By Daisy Shu
I was first inspired to do research after spending six weeks alongside Associate Professor Michele Madigan at the Save Sight Institute as part of the Summer Vacation Research Scholarship. My classmate Roslyn Go and I worked together with Michele on dissecting human donor eyes to characterise macular degeneration and treated uveal melanoma cells with anti-cancer drugs.
Michele was a very patient, encouraging and friendly supervisor who taught us many new laboratory skills and opened my mind to the possibility of returning to university to pursue a higher research degree.
During my final year, I signed up for the Specsavers Graduate Program so I had a job lined up straight after graduation. I worked at Specsavers Hurstville for the next two years, which due to the sheer volume of patients enabled me to improve my clinical and time management skills.
I was still settling in and developing as a clinician during my first year, but into my second year, I was beginning to see similar conditions and patient types. Work life was starting to feel routine. I would read about novel and exciting research in treatments and diagnostic tools for ocular diseases, and I wanted to be a part of it.
I began looking into studying for a PhD and finding potential research supervisors. After several emails and meetings, I decided to work with Professor Frank Lovicu and Professor John McAvoy who are pioneers in crystalline lens research.
They had recently discovered a protein which could prevent the formation of cataract in transgenic mice and wanted to investigate whether these changes observed in animal models could be translated to human tissue.
As a clinician, I frequently encountered patients with cataract and I was always intrigued by the mechanisms underlying the various types of cataract from posterior subcapsular cataract to nuclear sclerosis.
My thesis delves into understanding the pathogenesis of human cataract by understanding the growth-factor-signalling pathways underlying normal and aberrant lens cell behaviour.
I am currently working as a tutor for fourth-year optometry students at UNSW by facilitating their problem based learning sessions and find this very rewarding.
After my PhD? I hope to obtain a postdoctoral research position overseas for a year or two. I see myself returning to Sydney to settle, working in academia and part-time as a clinician.
Young Optometrists NSW