It was a great experience attending the Annual Progress Review (APR) Conference Week 10- 14 August 2020. Most of us who pursue a graduate-level degree know how stressful it can be when presenting our work in front of others. Having APR presentations is a worthwhile opportunity for higher degree research students to showcase their work, gain experience in presenting, and get feedback. The stressful days and sleepless nights in preparation and prior to the event are worth it when receiving praising comments from the audience. I would like to take this chance to reflect on and summarise some of the informative and insightful research presented during the APR conference week.
First and foremost, it allowed research students to present their research and this led to thought-provoking discussion amongst the audience, students, clinicians and scientists in the field of optometry and vision science. It was very productive to have fresh eyes look at our research and critically share their thoughts and ideas to help embellish or improve project design and analysis. The review week provided a chance to interact with academics and clinicians who work in specialist fields, and this enhanced intellectual research-oriented thoughts and provided a publicly engaged Q & A forum.
Attending APR week was a professionally rewarding experience. The week was divided into six specialist areas, followed by interviews. This year, forty projects were reviewed. On the first day of the conference we had an amazing array of informative topics relating to: Public Health, Glaucoma, and Macular Degeneration. Vincent Khou’s research on improving access to eye care for patients with diabetes and collaborating with an ophthalmology-optometry eye clinic in a public hospital is considered globally. The second day of talks related to Amblyopia, Pediatrics, Refractive Errors, Low Vision, and Neurological Diseases. Turning a clinic into a bedroom to investigate the association between circadian rhythms and myopia underpinned an interesting and informative discussion by Nicole Liu. Days three, four and five were on a wide array of studies related to the Anterior Eye. I was Inspired by what I learnt in these sessions. How amazing it is to see the effect of Probiotics and Prebiotics on dry eye; sex hormone regulation of tear film production by meibomian glands; developing a rapid identification system for Acanthamoeba; or investigating the association between Acanthamoeba genotypes and severity of the corneal infection.
Listening to the presentations informed my colleagues and myself of the research work others are undertaking (sometimes more clearly than reading the paper), inspire research ideas, and exposed us to different styles of presentations. Conversations in the zoom chat-box were a bonus in the virtual conference world. I think the APR week was well-organised and successful. I fully enjoyed the one-week event with many interesting presentations and discussions on various exceptional topics. Additional to the presentations was the opportunity to participate in the awards competition that are held at each review. The ‘best presentation’ was awarded to Jeremy Chiang for his research topic presentation titled: “In-vitro corneal confocal microscopy in chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy”. Hari Peguda won the ‘best photo’ prize with his image titled ‘Amoeba Love’, capturing Acanthamoeba cysts forming a heart shape on a non-nutrient agar plate and Nahida Akter won ‘best video’ for her entry, “3D Optic Nerve Head (ONH) Large Vascular Anatomy”, research that has potential for enhancing glaucoma diagnoses, assessment and in education.
In conclusion, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to people who have made APR week possible including all supervisors, postgraduate students, and postgraduate coordinator Dr Maria Markoulli and postgraduate research administrator Dr Anne Barnes for their efforts. I have benefited very much from this fantastic event.
Written by: Fatima Iqbal, first year PhD Student