly in their structural and metabolic attributes. Specifically, the macular choroid is denser and thicker, reflecting its role in catering to the high metabolic demands of the macula, the central portion of the retina responsible for detailed vision. Conversely, the peripheral choroid is thinner and less vascular. These anatomical variations have far-reaching implications for retinal diseases like Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Central Serous Chorioretinopathy (CSC), where choroidal changes can be critical indicators of disease onset or progression. To delve deeper into these dynamics, we are thrilled to offer a one-year Honors project titled 'Exploring Glucose Metabolism in the Macular Choroid: A Quest for Novel Treatment Targets in Retinal Diseases.' The research will be conducted primarily at Sydney University in the Biomedical Building at Australia Technology Park (near Redfern Station).

    The project aims to investigate the glucose metabolism specific to the macular choroid, with the goal of uncovering novel avenues for treating retinal diseases. Participants will gain invaluable experience in cutting-edge metabolic analysis techniques, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of retinal pathophysiology and the development of targeted treatment options. No prior wet-lab experience is required, with support from a research team of hands-on laboratory supervisors, and experienced research assistants.

    Contact: Michele Madigan; m.madigan@unsw.edu.au or Ling Zhu; ling.zhu@sydney.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Fiona Stapleton, Judy Nam

    Summary: Dry eye is defined as a “multifactorial disease of the ocular surface characterized by a loss of homeostasis of the tear film, and accompanied by ocular symptoms, in which tear film instability and hyperosmolarity, ocular surface inflammation and damage, and neurosensory abnormalities play etiological roles” (TFOS, DEWSII). This implies that the diagnosis of dry eye is complex and requires a multi-faceted approach to assess the tear film using different diagnostic modalities. There is an established suite of commonly utilised diagnostic tests for dry eye that are considered the gold standard. However due to its limitations, there has been an advent of novel non-invasive ocular surface analysing techniques.

    This study will be examining the capacity of these non-invasive techniques in its ability to predict dry eye disease; by comparing the measurements of the tear film from these novel methods to gold-standard tests in healthy and dry eye subjects.

    Contact:  Fiona Stapleton f.stapleton@unsw.edu.au

  • Supervisors: Daisy Shu, Michele Madigan

    Summary: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, encompassing two primary forms: dry and wet AMD. Wet AMD, characterized by the formation of abnormal blood vessels in the retina/choroid (angiogenesis), poses a substantial challenge due to limited understanding of the underlying mechanisms. This project aims to unravel the intricate web of molecular factors involved in wet AMD, shedding light on the role of angiogenesis, fibrosis, and inflammation in driving AMD progression. To achieve this, primary human retinal endothelial cells have been treated with pathogenic cytokines known to be pivotal in AMD progression. Notably, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), the foremost angiogenic stimulus, will be compared to other key AMD cytokines including transforming growth factors (TGF-beta 1 and 2), which induce fibrosis as well as pro-inflammatory cytokines (tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6) to elucidate how inflammation impacts gene expression patterns.

    This project is inherently computational biology-oriented. Participants will receive training in cutting-edge data analysis techniques using R and coding, gaining proficiency in bioinformatics. Importantly, the experimental phase has concluded, with the samples already undergoing sequencing, laying the groundwork for comprehensive data analysis. There is also the opportunities for students to have hands-on wet lab training by testing key gene targets in the lab on the protein level using in vitro models. We seek enthusiastic Honours students with a passion for uncovering disease pathogenesis through the lens of computational biology. By delving into the transcriptomic landscape and dissecting gene expression patterns, we aim to advance our understanding of the intricate molecular processes underlying wet AMD. Ultimately, this research promises to contribute valuable insights that may inform future therapeutic strategies for this debilitating disease. Join us in this exciting journey to decode the mysteries of neovascular AMD pathogenesis.

    Contact: Dr. Daisy Shu daisy.shu@unsw.edu.au