Head of School Update

Happy new year to you and your families!

2021 commenced with the excitement of the move of our School from the Faculty of Science to the Faculty of Medicine and Health.  This brought new opportunities for us as a School, and we have embraced the move and have fully immersed ourselves within our new Faculty.  Our staff have represented us on various implementation committees contributing to the new Health25 Strategy, advocating for our School with the student experience at front of mind.

After coming out of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we were hopeful of a return to semi-normality for 2021.  We managed to do this for a few months and were fortunate enough to have our annual graduation dinner with our class of 2020 students in May 2021.  Here we recognised our high performing students throughout their years at UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science.  The dinner was attended by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health, key stakeholders and prize donors.  A fun night for all.


However, following the arrival of the Delta variant into NSW, we went into a forced lockdown in June 2021. This brought some challenges as we moved back to online teaching.  Our staff took to the challenge for the second year running and I commend them for their dedication and commitment in delivering educational content in innovative ways.  Their sustained efforts were acknowledged by students in the recent MyExperience survey where the School ranked highly for the delivery and overall satisfaction of course content for 2021. Special mention to our Director of Learning and Teaching, Dr Pauline Kang for her leadership and coordination during a difficult 2021.

During lockdown, we continued some clinical educational activities for final year students based on a careful balance of the benefits for face-to-face learning against the risks.  The UNSW Optometry Clinic was open throughout this period at reduced capacity for time-sensitive care only with limited student involvement and following strict risk management protocols.  We are grateful to our UNSW Optometry Clinic Director Dr Kathleen Watt and the team for making this work.  Ms Michelle Bonanno, our Clinical Placements Coordinator was recognised at a Faculty and School level for her exemplary efforts in 2021.  Partnerships with the Centre for Eye Health and the many other placement hosts are highly valued, and we sincerely thank you all for your continued support throughout 2021.  We couldn’t have done it without you!

This year our academics had their research projects impacted once again.  Some of our clinical trials came to a stand-still and research timelines were delayed.  However, some departments within the School were able to work on COVID-19 related collaborative projects contributing to the public health effort at large.  Despite the reduction in research activities, our academics put focus into their grant applications and were duly rewarded with a staggering $4.01M in research funds in 2021. 

Publications for 2021 increased to over 328 at last count, an outstanding effort from staff, higher degree research students and our visiting academics who contributed to our publications output.

Some of our top highlights for 2021 included:

  • Fiona Stapleton (ranked #2), Mark Willcox (ranked #5) as the top contact lens experts in the world
  • Konrad Pesudovs named as the top research optometrist in the global rankings with H index of 69
  • UNSW SOVS named the top institution in the world for contact lens research
  • UNSW SOVS ranked as the 2nd top institution worldwide for Optometry research
  • A successful first year intake for our new Graduate Diploma in Orientation and Mobility

Our higher degree students, particularly those who were stuck overseas, had to adapt their projects due to ongoing disruptions associated with the pandemic.  Their resilience and commitment to supporting each other during these trying times is to be commended.  Regular check ins with students were held by supervisors and by some of our students who were trained as mental health first aiders late 2020.  We were delighted to hear the news that 55 UNSW international students had arrived early December and the hope for many more students, including ours to return to Sydney for the commencement of Term 1, 2022.

We welcomed a number of new faces to SOVS in 2021. Our UNSW Optometry Clinic team grew with part-time Staff Optometrists: Lisa Feng, Regine Chapman-Davies, Nathan Ho, Elena Carrabs and Eihab Eltantawy commencing.  We also welcomed Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Mahjabeen Khan following the completion of her PhD.  We are delighted to have Dr Revathy Mani appointed as an Education Focussed Lecturer and welcomed several part-time Education Focussed Associate Lecturers: Dinesh Kaphle, Praveen Bandala, Parthu Kalaiselvan, Ingrid Jiminez-Barbosa, Suki Jaiswal, Nina Tahhan and Fatima Iqbal.  Associate Professor Ann Webber joined part time in 2021 to develop our program of research in paediatric collaborative care.

During 2021 we farewelled a number of colleagues: Belinda Ford, Angelica Ly, Rajini Peguda, and Jaya Sowjanya Siddireddy.  We also had two of our longstanding employees retire: Eric Papas and Barbara Junghans.  We wish them all the best on their adventures ahead.

Professor Konrad Pesudovs was recognised with an American Academy of Optometry Foundation Glenn Fry Award and Lecture. This award recognises a distinguished scientist or clinician for their research contributions.

Our staff were also celebrated within UNSW including Associate Professor Juno Kim who was awarded an ARC and Postgraduate Council Course Coordinator of the Year Award for his mentorship and for inspiring and motivating students on their higher degree journey.  Associate Professor Nicole Carnt, Emeritus Professor Eric Papas, Associate Professors Isabelle Jalbert, Juno Kim and Blanka Golebiowski were also acknowledged with Postgraduate Supervisor Awards.

PG supervisor awards

Associate Professor Maria Markoulli received an UNSW 2021 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Leadership.  Dr Vinod Maseedupally has had a stellar year and received an UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (General) category.  This award recognises individuals for their sustained, outstanding contribution to the quality of student learning in a specific area of responsibility.  He was also recently recognised by the Faculty of Medicine and Health through its staff awards for Teaching Excellence.  Michelle Bonanno received an Award for Excellence in Student Support Services for 2021. Michelle has worked tirelessly in organising placements during a challenge year with student safety and wellbeing a priority.  Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith was awarded a Value in Action Award for Diversity.  During 2021 Lisa developed, promoted and led initiatives and advocated for early career researchers, particularly women and carers of young children.

Finally, I thank our visiting academics who have contributed to the school in many ways this year.  I also would like to acknowledge our Visiting Committee who have been extremely supportive this year as well as our placement hosts, clinic supervisors, donors and sponsors. 

We are fortunate to have a stellar team and a collegiate culture at the School.   We have supported each other throughout 2021 and I’m looking forward to a revival and substantive return to campus (hopefully) in 2022.

Professor Lisa Keay

Head of School

Previous Head of School Updates



Happy new year to all our alumni!

We started 2020, in the grips of the bushfire disaster followed by the global COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a challenging year to say the least and I thank you for your unwavering support during 2020. 

I am hoping that 2021 can be a year of recovery and opportunity and I am delighted to announce that effective from 1 January 2021 the School has officially moved to the Faculty of Medicine and Health, UNSW Sydney.  This transfer was a recommendation of UNSW’s Taskforce 20/21+ Faculties Working Group and arose in large part because of the redesign of the Faculty of Medicine to the Faculty of Medicine and Health. “Health” has been added to the Faculty of Medicine to broaden the scope of the Faculty with the ultimate goal of improving health.  Eye health is a crucial part of that strategy. While it will be sad to move on from the Faculty of Science, it represents an exciting opportunity for the School.  We thank the Faculty of Science for their support and despite moving on, we will still be connected with our colleagues in Science through interdisciplinary collaborations.

At the start of 2020 we held our annual offsite retreat where we took two days out of the office to look at our teaching, research and strategic plan for the School.  We proudly came away from the retreat with a revised strategic plan and have put many of those actions into play despite the challenging year.  We also formulated our new mission statement which we think encompasses everything that we embody as a School –

Advancing vision and eye health in society through world-class, innovative, multi-disciplinary education and research’.

Team Photo Retreat

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another.  In what was an unprecedented year, I would like to thank our dedicated staff for coming together and working to create an outstanding online learning experience for all our students in such a short space of time, and to our researchers who overcame obstacles to still produce some outstanding pieces of research.

Our teaching staff developed new and innovative ways of teaching our students the content that they are normally taught in practicals, tutorials, or on the floor of our UNSW Optometry Clinic.  I would like to thank them and our professional and technical staff who supported our team from home.

From March to June 2020, our Lecturers swapped their work clothes for sweatpants and uggs, rolled up their sleeves and got to work recording lectures and adopting new methods of delivering them on either Zoom, Blackboard collaborate, Microsoft teams or Moodle for all years of the Bachelor of Vision Science, Master of Clinical Optometry and Postgraduate Coursework programs.  

Our final year students, that would have normally been in our UNSW Optometry Clinic, on preceptorship, or on placements were learning with online grand rounds, virtual clinics, and tutorials and telehealth consultations.   This was the new norm, as was PPE, hand sanitiser and social distancing.

In June 2020 we were given permission to have our Stage 5 students come back to campus to complete their face-to-face clinical training. A new clinic model was designed to minimise face to face time in the clinic and ensure maximum efficiency with reduced capacity.  To this end, I thank our clinic staff for rallying together to make the clinic COVID-19 safe under the direction of Dr Dale Larden, our Laboratory Manager and WHS Chair.  Dale worked tirelessly on putting together the COVID-19 policies and procedures for the Clinic and subsequent implementation across the entire School.  He worked with Faculty/UNSW to ensure that the School and our students were operating in a compliant and safe environment, all while adhering to NSW Health, Optometry Association and UNSW directives. 

Surprisingly, given the disruptions of the year, our clinic only had a small reduction in face-to-face consultations in comparison to our 2019 numbers. We are also proud to report that the telehealth consultation feedback was overwhelmingly positive from our patients! 

During the lockdown, our early career Optometrists, under leadership of Dr Jack Phu and Ms Henrietta Wang, held additional sessions with virtual case studies to supplement University learning.  When Optometry businesses in NSW resumed in the ‘new normal’, many Alumni created additional placement opportunities for our students in their practices to minimise the impacts of cancelled interstate and international opportunities. 

Our Stage 2-4 students returned to the pre-clinic lab in August 2020 and our Stage 4 students were happy to commence working in our clinic and seeing patients by the end of Term 3, 2020.  Our research dependent staff and PhD students gradually returned to campus in the second half of 2020.   

I thank all our postgraduate coursework and higher degree research students who were resilient and who stuck together during 2020.  The campus shutdown made this a particularly trying time for our higher degree research students who rely on laboratory and clinical facilities for their research. This shutdown also affected our academic researchers who had their clinical trials and research interrupted by the pandemic. 

We have been trying to do our very best with supporting everyone, both staff and students.  Regular check in Zoom calls were held to see how everyone was coping with working and studying from home.  

Zoom Check In Calls

With event organisers embracing the virtual world, we moved from face-to-face to online conferences for all continuing professional development (CPD). 

Fingers crossed that we will be able to return to more substantial campus activities this year.

During the first half of 2020 we added some new faces to our School of Optometry and Vision Science family.  We welcomed Optometrists Tianni Jia, Adjunct Associate Professor Anthony Chapman-Davies, Dr Rajini Peguda and Emilie Ross. Konrad Pesudovs joined our team as a SHARP Professor.  We also took on postdoctoral research fellows: Drs Jessie Huang-Lung, Muhammad Yasir, Shyam Tummanapalli, Parthu Kalaselvian, Rajesh Kuppusamy and Sheela Kumaran highlighting the strengths of our research program. 

Anthony and Emilie join the optom clinic

We farewelled a number of people also during the year, Emeritus Professor Helen Swarbrick, Dr Lisa Asper, Dr Mei Boon, Anna Delmadoros, Kay Dulhunty, Nicole Harris and Fi Anderson. We thank them for their service to the School over the years and wish them all the best for the future.

We were successful with many awards. Dr Lisa Nivison- Smith from the Centre for Eye Health was awarded a prestigious UNSW Scientia Fellowship to support her research.  Clinic Supervisor Dr William Trinh was awarded an OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours; Professor Konrad Pesudovs was the 2020 recipient of the HB Collin Medal from Optometry Australia; Dr Jack Phu was the first Australian to receive the AAO Foundation Beta Sigma Kappa Research Fellowship;  Professor Mark Willcox received the prestigious Donald R. Korb Research Excellence Award from the American Optometric Association Contact Lens and Cornea Section and Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton was named as one of the top 250 researchers in Australia. She was recognised as the research leader in the field of Ophthalmology and Optometry.  

William Trinh

2020 saw some fantastic grant wins for our researchers which made it our most successful year on record totalling over $6M in grant money.  Most notable were grants secured by Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton and Professor Michael Kalloniatis with support from Michael Yapp, Dr Angelica Ly, Dr Jack Phu, Paula Katalinic, Pauline Xu from CFEH, Dr Maitreyee Roy, and Associate Professor Juno Kim from the School of Optometry and Professor Arcot Sowmya from the School of Computer Science. They were awarded a Cooperative Research Centre Project Grant with university and external organisations. Professor Mark Willcox and Professor Michael Kalloniatis also had success with their 2019 NHMRC Idea Grants (commencing in 2020), with Professor Willcox having his grant ranked as the highest nationally for this round.  Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith also had success with a NHMRC Investigator Grant which commenced in 2020 and Dr Nicole Carnt received a Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation Grant. The UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science has joined a consortium funded by the Australian Federal Department of Health to conduct the second National Eye Health Survey led by Westmead Institute, together with the Brien Holden Foundation and The George Institute for Global Health.  We rounded off the year with Associate Professor Juno Kim and colleagues from the University of Wollongong being successful with an ARC Discovery Project Grant and a NHRMC Ideas Grant for myself and Associate Professor Julie Brown from The George Institute for Global Health.    

We had an increase in our science communication and outreach activities during 2020 and one of the most popular pieces was from Scientia Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the School, Dr Nicole Carnt’s article on The Conversation: “How to keep your contact lenses clean (and what can go wrong if you don’t)” and has been accessed over 29,600 times.

Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert with Associate Professor Katrina Schmidt from Queensland University of Technology published in The Conversation about the impact of bushfire smoke on your eyes with evidence-based recommendations for short- and long-term risks.

Professor Mark Willcox and overseas colleagues also received accolades for their publications relating to the COVID-19 pandemic from the American Public Health Association.  These two papers generated over 6,000 media stories: “The ocular surface, coronaviruses” and “COVID-19 and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Important Considerations for Contact Lens Practitioners.

During the pandemic, researcher’s Dr Nayuta Yoshioka, Associate Professor Juno Kim and Research Assistant Jason Feng also had media attention for their video showing hand washing effectiveness with augmented reality.

Handwashing steps

We were delighted this year to form some partnerships both nationally and internationally.  Of note was a partnership with Uka Tarsadia University in India for drug delivery through contact lenses and an educational partnership with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for a Graduate Diploma in Orientation and Mobility.  Mid-year, we were fortunate to secure funding through the Government’s Higher Degree Relief Package for a new Graduate Certificate in Optometry designed for Australian optometrists to extend their skills in myopia control, public health, ocular therapeutics, and advanced diseases.  This course was offered at a substantially reduced cost which contributed to its high enrolment levels.  We have been allocated Commonwealth Supported Places for these programs in 2021 which further supports professional development activities in Optometry and Vision Science.

I would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Honorary Professor Charles McMonnies who has stepped down from his role as Chair of our Visiting Committee.  Charles has chaired this Committee since its inception and we truly thank him for his leadership and guidance.

This year our School of Optometry and Vision Science Visiting Committee also met, albeit virtually, and we are grateful for their continued support.  Two outcomes of this meeting for 2021 will be a focus on supporting the Rural Optometry Workforce and supporting Work Integrated Learning for the Bachelor of Vision Science.  We have formed sub-committees to work solely on these important projects for the School under the leadership of our new Committee Chair, Adjunct Associate Professor Craig Stamp.  The School of Optometry and Vision Science also became a founding partner in the Leaders in Indigenous Optometry Education Network in partnership with all Schools of Optometry and Vision Science across Australia and New Zealand.

I would also like to thank our placement hosts, clinic supervisors, donors, sponsors, visiting academics and key stakeholders for all your overwhelming and continued support of our students, staff and School.

I wish everyone a safe and joyful 2021.

Professor Lisa Keay,

Head of School



I’m delighted to be writing my first Alumni newsletter for the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science. It’s hard to believe that my first year in this role is fast approaching! 

It’s been an extremely busy year at the School. Most notable was the move to the trimester model at UNSW Sydney. This has been a big change for both staff and students and I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of our staff for their dedication and hard work and to the students for their patience.

This year the School also went through a major accreditation review by the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ) for our BVisSci/MClinOptom program. This review is held every eight years and looks at all facets of our program. The School of Optometry and Vision Science produced a comprehensive report on our program prior to the panel attending in person from 9-11 September 2019 to interview staff, students, employers, alumni and key stakeholders. Thank you to all involved and in particular Kerrie Ren and Nina Tahhan who championed this project.  

During 2019 we have recruited new staff, particularly in research, reflecting strong growth in this important area.  In 2019 we have welcomed three new postdoctoral fellows: Dr Rajini Peguda, Dr Lisa Dillon and Dr Minh Phan. We also had two new research assistants commence at the School – Ms Helen Nguyen and Ms Kerrie Ren. UNSW Optometry Clinic have also had two new hires: Ms Katariina Pakarinen (Receptionist/Dispenser) and Ms Dominique Smstjr (Receptionist). 

Kerrie Ren Lisa Dillon Kat Pakarinen & Helen Nguyen

Our congratulations to our staff who were recognised with a number of awards throughout the year.  Internationally and nationally we had seen staff receive awards including Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton who was earlier this year awarded the H Barry Collin Medal for outstanding research from Optometry Australia.  Emeritus Professor Stephen Dain also received the Lederer Award from Optometry Australia at the same meeting. During 2019 Fiona was awarded a Life Fellowship of the British College of Optometrists and was the inaugural winner of the E Geoff Woodward Memorial Award from the UK Hospital Optometrists Association.  We also congratulate Dr Nicole Carnt the recipient of the British Contact Lens Association Irving Fatt Memorial Lecture. Associate Professor Barbara Junghans was also recognised at the American Academy of Optometry Conference (AAO) held in Florida in October for reaching her 25 years as a Fellow of the AAO.  Well done Barbara!

Cheryl Donnelly and Dr Nicole Carnt

Our grant success in the major Australian Federal government funding agencies has been outstanding this year. Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith was awarded an National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant early 2019 to look at understanding inner retinal remodelling to improve clinical outcomes for patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Professor Mark Willcox has just been awarded a NHMRC Ideas Grant for Tackling Hospital Acquired Infections with Peptide Mimics and Professor Michael Kalloniatis from the Centre for Eye Health was also successful in the same round for Predicting visual function from structural data in health and ocular disease.

We had six promotions this year including Drs Blanka Golebiowksi and Sieu Khuu who were promoted to Associate Professor effective 1 January 2020. Dr Barbara Zangerl was promoted to Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jerome Ozkan to Research Fellow and Lily Ho and Katherine Wong promoted to Principal Optometrist and Senior Research Optometrist respectively in 2019. We also congratulate Vanessa Honson who has accepted an Education Focussed Lecturer role within the School.

At a University level this year Dr Maria Markoulli Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, Dr Nicole Carnt and Dr Sharon Oberstein were recognised with awards.  Maria received an UNSW ARC Postgraduate Supervisor Award. Lisa, Nicole and Sharon were part of the winning Maths and Science Champions Team who won an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Vice-Chancellors Award and last week Lisa also received a Faculty of Science Excellence in Communication Impact Award.

The School of Optometry and Vision Science has been ranked as the top international institution for contact lens research based on the number of publications published.  Professor Mark Willox and Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton are ranked as the number two and three contact lens researchers in the world.  There are also a number of other School staff and visiting staff who are named in the top 70 contact lens researchers worldwide highlighting our substantial contribution to this field.

Another highlight for the School during 2019 has been that our recommendations on contact lens storage case cleaning have been adopted into the guidelines for the Centre for Disease Control in the U.S.

In our UNSW Optometry Clinic we managed to see nearly 5000 patients. Our Dry Eye Clinic which was re-launched during 2018 after a successful social media campaign increased its patients throughput by 407%. Our successful Myopia Clinic doubled the number of patients seen during 2019. We welcomed 469 children at our Vision Education Centre during 2019, having seen over 18,000 since it was established over 25 years ago and saw 1385 children at Stewart House where we have our students attend placements.

Our graduate certificate in Myopia Management which has comprehensive theoretical and practical content was launched in 2019.  The certificate has flexible on-line delivery, lectures by leading Australian and international speakers and placements at the UNSW Optometry clinic. 

If you are an alumnus who is thinking about undertaking a postgraduate coursework, graduate certificate or a research degree, please check out our website for more information.

This year I was delighted to participate in the India/UNSW Roadshow where we showcased our programs within the Faculty of Science. I travelled to Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi to promote our postgraduate coursework and research degrees here at the School of Optometry and Vision Science. It was also a fantastic opportunity to visit LV Prasad Eye Institute and Elite School of Optometry.  Our postgraduate degrees are well sought after and highly regarded by our overseas students. We have a wide variety of projects available and internationally recognised and awarded supervisors.

India UNSW Roadshow

In February of 2019 we held an opening for our new space that was mentioned in our previous newsletter. This new space has been a welcome addition to the School and our students are enjoying the newly refurbished teaching space. Key stakeholders, members of the profession and invited guests were in attendance for the official opening.

Opening of New Wing at SOVS

This year I also met with the School of Optometry and Vision Science’s Visiting Committee. This Committee acts as a technical advisory board and meets annually to review School activities and provide advice to the Head of School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW Sydney. The Committee serves as a valuable source of independent advice with regards to strategy and external relations; how best to meet challenges and respond to opportunities. Thank you to all of our representatives who volunteer their time to sit on this Committee.  We are grateful for your advice and continued support of our School, staff and students. 

SOVS Visiting Committee

During 2019 we held a recognition of service celebration for Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton. At this celebration we also unveiled the Head of School portrait which is a tradition, where all outgoing Heads of School have their portrait hung in the UNSW Optometry Clinic. Fiona was the UNSW Head of School, Optometry and Vision Science from 2007-2019. Fiona currently is a Scientia Professor within the School and has a Faculty position as the Associate Dean of Enterprise. I thank Fiona for her guidance and support whilst I have transitioned into the Head of School role this year.

Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton and Professor Lisa Keay

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the staff and students for their assistance during the first year of my tenure. My thanks also to our visiting academics, key stakeholders and clinical supervisors for their contributions to the School during 2019.

Professor Lisa Keay
Head of School, UNSW Optometry and Vision Science
December 2019



As I sit down to write this foreword, I realise that this is the last alumni newsletter update that  I will write as Head of School.

Lisa Keay

I step down as Head of School in February 2019 and will return to the School as a Scientia Professor and as Associate Dean (Enterprise) in the Faculty of Science. I am delighted to announce the new UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science Head of School is Professor Lisa Keay. Lisa (pictured left) has had a long-standing affiliation with UNSW, firstly graduating in Optometry, working at the Institute for Eye Research and Cooperative Research Centre for Eye Research at UNSW, completing her PhD at UNSW, and most recently as a research collaborator and visiting academic.  Lisa completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and comes to us from The George Institute for Global Health.  She is the Deputy Director of the Injury Division and Head of the Eye Health Program at The George Institute. She has a wealth of experience in health systems research and will bring enormous strength to the School in this area. 

Over the past twelve years of my tenure, the School has worked hard to deliver new education programs including a postgraduate entry degree in Optometry, Graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics, Bachelor of Vision Science, Doctor of Clinical Research in Optometry, Masters in Community Eye Health and this year, a Graduate Certificate in Myopia Management. We have revised and refreshed our coursework Masters program with the introduction of many new courses with blended and online teaching and there are almost 60 PhD students enrolled through the School. Across all our programs we have almost 600 students. This would not have been possible without a committed and collegial team of staff at the School, a hard-working executive and supportive visiting staff, mentors, placement providers, visiting committee, Faculty, and our external partners. We have focussed on recruiting and retaining outstanding staff including developing staff to fulfill their potential and fostering a research culture to deliver international recognition for UNSW in an area of research strength. UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science is now ranked within the top five schools in the discipline for research output internationally which is a remarkable accolade and testament to the quality of the research at the School. Ten academic staff received national and international awards recognising their contributions to innovative education and research excellence in 2018 alone. I congratulate and thank all on assisting with these efforts over the years and it has been my absolute privilege to work with such talented people.

Mini Scleral Lens

While I seem to acknowledge this every year, 2018 has proven to be another busy year at the School as we move towards 2019 to the trimester model and we transition between our two optometry programs, the Bachelor of Science Bachelor of Optometry and the Bachelor of Vision Science, Master of Clinical Optometry, which is being taught in parallel.  Staff have been working extraordinarily hard in re-organising their courses from 12 weeks to fit into the 3x10-week model and to cope with double teaching.  I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of Dr. Pauline Kang and Dr. Edward Lum who have so ably assisted with this process.

In 2019 we commence teaching the Graduate Certificate in Myopia Management, which is the world’s first university accredited program. It is designed to provide advanced knowledge and clinical experience necessary for registered optometrists to prescribe evidence-based treatment for the management of myopia.  Overseas optometrists can also take part in this program by undertaking individual myopia courses offered through the Masters of Optometry program.  If you would like to find out more, please keep reading here, you still have time to enrol!

We welcomed several new staff to the School last year including  Professor Eric Papas who is leading the development of research capacity in the measurement of visual quality and dynamic vision. He will also assist in developing and mentoring our talented Early Career Researchers and will support our clinical trials at the Eye Research Group at the School. 



Dr. Edward Lum re-joined the team last year from his postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Waterloo and has been helping the School with converting our programs to trimesters.   Dr Nayuta Yoshioka (pictured left) recently completed his PhD and has joined the School as a Lecturer and will be teaching in both our undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the areas of myopia and vision science.

We welcome Amanda Lea, who is a UNSW alumnus. She joins the UNSW Optometry Clinic as a staff optometrist in pediatrics and binocular vision. Sowjanya Siddreddy has also joined the Eye Research Group

Our congratulations to our many staff who were nominated and successful for a number of awards for 2018. University-wide awards were received by  Dr. Blanka Golebiowski and Professor Eric Papas, both awarded Vice Chancellors Awards for Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervision and Dr. Alex Hui for Educational Excellence. Dr. Juno Kim was recognised as one of the top five lecturers for first-year student teaching across the University. Faculty awards were received by Associate Professor Isabelle Jalbert for Innovation in Teaching, Dr. Alex Hui for Excellence in Teaching, Dr. Nicole Carnt for Knowledge Exchange and Dr. Jack Phu for Research Excellence at an early career stage (pictured right).

fos Awardees

Externally, Mark Willcox was awarded the 2017 H B Collin Medal; I was awarded the Glenn A. Fry Award from the American Academy of Optometry and  Professor Helen Swarbrick (pictured left) was awarded the Max Shapero Memorial Lecture Award from the Cornea and Contact Lens Section of the American Academy of Optometry. I also received the Donald Korb Award for Excellence awarded by the American Optometric Foundation and the H B Collin Medal for Research in Australia in 2018.

We were delighted that Dr. Ashik Mohamed was awarded the UNSW Young Alumni of the Year in 2018 (pictured below with the Dean of Science, Professor Emma Johnston). Ashik completed his PhD at the School in 2017 and is currently the Head of the Biophysics at the L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI).

Emma and Ashik

Several academic staff were promoted in 2018.   My congratulations to  Dr. Ajay Vijay Kumar, promoted to Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Dr. Vinod Maseedupally to Lecturer, Drs Nicole Carnt and  Alex Hui promoted to Senior Lecturer and Drs Simin Masoudi and  Debarun Dutta to Senior Research Associate.  Dr. Sharon Oberstein was appointed as Education Focussed Lecturer and Deputy Clinic Director and Dr. Kath Watt (also awarded her PhD in 2018) was appointed as an Education Focussed Senior Lecturer in addition to her Clinic Director role.  Isabelle Jalbert was also promoted to Associate Professor and was appointed to the Faculty of Science as Associate Dean, International, and Engagement and I was promoted to Scientia Professor and have taken up a role as the Associate Dean, Enterprise in the Faculty of Science.

In early 2019, we finally move into our space on Level 3 of the Rupert Myers Building, where we have new research laboratory space, state-of-the-art active learning space, new optics teaching, and research laboratory and dispensing laboratory, plus much needed shared office spaces. Level 2 and the west section of Level 3 have been refurbished to extend our preclinical laboratory, expand the psychophysics laboratory, expand our higher degree student space and clinical trials area. The space project has been a long time in the making but we are excited that this has now come to fruition. This will deliver a huge improvement in our teaching and research facilities and will allow us to deliver on many of our planned strategic initiatives in education and research excellence. We owe a huge debt of thanks to our Laboratory Manager, Dr. Dale Larden for his expert management of this project.


Last year we also relaunched our  Dry Eye Clinic. At UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science, we have world-class researchers working in basic and translational research in dry eye. We were fortunate last year to have been successful in obtaining funding for a new suite of dry eye diagnostic and management equipment, which will allow us to offer evidence-based management to our own patients and those referred by our colleagues, to better train student optometrists and to remain at the forefront of research in this area. For more information please view the Dry Eye Clinic page.

Finally, I would like to again acknowledge the support of my staff, colleagues, visiting staff, visiting committee, stakeholders and friends for their kind support over the past 12 years.  



Wow, didn't 2017 fly by! 

I am proud to be writing the foreword for this alumni newsletter as 2017 was an amazing year in education, research and social engagement. I sincerely thank each and every one of our staff for their outstanding contribution to the School and UNSW Sydney. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of our Clinic Supervisors, Visiting Committee and Visiting Academic staff for their continued support.


offsite photo

[Pictured above, School staff at a retreat in Coogee Beach]

We started off the year with staff retreat, held in February 2017 where reviewed our own strategic plan against the UNSW 2025 Strategy and set our plans and intentions for 2017. 

As an outcome from the Retreat, we have been working hard to implement new activities and initiatives throughout the School. Some of these achievements are highlighted in our 2017 Almanac.  One achievement that we are we very pleased to announce is opening of the Asylum Seeker Eye Clinic based in Newtown, Sydney. Ms Kathleen Watt and Dr Blanka Golebiowski from the School along with Layal Naji and Homma Ebrahimi, previous Optometry graduates of SOVS were involved in this important project.  Please take some time to read Layal’s editorial about her experience in this newsletter.

We commenced a new optometry programme last year, a five year Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Clinical Optometry and a three year Bachelor of Vision Science degree with the opportunity of honours study. UNSW Sydney moves to a trimester system in 2019 and last year involved much planning in the new programme but also how this will change in 2019 onwards. We are in a period of transition in our teaching and I particularly want to acknowledge the efforts of Dr Lisa Asper as Director of Teaching and Dr Sieu Khuu, Deputy Head of School in this process.

Research at the School last year went from strength to strength and we were excited to be in the top five institutions internationally for citations and reach of our publications. Three of our academic staff were named within the top 25 authors based on the number of published manuscripts in Optometry and Vision Science over the past 25 years.  Professor Mark Willcox has been successful in gaining an ARC grant for investigating the synthesis of novel glyoxylamide antimicrobial peptide mimics that have the capacity to disrupt bacterial membranes. Dr Simin Masoudi, Dr Maitreyee Roy and Dr Debarun Dutta were lucky enough to be chosen to represent the School and UNSW at the UNSW Research Roadshow in Indonesia and India respectively. We secured four new industry partnerships to conduct clinical trials and research and added new research equipment to the School through successful grants from the Faculty of Science at UNSW Sydney.    

indonesia roadshow

[Pictured above, international roadshow events]

Last year we welcomed Dr Nicole Carnt to the SOVS team as a Scientia Fellow. Nicole brings great skills and expertise in ocular surface and genetics and she will be a fabulous addition to the anterior eye research groups in the School. Dr Vinod Maseedupally and Dr Patricia Arthur were appointed as Education Focussed Academics who will be working to expand and enhance student experience. Dr Preeji Mandathara joined us as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and will be working with the Eye Research Group to assist with the industry clinical trials. Dr Sailesh Kolanu joins us as an Associate Lecturer to support teaching in visual optics, geometric optics, clinical optics and low vision.

Dr Blanka Golebiowski stepped down as Postgraduate Director to take up the role as Postgraduate Coursework Coordinator. We thank Blanka for her wonderful service to the School and to so many postgraduate students in this role for the past 10 years and warmly welcome Dr Maria Markoulli who has taken the reins.

We farewelled Helen O’Shea from our School administration team. Helen had been with us for a number of years at the School and will be sadly missed. We also farewelled Rosemary Paynter, a long serving member of the Clinic staff team. We thank Rosemary for her contribution to paediatric and binocular vision teaching for the past 30 years.

I am thrilled to announce that Dr Isabelle Jalbert was promoted to Associate Professor, Dr Ajay Vijay Kumar to Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Dr Vinod Maseedupally to Lecturer in 2017.

We’ve enjoyed connecting with old and new alumni at our CPD evenings for some wonderful research presentations and showcasing our postgraduate student research. This year for our alumni evenings, we are keen to hear from you on what you would like to see and some suggested speakers if you may. Please complete the alumni survey through  click survey monkey.

If you are interested in organising a reunion for your year, please get in touch. We can facilitate and promote your reunion through our channels.

Lastly, we take this opportunity to congratulate our graduates this year, both undergraduate (see the Undergraduate news section) and postgraduate (see below). We look forward to watching your careers flourish.

hdr gradutations

[Pictured above, higher degree research student graduations]

I hope you all had a safe and happy holiday season. 

Professor Fiona Stapleton

Head of School 

Item Date: 

Friday, 5 January, 2018

June 2016

F stapleton

It’s hard to believe that we are almost halfway through the year already!  As you can see from our 2015 highlights we had a fantastic year. My thanks and congratulations to the dedicated team of academic and professional and technical staff at the School, our visiting committee and visiting staff who have done an outstanding job.   

Highlights so far this year include the delivery of a remodelled Graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics. This blended programme under the stewardship of Dr Alex Hui, offers flexible self-paced learning: pre-recorded lectures supported by regular live interactive webinars, facilitated online group discussions, and a face to face session for the final module with hands-on clinical skills development and interactive grand rounds.

We also offered for the first time this year a Clinical Doctorate. This postgraduate programme can be undertaken either part-time or full-time and is geared towards those in clinical practice.

Researchers at the School have been successful in gaining a number of external grants including Professor Mark Willcox and colleagues gaining an ARC Discovery Grant to research the effects of a novel immobilised antimicrobial peptide on bacteria; Associate Professor Michele Madigan with a MD Foundation award to understand immune mechanisms in AMD and a Retina Australia 2016 grant with her colleagues at ANU.

Dain and Kang

Dr Isabelle Jalbert was awarded a Blackmores Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grant. Dr Pauline Kang and Associate Professor David Pye were successful with the 2016 Orthokeratology Society of Oceania Scholarship to further their research methods of predicting the efficacy of myopic orthokeratology treatment. Kathleen Watt and colleagues were awarded the Victorian VOTE grant for analysing patient experience. We also congratulate staff who were successful through the internal UNSW grant schemes.

We also take this opportunity to thank Carl Zeiss Australia for donating Patriot head tracking units to the School. We are fortunate in the generosity of our stakeholders which supports the education of our students.

This year we welcomed Dr Pauline Kang who was appointed as Lecturer at the School. Pauline currently coordinates the Myopia Clinic at the UNSW Optometry Clinic and will contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate teachings in the areas of visual development and ocular diseases. We also welcomed back our Clinic Business Manager, Tracy Kane and farewelled Esther Lefas. We are delighted to welcome Debbie Huber to the UNSW Optometry Clinic team as she brings a wealth of experience to our Dispensing position and Katherine Wong who was appointed as a Research Optometrist into our Eye Research Team.

We farewelled Emeritus Professor Stephen Dain who stepped down as the Head of ORLAB to hand over the reins to Dr Mei Boon who has been appointed as Director and Dr Maitreyee Roy as Deputy Director.  We thank him for his over-40 year service to the School and the profession and note we needed two people to replace him!   

VC Awards

Since our last newsletter we were fortunate to have our staff acknowledged through a number of awards. Notably Professor Michael Kalloniatis and Ms Michelle Bonanno who were awarded Vice Chancellor Staff Awards from a very competitive field across the entire University and Sharon Oberstein who was highly commended in the category of Community Engagement and Vanessa Honson who was nominated. Dr Maria Markoulli was recognised with a Faculty of Science Staff Excellence Award: Recognition and Celebration of Excellence in Teaching.

Professor Mark Willcox was awarded a Doctor of Science and most recently Dr Pauline Kang was awarded the prestigious Jill and George Mertz Fellowship from the American Optometric Foundation. We also congratulate Dr Jerome Ozkan who was awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Fellowship. Dr Edward Lum who was awarded a 2016 Endeavour Research Fellowship which he will undertake at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. 

We are also delighted to share that Dr Vinod Maseedupally and Dr Jenny Long gained their Fellowship of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) and I was successful in gaining my Diplomate for the Cornea, Contact Lens and Refractive Technologies Section of the AAO. Finally we have just been given the sensational news that two of our postgraduate students, Preeji Mandathara and Jack Phu were recipients of the American Optometric Foundation William C Ezell Fellowships. These are highly competitive awards and these students deserve our congratulations.

This month we celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2015 with 69 undergraduate students graduating. Following the official ceremony on 16 June, we will celebrate with them. Our graduates and other grade prizewinners will be recognised during a function at NIDA attended by our stakeholders and University leadership.

In Semester 2 of 2016 we welcome a further two higher degree research students to bring our total to 40. We are fortunate that our higher degree student community is well supported by Dr Blanka Golebiowski, as Postgraduate Director, Anne Barnes as Postgraduate Administrator and  Praveen Yerramothu as Postgraduate Representative, which has allowed us to grow in this important area with huge success in granting of international scholarships, rapid student completions and excellent student progress.  

Our next Alumni evening will be held mid-July where we will showcase our higher degree students who will update us on their research. These evenings are very popular with our Alumni and we encourage and invite you to attend.  During semester we also hold Vaegan Seminars every second Friday from 4pm – 5pm. We are fortunate to attract speakers of a high calibre that present on their research in the vision science and optometric fields that I am sure will inspire you. 

We hope that you enjoy our newly formatted e-newsletter and look forward to hearing your feedback or suggestions of what you would like to see in our future editions.

Professor Fiona Stapleton
Head of School, Optometry and Vision Science, UNSW Australia

Item Date: 

Thursday, 30 June, 2016

Welcome to our mid-year newsletter. A lot has happened since our last edition and in April we were delighted to welcome the new President and Vice Chancellor of UNSW Australia, Professor Ian Jacobs, to the School. There is considerable enthusiasm in the School for the new strategic directions for the University in academic excellence in research and education, social engagement and global impact. These themes are a great fit for the School and we look forward to making a significant contribution to these endeavours. The complete strategic plan can be viewed on the 2025 website.

I am also pleased to congratulate our staff on their national grant success in the ARC Linkage grant scheme this year and in internal grant schemes, notably the June Griffiths Fellowship. 2015 so far has been a busy year for grants with staff submitting a record number of submissions to major national and international schemes.

In June we celebrated the graduation of 46 graduate optometrists, 10 PhD students, 37 optometrists graduating with coursework degrees and awards to our prizewinners. Importantly our celebrations included the 50 year reunion for the first graduates of the BOptom programme and we enjoyed welcoming four of the six graduates back to UNSW.

In postgraduate coursework, we have 22 optometrists so far involved in these programmes in 2015 and there are eight courses offered in the second half of the year, including a new course in advanced diagnosis of ocular disease with the Centre for Eye Health and an accelerated course in Behavioural Optometry with ACBO. We also were pleased to offer our Business Skills course again in 2015 and thank you to the industry and professional mentors who made this such a success. Welcome also to our 10 new PhD students this year.

We were shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of Brien Holden recently. Brien touched many lives throughout his career and he played a role in the professional lives of many staff at the University and most certainly many in the sector. He put Australia on the map in terms of excellence in vision correction research and his humanitarian endeavours have changed the lives of many around the world. A celebration of Brien’s life and enormous contributions will be held at the University in October and I will be in touch shortly via our alumni email with details as these become available. 

I hope you enjoy catching up with our news and we look forward to welcoming you back to our upcoming Alumni event in September and to welcoming and thanking those of you who have come to the clinic as volunteer supervisors to help guide our students in patient consultations.

Item Date: 

Sunday, 16 August, 2015



It is a pleasure for me to welcome our new optometry and vision science students and to congratulate our class of 2014 as they join the profession and move into the next part of their career as eyecare providers.

I’m delighted to be able to share our recent news. We particularly congratulate Juno Kim on receiving an ARC Future Fellowship in 2014 to study “Image constraints on the perception of surfaces and materials” which will lead to innovations in image-based pattern recognition algorithms. Many of our staff were recognised this year through both University and International prizes awards. Charles McMonnies is to be awarded a Doctor of Science (DSc) from UNSW Australia based on his published work and contributions to the body of scientific and clinical literature. Barbara Junghans was recognised for excellence in community engagement through the Vision Education Centre, which has provided vision screening to over 17,000 local primary school children. Dale Larden also received the 2014 Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Professional Services.

In other staff news, Michele Madigan was promoted to Associate Professor. Pauline Kang to Lecturer and Maitreyee Roy joined us from the National Measurement Laboratory at CSIRO to lead our optics teaching and research. The academic staff will shortly be joined by Alex Hui from the University of Waterloo, Jerome Ozkan and Debarun Dutta. We were sad to lose Ben Ashby, Maria Bui, Pam Vorias and Gurdeep Bidesha from the optometry clinic this year as they moved on in their careers but we were very pleased to welcome Tracy Kane, Nicole Keller, Dominique Smajstr, Jasmine Larden, Katherine Wong and Thomas Desmond to the clinic team.

Highlights in the student experience include well-received new or revised courses in the programme including ocular anatomy and physiology, introduction to clinical optometry, and ocular diseases, using innovative teaching methods. Evidence based teaching resources, developed through the collaborative Australian Learning and Teaching Council Grant, have been incorporated within our programmes and we are measuring the impact on graduates’ ability to practice as evidence based practitioners.

We are undertaking a review of our postgraduate coursework programmes to ensure these are relevant to the needs of the profession and allow increased access through partly or fully online delivery.

We continue to expand on our clinical teaching and have worked to deliver an increase in patient experiences for 4th and 5th year students, including increased therapeutics and primary care experiences in 2014.

Research highlights include success in national competitive grant schemes including the NHMRC Development Grant scheme, ARC Discovery and ARC Linkage awards. The Ocular Surface Science and Dry Eye Conference attracted international and local researchers, clinicians, industry and patient advocacy groups. Ten new PhD students started with the School in August 2014 and we congratulate the 12 PhD students who graduated in 2014.

My thanks and gratitude as always go to ODMA and our volunteer clinic mentors, clinical supervisors, visiting committee and staff and students who have worked very hard to deliver these outcomes for the School. I hope all our alumni and supporters had a well-earned break over the recent holidays and I look forward to catching up with many of you at our alumni events in 2015.

Item Date: 

Tuesday, 13 January, 2015