Staff at the School of Optometry and Vision Science have worked tirelessly during 2021. With the lockdowns resuming again in June 2021, we pivoted to online learning for all of our students.
I thank all of our staff for their continued and sustained efforts throughout both 2020 and 2021 as we navigate the global pandemic.
We had a number of new part time Associate Lecturers join the School during the year to support our course coordinators throughout the year. Formerly known as the teaching fellow program, we welcomed Fatima Iqbal, Dinesh Kaphle, Nina Tahhan, Praveen Bandala, Parthu Kalaiselvan and Suki Jaiswal who have done a stellar job contributing to our teaching.
Postgraduate alumnus, Dr Mahjabeen Khan joined Professor Mark Willcox’s microbiology team following the completion of her PhD to support his growing research program. We were delighted to have Dr Revathy Mani appointed as an Education Focussed Lecturer. Revathy has expertise in binocular vision which is valuable for our undergraduate program. She will take on broader teaching responsibilities in 2022.
This year our UNSW Optometry clinic team expanded with Regine Chapman-Davies, Lisa Feng, Nathan Ho, Eihab Eltantawy and Elena Carrabs join on a part time basis.
During 2021 we farewelled long standing employees, Associate Professor Barbara Junghans and Professor Eric Papas. Barb retired after 43 years of service to the School. During her time at UNSW, she co-established the Vision Education Centre which has provided eye examinations to over 18,000 primary aged school children. She was the School Advisor for many years and was instrumental in the set-up of the pre-clinical teaching laboratory.
Eric Papas retired in October and has been conferred as an Emeritus Professor at UNSW. The title of Emeritus Professor is an acknowledgement of his distinguished service to UNSW. We have Eric featured as the alumni profile for our newsletter – check out his career journey here.
We also farewelled in 2021 Belinda Ford, Rajini Peguda, Jaya Sowjanya Siddireddy and Angelica Ly. We thank them for their service to the School and wish them all the best with their new roles.
Drs Sharon Oberstein and Lisa Nivison-Smith were promoted to Senior Lecturer in the first half of the year and Dr Nicole Carnt was promoted to Associate Professor effective from 1 January 2022. Our hearty congratulations to Sharon, Lisa and Nicole on their well-deserved promotions.
This year we were delighted to have amassed in excess of $4.01M in research grants at SOVS.
Our year commenced with Dr Sheela Kumaran, Postdoctoral Research Fellow being awarded a Macular Disease Foundation Australia research grant. Her research project is titled "Measuring the breadth and the depth of the quality-of-life impacts caused by age-related macular degeneration".
We congratulate Dr Shyam Sunder Tummanapalli for being awarded the Diabetes Research Grant from the Elizabeth O’Beirne and Robert and Emmy Mather Trust Fund. This project will investigate the relationship of tear film nitric oxide with corneal and peripheral neuropathy in people with diabetes and assess whether tear film nitric oxide concentration can be used as a non-invasive biomarker for the development of peripheral neuropathy in diabetes. The intended outcomes of this study may prove useful in clinical translation of new strategies for the management and treatment of diabetic corneal complications. We sincerely thank the Elizabeth O’Beirne and Robert and Emmy Mather Trust for their support of our research in diabetic eye disease.
Dr Jerome Ozkan was awarded the 2021 School of Optometry and Vision Science Macular Degeneration Research Grant from the Estate of the late Peter Anthony John Vild. His research project will investigate differences in the microorganisms on the conjunctiva (ocular microbiome) and proteins in the tears (tear proteome) of patients with dry-AMD compared to wet-AMD and healthy controls.
Awards and Rankings:
Our congratulations to Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton, who for the second-year running has been named as the top researcher in ophthalmology and optometry in Australia. This is based on the number of citations for papers published in top 20 journals in her field of expertise over the past five years.
Professor Konrad Pesudovs was recognised with the American Academy of Optometry Foundation Glenn Fry Award and Lecture. This award recognises a distinguished scientist or clinician for their current research contributions.
Konrad was also named as the top research optometrist in the global rankings - with a whopping H index of 69 and over 51,000 citations! It is fabulous to see many other SOVS colleagues and visiting academics also on this list, with Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton coming in at number 15 and the late Professor Brien Holden at number 10 - see full rankings list here: https://optomrankings.com/
Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton and Professor Mark Willcox were also named in the global contact lens research rankings as #2 and #5 respectively for 2021 by Expertscape. UNSW SOVS was named as the top institution publishing in the field of contact lens research.
Professor Mark Willcox was honoured with an Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) Gold Fellowship during 2021. He was awarded for his outstanding contributions and dedication to the ARVO.
Associate Professor Maria Markoulli was awarded the UNSW 2021 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research Leadership. I'm sure that everyone will agree that Maria is a very worthy recipient of this award. It is testament to her outstanding leadership as our Postgraduate Research Coordinator in the higher degree research arena.
Dr Vinod Maseedupally has had a successful year and was awarded an UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (General). This award recognises individuals for their sustained, outstanding contribution to the quality of student learning in a specific area of responsibility. He was also recognised by the Faculty of Medicine and Health in December with an Award for Teaching Excellence. Vinod has a great passion for teaching and is a leader in technology enhanced learning who has received outstanding MyExperience scores.
Associate Professor Nicole Carnt, Emeritus Professor Eric Papas, Associate Professors Isabelle Jalbert, Juno Kim and Blanka Golebiowski were acknowledged by ARC and the UNSW Postgraduate Research Council with supervisor awards.
Congratulations also to Associate Professors Sieu Khuu and Thomas John Navidulath who received nominee awards. The above supervisors were nominated by their postgraduate students in the areas of "excellence in research, leadership skills in mentoring, promoting healthy work-life balance and building a supportive research environment".
Associate Professor Juno Kim was also acknowledged with an ARC Postgraduate Research Council Course Coordinator of the Year Award for his mentorship and for inspiring and motivating students on their higher degree research journey.
The Faculty of Medicine and Health end of year awards also yielded awards for our staff who were nominated by their peers and colleagues at the School. We were delighted to have Michelle Bonanno, our Placements Coordinator receive the Award for Excellence in Student Support Services 2021. Michelle has worked tirelessly in organising placements during a challenging year with student safety and wellbeing at front of mind. At the Faculty awards Lisa Nivison-Smith was recognised with the Value in Action Award for Diversity. Lisa developed, promoted and led initiatives throughout the year for SOVS and is a wonderful advocate for early career researchers, women and carers of young children.
Finally, to conclude 2021 we were fortunate to hold an end of year lunch early in December where we acknowledged all the enormous efforts from staff and post-graduate students during a challenging year. Our annual awardees were as follows:
Pauline Kang: Academic Excellence: Education Award
Vanessa Honson: Drives Innovation Award
Dale Larden: Global Impact Award
Kat Pakarinen: Displays Respect Award
Fatima Iqbal: Embraces Diversity Award
Muhammad Yasir, Hari Peguda & Rajesh Kuppusamy: Academic Excellence: Research Award
Michelle Bonanno: Demonstrates Excellence Award
Michelle Wanandy: Builds Collaboration Award
Sharon Oberstein: Social Engagement Award
I am proud to have led such a stellar team here at the School this year. We have banded together to provide an outstanding student experience under challenging conditions. This was reflected in the feedback from our students about their overall satisfaction with our courses, which we ranked highly in the Faculty of Medicine and Health and across UNSW. I also commend our researchers who were impacted heavily this year and for their resilience during a difficult year.
Here’s to a safe return to campus in 2022.
Professor Lisa Keay
Head of School