Optometry Summer Students: Cultivating an Eye for Ocular Cell Biology

During the summer, UNSW Optometry & Vision Science students joined Associate Professor Michele Madigan for an introduction to eye cell biology research skills and participation in laboratory-based eye research projects.

The students explored a range of areas including gross and microscopic eye anatomy, dissection, paraffin embedding and sectioning, histochemistry and immunohistochemistry staining of eye sections, and protein assays and immunoblotting. Digital imaging and confocal microscopy of eye tissues and cells highlighted the time (see images), and included human iris and choroidal naevi (pigmented spots - like freckles - in the eye) and retinal degenerations.

As well, students participated in culturing primary eye melanocytes (pigmented cells in the eye that absorb light) as part of the ongoing eye melanoma projects in the laboratory. Cells were also prepared for freezing in liquid nitrogen (cryopreservation) to be used in later experiments - very cool indeed.

Each week a journal club with the students included participating and discussing recently published research; this generated excellent questions and commentary from all. Of course, in between experiments, morning teas and lunches provided opportunities for delicious food, and especially good discussions on life and research.

This year the research team comprised: Teresa Fischer, Natasha Knopf, Georgia Tsimos, Cinda Lam, Andrew-Charbel Salloum and Yasmin El-Ghoul (all Year 3 Optometry & Vision Science), with excellent advice and assistance from Ephrem Sitiwin (PhD Optometry UNSW), Dr Steven Eamegdool (Postdoctoral Researcher), Adrian Cioanca (Adv Sci (Vis Sci)) and Hung Ton (Year 4 Optometry).

Some feedback follows:

“Being involved in cell biology research alongside Associate Professor Michele Madigan has been a truly insightful journey where I have learnt new laboratory techniques and gained essential research skills such as critical appraisal of literature and effective communication of findings. I am grateful for being given this opportunity as I am now more confident to begin my honours year next semester” Adrian Cioanca (Adv Sci (Vis Sci) and Hons S2 2016)

“Working in research with Assoicate Professor Madigan has been truly a pleasure; we were placed in a position where intellectual freedom was encouraged and this allowed us to see what Science was about. Being an Optometry student and having a supervisor who has both clinical and laboratory understanding (being UNSW SOVS Alumni herself) meant that we were able to appreciate the value of translational research and research in general.” (Hung Ton Year 4 Optometry)

Summer Vacation Students

Summer Vacation Students 2