News from our Early Career Researchers

Friday, 10 March, 2017 - 11:15

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We have a strong team of Early Career Researchers at the School. You may not often hear about them – below highlights what some of these academics have been doing over the past 12 months.

Dr Jackie Tan – Senior Research Fellow: Jackie is the Manager of our Eye Research Group – the clinical trials arm of the School. She has been busy with clinical trials over the past year, but also made the time to write – and be awarded (congratulations!) a Innovation Connections grant from the Australian Government. These grants are designed to connect industry to innovation infrastructure. Jackie’s grant (with Prof Fiona Stapleton) is in collaboration with Stiltec who manufacture and supply omega-3 containing products for the relief of dry-eye.

Dr Maria Markoulli – Senior Lecturer: Maria was promoted to Senior Lecturer. Maria obtained a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation travel grant. This travel grant supported Maria’s attendance at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology conference in Seattle (1-5 May 2016) where she presented her team’s work on the biochemical composition of the tear film in diabetes and how this relates to corneal neuropathy. Maria has a new PhD student, Shyam Sunder Tummanapalli, whose will add to this work by focusing on the effect of diabetes of the ocular surface and the tear film. Maria was also invited to attend the Tear Film and Ocular Surface (TFOS) Conference, held in Montpellier, France in September 2016, where she presented an update on aspects of the TFOS Contact Lens Discomfort workshop.

Dr Jran Ozkan – NHMRC Fellow: Jran (Jerome) was awarded a prestigious Peter Doherty Biomedical Fellowship from the NHMRC in 2016. His research aims to understand what constitutes the core and transient ocular microbiome (all the different types of microbes inhabiting the ocular surface), how microbial communities change over time and over the eye’s microhabitats (conjunctiva, lids margins, surface cells/crypts), the effect of pharmaceutical agents (including antibiotics) on its composition and how microbial communities change during disease development. He also published a paper from his previous research into the effects of multifocal contact lenses on short-term accommodative adaptation in myopes, which showed that multifocal contact lenses would maintain efficacy during wear as a method to potentially treat myopia progression.

Dr Alex Hui – Lecturer: Over the past year, Dr Hui was invited to contribute a review for the special issue of Optometry and Vision Science on “Revolutionary Uses of Contact Lenses”. The publication (Hui A, Willcox M. In vivo studies evaluating the use of contact lenses for drug delivery. Optom Vis Sci 2016;93:367-76.) examined the in vivo (animal and human) investigations into the use of contact lenses as a means to delivery drugs and manage ocular diseases, investigations and developments which continue to be investigated today. Alex also presented a poster at the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society biennial meeting in Montpellier, France on the alternative uses of cyclosporine A other than for dry eye disease. Dr Hui is completed during 2016 his first supervision of two 5th year research projects at the School – one examining the effect of fixation target for the repeatability and accuracy of retinoscopy measurements, and the second on the effects of ocular anaesthetics on the ocular surface on patients with diabetes.

Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith – Research Fellow: Lisa has had a very productive 2016. She was invited to speak at International Society of Eye Research conference in Tokyo in September 2016 as part of a special session on 'Plasticity of the Retina'. Here, she highlighted her recent work on changes which occur in the inner retina of mice and humans with Retinitis Pigmentosa which could have implications for vision restoration strategies like bionic eye implants. Lisa was also awarded two competitive travel grants during 2016, one from the CASS Foundation to attend ARVO 2016 and one from the Ian Potter Foundation to attend AAO 2016. Some of you may also know Lisa as the organiser of the first SOVS Research Information night. This was very successful with over 100 undergraduate students attending. Last but not least – Lisa became a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.

Dr Pauline Kang – Lecturer: Pauline has been awarded the prestigious 2016 American Optometric Foundation Jill and George Mertz Fellowship. As a part of this fellowship, Pauline is currently at the State University of New York, College of Optometry, collaborating Professor David Troilo and Dr Alexandra Benavente. Research through this fellowship will promote greater understanding of temporal integration of visual signals in visual development.