Prestigious Scientia PhD Scholarships on offer at UNSW SOVS

Mark your mark on the world now!  Prestigious UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarships are now available at the School of Optometry and Vision Science in eye health.

Details of the UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarships:

  • $41,209 AUD per year for four years (2019 rate, indexed)
  • Tuition fees covered for the full 4-year period (for international and local students)
  • Coaching and mentoring as part of your highly personalised career and leadership development plan
  • Up to $10,000 each year to build your career and support your international research collaborations

Further details of the scheme are available from the UNSW PhD Scientia Scholarships site.

Apply now using links below, closing date: 12 July 2019

See full list of projects below.

Hyperspectral imaging oxidative stress in glaucoma

Hyperspectral imaging is an emerging field with immense potential for biomedical science. Due to the visibility of the eye structures, there is great scope to use multichannel excitation and emission spectra to detect damaged cells and biological substances in situ. In glaucoma, vision loss occurs due to optic nerve damage. Reactive oxygen species are thought to play a role. In this project, you will use cellular and animal models to detect pathological changes in retina with hyperspectral imaging. Following proof of concept, you will use patients from a large and diverse clinical cohort to validate the findings.

Criteria:
A successful HDR student would have training or aptitude for animal research. A knowledge of optical imaging systems, R based programming and bioinformatics would also be desirable. A passion for translatable research from the lab to the clinic is essential.

The supervisory team: 
Dr Ewa Goldys
Dr Nicole Carnt, Associate Professor Andrew White

Applications via the UNSW website 

For more information contact Dr Nicole Carnt (n.carnt@unsw.edu.au)

Improving the compliance of contact lens wearers to save vision

Contact lenses are worn by over 130 million individuals worldwide. Poor hygiene is the most significant modifiable risk factor for infection, which affects 4 per 10,000 wearers per year. While 90% of contact lens wearers report receiving advice from practitioners, up to 80% do not perform basic hygiene steps such as washing hands before handling their contact lenses. Determining both the barriers and enablers of contact lens compliance is key to limiting vision loss from contact lenses. Based on these results, the project will design and test behaviour modification strategies to improve contact lens safety.

Criteria:
The successful HDR is likely to come from the optometric or ophthalmic field, with experience in contact lens practise. Some experience in qualitative research would be helpful but is not essential.

The supervisory team: 
Dr Nicole Carnt
Professor Lisa KeayDr Kate Faasse

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Dr Nicole Carnt (n.carnt@unsw.edu.au)

Understanding aesthetic experience using multisensory extended reality

We rely on information from all our senses when making aesthetic judgments. Recent work on visual perception has established fractal- and natural scene statistics-based frameworks to identify characteristics of image structure predictive of aesthetic preference. However, little is known about whether these fractal and structural characteristics are shared across senses. This multidisciplinary project will be the first to combine cutting-edge methods in computer graphics, virtual reality, 3D printing, psychological science and computational modelling to understand the cross-sensory perceptual processes that govern our experience of surfaces and materials in realistic everyday scenarios.

Criteria:
The ideal candidate will be a self-starter who is highly capable of applying research subject matter across diverse fields of the arts, psychology and computer science. They should currently hold an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree with honours in psychology, computer science, vision science or equivalent Master’s program of study. The ideal candidate would have already initiated a publication track record in the area of the proposed project.

The ideal candidate will have demonstrated relevant multi-disciplinary knowledge and experience in the following key research approaches relevant to the project:

-       Psychophysics or Human Computer Interactivity (HCI) research on the quantification of human experience

-       Knowledge of methods used in Computer Graphics and 3D simulation

-       Understands lighting simulation and rendering material properties of surfaces (e.g., diffuse and specular shaders)

-       Knowledge and experience with programming applications (e.g., using C/C++, Unity or Unreal engines)

-       Able to implement best practices in data analysis and computational modelling

The supervisory team:
Dr Juno Kim
Dr Branka Spehar and Dr Tomasz Bednarz

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Dr Juno Kim (juno.kim@unsw.edu.au

Sex hormone synthesis at the ocular surface and in tear film

The tear film maintains a healthy transparent eye surface, enabling light to reach retina, ensuring clear vision. Precise control of tear film composition is essential, but how this occurs is incompletely known. We hypothesise that sex hormones control tear film production in humans, specifically production of tear lipids by meibomian glands in the eyelid. This project utilises ultrasensitive MS techniques pioneered by our team, to measure sex hormones in human meibomian gland cells, tissue samples, and in tears. This new knowledge will help develop novel treatments for painful sight-threatening diseases of the eye surface, with impact beyond the eye field.

Criteria:
The ideal candidate will have:

-       A background in analytical chemistry and hands-on experience in mass spectrometry. Specific experience in LC-MS/MS, particularly involving LC at capillary or nano scale, is very desirable. Experience in GC-MS/MS desirable but not essential. Experience with solid phase extraction (SPE) and Liquid-Liquid extraction techniques for preparation of biological samples is desirable.

-       Some knowledge of experimental design, statistical analysis.

-       Evidence of excellent verbal and written communication skills, preferably demonstrated by authorship of high impact scientific publications and international conference presentations.

-       High level of attention to detail and demonstrated capability to produce high quality research.

-       Demonstrated high level of self-motivation and evidence of proactive behaviour.

-       Willingness to collaborate generously, share knowledge and ability to work well in a team.

-       Some experience of student supervision and/or teaching.

The supervisory team:
Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton
Dr Blanka Golebiowski and Dr Martin Bucknall

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Dr Blanka Golebiowski (b.golebiowski@unsw.edu.au)

 

Sex hormone regulation of tear-film production by human meibomian glands

The tear film is essential to eyesight. It protects and nourishes the eye surface to maintain transparency to enable light to reach the retina. To guarantee these functions, exquisite control of tear film composition is required. We hypothesise that sex hormones control production of tear film in humans, and specifically production of tear lipids by the meibomian glands ofthe eyelid. This project utilises human cell culture models to examine potential mechanisms of tear film regulation by sex hormones. New knowledge generated will inform development of novel treatments for painful sight-threatening diseases of the eye surface, including dry eye.

Criteria:
The ideal candidate for this project will have:

-       A demonstrated interest in eye health.

-       A background in cell biology and molecular biology laboratory techniques is very desirable. This includes practical and recent experience in mammalian    tissue culture applications including co-culture and 3D culture techniques. Experience in establishing and maintaining primary human cell cultures is also desirable but not essential.

-       Some knowledge of experimental design and statistical analysis.

-       Evidence of excellent verbal and written communication skills, preferably demonstrated by authorship on a high impact scientific publications and international conference presentations.

-       High level of attention to detail and demonstrated capability to produce high quality research outcomes.

-       Demonstrated high level of self-motivation and evidence of proactive behaviour.

-       Willingness to collaborate generously, share knowledge and ability to work well in a team.

-       Experience of student supervision and/or teaching is desirable.

The supervisory team: 
Dr Blanka GolebiowskiAssociate Professor Michele Madigan and Dr Debarun Dutta

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Dr Blanka Golebiowski (b.golebiowski@unsw.edu.au)

Ocular surface biomarkers for the progression of impaired glucose tolerance

Estimates have indicated that up to 16.4% of Australians have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and 11% of this group transition to type 2 diabetes. There have been multiple attempts to identify biomarkers to predict those who are most likely to transition but none are used in routine clinical practice. Identification of those at risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes may allow for targeted strategies to prevent or limit conversion. We hypothesise that the progression from IGT to type 2 diabetes can be predicted by identifying those with early nerve damage using in vivo corneal confocal microscopy and tear analysis.

Criteria:
The ideal candidate will have a background in optometry or medicine and be registered to use ophthalmic diagnostic drugs in Australia. Excellent verbal and written communication skills are required as the successful candidate will be required to liaise with study participants, endocrinologists, neurologists and optometrists during the course of the research, as well as disseminate the research. Desirable skills include an understanding of biostatistics.

The supervisory team: 
Dr Maria MarkoulliProfessor Arun Krishnan and Dr Natalie Kwai

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Dr Maria Markoulli (m.markoulli@unsw.edu.au)

Reconciling real-world visual functioning and clinically measured visual function indices

Clinically measured visual functions in patients with ocular and neurological diseases may not be representative of real-world visual functioning in activities of daily living. Clinical instruments typically measure contrast detection, a fundamental visual ability from which more complex functions such as motion detection are derived. For outcomes of medical (e.g. bionic eye) and rehabilitative (e.g. vision training) strategies to be accurately translated to the real world, the relationship between clinical and practical visual functions must be understood. This project involves a “bench to bedside” approach where laboratory-based tests and analyses are conducted and applied to real-world patient situations.

Criteria:
The ideal candidate should have a background in vision science or biomedical science. Clinical experience is desirable but not essential. The ideal candidate should have a breadth of academic, practical or clinical experience that would allow them to conduct a “bench to bedside” project. Strong communication skills are desirable due to the amount of human patient/subject interaction during the experimental phases, and because of the cross-disciplinary nature of the research topic, engaging with various stakeholders such as eye care practitioners (optometrists, orthoptists and ophthalmologists), rehabilitation experts (e.g. orientation and mobility specialists) and basic scientists. Additionally, experience in computer programming is desirable, but the relevant skills will also be taught during the candidature.

The supervisory team: 
Dr Sieu KhuuProfessor Michael Kalloniatis and Dr Jack Phu

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Dr Sieu Khuu (s.khuu@unsw.edu.au)

Controlling myopia (short-sightedness) by developing a drug-releasing contact lens

Myopia is a major threat for vision health across the world, responsible for approximately 75% of refractive-error-related complications. Myopia is particularly prevalent in Asian societies, with prevalence estimates of over 50% in children in some Asian countries such as China and Singapore. Contact lenses or atropine have been used to prevent the development of myopia. Both reduce myopic progression by 50%. This project will develop potential dual therapy - a contact lens that can deliver atropine to the eye by controlled and sustained release. Materials will be developed that facilitate the uptake and release of atropine. Laboratory studies measuring release kinetics will be followed by applying the drug-releasing lenses onto eyes and monitoring safety and efficacy.

Criteria:
Candidates from optometric, vision science, pharmacy or materials science backgrounds should consider applying. Experience with hydrogel materials and contact lenses would be an advantage. The ideal candidate will have experience in design of materials for drug release.

The supervisory team: 
Professor Mark WillcoxDr Alex Hui and Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Professor Mark Willcox (m.willcox@unsw.edu.au)

Myopia management strategies and their impact on the anterior eye

Myopia (short-sightedness) increases the risk of sight threatening diseases and is reaching epidemic levels in areas of Asia. To combat myopia’s progression in children, atropine eye drops or special contact lenses are increasingly prescribed alongside traditional spectacles. Unfortunately, these treatments are associated with changes to ocular structures when used chronically by older populations, resulting in treatment discontinuation. Millions of children are thus at risk of complications during myopia treatment. This project will assess functional and structural changes induced by these treatments by examining ocular surface cell types, morphology and inflammatory gene expression to inform long term impact of myopia treatment.

Criteria:
The ideal candidate would possess knowledge of modern biomedical laboratory techniques such as cell cytology, immunohistochemistry, microscopy, PCR and/or flow cytometry. Experience with examination and sampling of the eye, ocular therapeutic management and the fitting of contact lenses is desirable but not essential. Eligibility of the candidate to be registered to practice optometry or ophthalmology in Australia would be an asset.

The supervisory team: 
Dr Alex HuiAssociate Professor Isabelle JalbertDr Pauline Kang

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Dr Alex Hui (alex.hui@unsw.edu.au)

Seeing through the haze: developing optimal stimulation for bionic eyes

Seeing through the haze: developing optimal stimulation for bionic eyes

Retinal prostheses aim to restore vision to those blinded by photoreceptor dystrophies. However, the level of vision provided by present devices is poor. This project uses an interdisciplinary approach of electrophysiology, computational modelling and detailed immunohistochemistry in animal models to (a) understand the factors that influence the efficacy of a retinal prosthesis (both from biological and bioengineering viewpoints) and (b) develop new stimulation strategies to improve the vision quality. Ultimately, the intention is to provide blind retinal implant recipients with improved artificial vision which will significantly improve their quality of life.

Criteria:
The ideal candidate(s) will have an undergraduate degree either in Science (with honours or equivalent, preferably with a Neuroscience background) or a degree in Biomedical Engineering. A basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology as well as basic programming skills are essential. Experience in animal research and/or bionic devices will be highly favourable.

The supervisory team: 
Professor Michael KalloniatisDr Lisa Nivison-Smith and Dr Mohit Shivdasani

Applications via the UNSW website

For more information contact Professor Michael Kalloniatis (m.kalloniatis@unsw.edu.au)