Honours Projects

For T1, 2021

Vison Science Honours involves full-time research (with supervision) in the School of Optometry and Vision Science. The course runs over 3 terms (with no coursework) and involves developing a research hypothesis, aims and project and then undertaking the research, with supervision.

Advanced training will be provided in selected areas of vision science, emphasising understanding and application of specialised techniques relevant to the research area (for example laboratory-based, sensory/virtual reality, clinical or public heath techniques and applications).

During the Honours year, you will also research and write a literature review and research proposal, undertake an ethics application (as appropriate) and prepare a final written research thesis. You are also required to regularly attend (on-line) Vaegan Seminars and other seminars. During the Honours year, students will present their work in two research seminars in the School of Optometry and Vision Science.

Vison Science Honours students can enrol to start in either T1, T2, or T3 in 2021.

Applications are now open for VISN4016 Vision Science Honours T1 2021.

The closing date via the site below is October 30th 2020.


Late applications: please contact Michele Madigan (m.madigan@unsw.edu.au) or Science Student Services (https://www.science.unsw.edu.au/contact-us ) for late applications.


Prior Study: 3-year full-time bachelor degree specialising in Vision Science. (144 units of credit (UOC))

WAM: Minimum credit (65) weighted average mark (WAM)

Project/Supervisor Allocation 

You are responsible for arranging a supervisor and project before applying for Honours. Please see the School of Optometry and Vision Science for details on research groups: https://www.optometry.unsw.edu.au/research

Potential VISN4016 Honours Projects for 2021

Please find a list of potential projects following. There may be other projects available via direct contact with SOVS Research Groups.

Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, Professor Michael Kalloniatis

Summary: Macular neovascularisation is a major reason for vision loss in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and target of the only effective treatment. Several clinical trials show patients have better outcomes if we detect and treat neovascularisation early.

Evidence of choroidal changes in early AMD is conflicting with some suggesting thinning at the fovea and others suggesting no change. This may be due to assessing the choroid using thickness which will miss subtle changes in blood vessel architecture.

This project will assess the choroid in AMD using a novel tool - the choroidal vascularity index (CVI). CVI can indicate subtle changes in the size and shape of choroidal vessels not possible with thickness measurements. CVI will be quantified across the macula to create a map of the choroid angioarchitecture which can be used to detect those at greatest risk of vision loss.

For further information please contact Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith: l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

Supervisors: Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton (SOVS) Associate Professor Blanka Golebiowski (SOVS) Dr Minh Phan (SOVS) Dr Martin Bucknall (MWAC) 

Summary: This project seeks to develop novel methods to measure levels of a variety of sex hormones in human tears, serum and in tissue culture, using quantitative nano-LCMS stable isotope dilution. In one of their many roles in the human body, sex hormones (incl. androgens and oestrogens) are involved in production of the tear film which protects and nourishes the front of the eye. Funded by the Australian Research Council, our group is conducting research to understand how sex hormones regulate tear film production and thus maintain a healthy ocular surface and enable clear vision. Only small volumes of tears can be collected from human subjects, and currently available methods are not sufficiently sensitive to quantify sex hormone levels in tear samples. Our group has pioneered methods to detect sex hormones, and this honours project will help us to improve the sensitivity of these methods in order to analyse individual tear samples and extracts from tissue culture. The project will involve work in the School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS) and in the Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre (BMSF Laboratory), under joint supervision, and will collaborate with world-leading experts in both basic and applied science. Training in tandem mass spectrometry, nano-flow liquid chromatography and tear collection will be provided. The project would suit an enthusiastic student with an analytical background, chemistry / biochemistry wet lab skills and good attention to detail. A stipend will be available to the successful candidate.

For further information please contact Dr Minh Phan: m.phan@unsw.edu.au

Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

Summary: Chronic hypertension (HTN) is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke. This risk is greater when HTN has also caused microvascular damage in the retina. Thus detecting hypertensive retinal vessel changes is critical to identifying those at greatest risk of systemic disease. 

OCT angiography (OCTA) is a new, rapid and non-invasive method to image retinal vasculature. Preliminary work using OCTA has shown reduced vessel density and perfusion in HTN however it is not known which retinal areas indicate damage early and should be monitored.

We recently developed high density OCTA cluster analysis which can reveal subtle, location-specific changes in retinal vasculature. This project will use the analysis to isolate early retinal changes in HTN.

For further information please contact Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith: l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

Supervisors: Dr Jack Phu and Prof Michael Kalloniatis

Summary: Clinicians are confronted with a wealth of data obtained in an examination to make decisions on diagnosis and management plans. The requirement to integrate large volumes of data, especially in modern practice, can specifically confound the diagnosis of glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible vision loss, from non-glaucomatous optic disease. By applying statistical and pattern recognition analysis, the project aims to develop models to explain these differences with the goal of not only directly guiding clinicians' behaviour in practice, but also to better understand the underlying pathophysiology of glaucoma and eye disease.

For further information please contact Dr Jack Phu: jphu@cfeh.com.au

Supervisor: Dr Juno Kim

Summary: You will join the Sensory Processes Research Laboratory to undertake research in the field of virtual reality and multisensory integration. You will be responsible for leading a research project examining how we rely on multisensory integration to perceptually infer the physical properties of real and simulated environments. The application of outcomes from this research will have broad implications for industries spanning health and entertainment. If you desire, you may also have an opportunity to engage with industry on collaborative research. This competitive research opportunity directly builds on your learning in the OPTM3201 course.

For further information please contact Dr Juno Kim: juno.kim@unsw.edu.au

Supervisors: Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, Dr Poppy Watson, Assoc. Professor Steven Most

The Amsler grid is a low-cost, simple, paper-based tool prescribed to individuals with early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to self-monitor their central vision. Individuals are advised to quickly seek medical advice if they detect visual changes using the grid as this may indicate progression to late AMD and treatment for this stage is most effective when administered early.

A major shortcoming of the Amsler grid is low compliance with on 55% of patients using it regularly. Suggested improvements to compliance such as follow-up education or electronic reminder systems are resource heavy and at odds with the low-cost nature of the test.

This project will assess if concepts from health psychology can improve compliance including linking the test to a habitual behaviour (i.e. brushing teeth) or a cognitive reward (i.e. favourite photo). This could provide a highly translatable way to improve Amsler grid compliance.

For further information please contact Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith: l.nivison-smith@unsw.edu.au

Supervisors: Melinda Toomey, A/Prof Isabelle Jalbert, and Prof Fiona Stapleton

Summary: Australian optometrists gained therapeutic rights from 1996 (Victoria) to 2010 (Western Australia) and with all states gaining access to topical anti-glaucoma agents in 2010 with the formation of Optometry Board of Australia. The guidelines that govern management of glaucoma by endorsed Australian optometrists were published in 2013.

The project aims to explore attitudes, clinical practices and prescribing habits of Australian optometrists, their current involvement in the therapeutic management of glaucoma patients, and their perspectives on expanding their role beyond their current practice. This project will be a mixed method study.  Longitudinal claims data on prescribing of anti-glaucoma agents by optometrists and ophthalmologists in Australia will be analysed to identify trends and pattern differences. Claims data results will be summarised by descriptive statistics. Stakeholders will be interviewed on their perspective on trends in anti-glaucoma prescribing. A survey will be designed and administered to a sample of therapeutically endorsed Australian optometrists to explore their attitudes and clinical practice regarding therapeutic management of glaucoma. Survey results will be summarised using descriptive statistics. Multivariable logistic regression analysis will be performed to assess the effect of factors such as age, years of experience, additional qualifications, remoteness, and work setting, etc., on the overall results for optometrists managing glaucoma patients.

For further information please contact A/Prof. Isabelle Jalbert: i.jalbert@unsw.edu.au