Sidra Sarwat

Sidra Sarwat

Postgraduate Research Student
School of Optometry and Vision Science


Sidra Sarwat

Research Title:

Bioimaging of tear film using silicon quantum dots


Dr Maitreyee Roy, Prof Fiona Stapleton, Prof Mark Willcox and Prof Richard Tilley

Email Address:



Dry eye disease (DED) is one of the most common ocular conditions worldwide and affects up to 50% of a population. DED causes several biochemical and biophysical changes in the tear film, but how these changes impact clinical signs and tear film stability are still unknown. As precorneal tear film has a significant role in DED, therefore any change in composition or properties of tear lipids are strongly related to DED. Hence, it is paramount to study dynamic interactions of tear film lipids at nanoscale.

Quantum dots (QDs) have been used for treating uveal melanoma, tracking uveal flow during treatment of glaucoma and better visualisation during vitrectomy. They are nano-meter size particles that emit discrete wavelengths of light due to quantum size effects with bright and stable fluorescence emission. Silicon quantum dots (Si-QDs) can be used as a biological marker to study the dynamics of tear film lipids due to their optimal fluorescence, biocompatibility and the ability to modify their surfaces.

The first phase of the project is to synthesise fluorescent Si-QDs doped with scandium (Sc). The initial surface chemistries will be used to probe hydrophilic and hydrophobic effects. Oligo (ethylene oxide) species will be used to create QDs which will give them a highly hydrophilic, almost hydrogel type layer, to explore the residence time of QDs in the tear film. Finally, phosphoryl choline groups will be added to make the QDs a phospholipid vesicle that can interact with the phospholipids in the tear film.

The second phase of the project is based on feasibility study of using Si-QDs for ophthalmic application. Si-QDs with varying surface chemistries; lipophilic or hydrophilic will be applied to rabbits’ eyes. Plotting the decay in the fluorescence signal will allow us to estimate the turn-over of the lipid layer of the tear film in comparison with the aqueous layer. Furthermore, this study will also allow us to directly examine the rabbits eye for any possible ocular and systematic toxic effects of the QDs.


Sidra Sarwat is an optometrist and received her Optometry and Orthoptics degree in 2014 from Rawalpindi Medical College, Pakistan. She has worked as an optometrist at Al-Shifa trust eye hospital Rawalpindi Pakistan for two years. She conducted a research project on "Prevalence of ring-shaped cataract among TNT exposed population of Pakistan" during her clinical experience. Her research interest has led her to pursue academic and professional career through getting higher degree. She successfully completed Master of Science from UNSW in 2019 with good academic record. Currently, she is a PhD candidate and working on the dynamics of tear film lipids using fluorescence of QDs.


  • Bachelor of Optometry & Orthoptics (2014), Rawalpindi Medical College, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
  • Master of Science by Research (2019), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia


  1. Sidra Sarwat, Fiona Stapleton, Mark Willcox and Maitreyee Roy. Quantum dots in Ophthalmology: A literature review. Current Eye Research. June 2019 (Published as invited review).
  1. Sidra Sarwat, Maitreyee Roy, Peter O’Mara, Richard Tilley, Justin Gooding, Mark Willcox and Fiona Stapleton. Feasibility of silicon quantum dots to study the dynamics of the tera film lipids. Investigative Ophthalmology & Vision Science. Peer reviewed E Abstract, 2019.
  2. Sidra Sarwat, Fiona Stapleton; Mark Willcox; Maitreyee Roy; Peter O'Mara; Richard Tilley; Justin Gooding. Optimisation of Zinc Dopped Silicon Quantum Dots to Image Artificial Tears. Optometry and Vision Science. Peer reviewed E abstract, 2019.
  1. Maitreyee Roy,Sidra Sarwat, Peter O’Mara, Richard Tilley, Justin Gooding, Mark Willcox and Fiona Stapleton. Imaging of Tear Film Lipids Using Quantum Dots. Computational Optical Sensing and Imaging. Peer reviewed E Abstract, 2018.
  1. Sidra Sarwat, Peter O’Mara, Mazin Almaimani, Richard Tilley, Justin Gooding, Mark Willcox, and Fiona Stapletonand Maitreyee Roy. Imaging of tear film lipids using quantum dots. Optometry and Vision Science. Peer reviewed E abstract, 2018.
  2. Sidra Sarwat, Fiona Stapleton, Mark Willcox, Peter B O’Mara, Richard D Tilley, J. Justin Gooding and Maitreyee Roy. Evaluation of optically tailored fluorescent silicon quantum dots for bioimaging of the tear film. 2021 (Submitted to Journal of nanoparticle Research)
  3. Sidra Sarwat, Ambreen Akhtar, Syeda Fizza Abdud Dayan, Najma Shaheen, Humna Shahid Durrani, Tariq Usman, Tayyab Afghani. Ring Shaped Cataract and Urinary Metabolites Among 2,4,6-trinitrotoulene Exposed Population of Pakistan. 2021 (Submitted to International Ophthalmology).
  4. Sidra Sarwat. Prevalence of exophoria among convergence insufficiency patients. International journal of Science: Basic and applied sciences. Vol 36, No 3 (2017).

Academic and research awards

  • Dorothy Carlborg CCLSA Research Award from Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia (2021).
  • Joe and Janet Barr Early Career Cornea and Contact Lens Research Award American Academy of Optometry (2020)
  • Outstanding Research Student UNSW, Sydney, Australia (2020)
  • HDR Mentor UNSW, Sydney, Australia (2021-2022)
  • University International Postgraduate Award UNSW, Sydney, Australia (2019)
  • Science Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award UNSW, Australia (2019)
  • Student Travel Fellowship, American Academy of Optometry (2018)
  • International Student Travel Fellowship UNSW, Sydney, Australia (2018)
  • Domestic Student Travel Fellowship UNSW, Sydney, Australia (2018)
  • Teaching Fellowship Award, UNSW, Sydney, Australia (2017-2019)


  • International conference of nanomedicine, Sydney, Australia (2018)
  • American Academy of optometry, Annual meeting, San Antonio, USA (2018)
  • Optical Society of America, Imaging and Applied Optics Congress, Orlando, USA (2018)
  • 19th International Microscopy Congress, Sydney, Australia (2018)
  • 15th conference on Optics Within Life Sciences, Rottnest Island, Western Australia (2018)
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Vancouver, Canada (2019)
  • International conference of Nanomedicine, Sydney, Australia (2018)

Affiliations and memberships

  • Society of Optometrists, Orthoptists and Ophthalmic Technologists of Pakistan (SOOOP) (2016 to date)
  • American Academy of Optometry (2018 to date)
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (2019 to date)
  • Cornea & Contact Lens Society of Australia (2019 to date)