Tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to do a PhD?
I completed a Bachelor of Optometry from School of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal University, India in the year 2007. After that, I was glad to obtain a one year post graduate fellowship program in Clinical Optometry in the year 2008 at L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI). On completion of the fellowship, I was awarded “Best Outgoing Optometrist”. Further, I accomplished two years of Clinical & Community Optometry Research fellowship in LVPEI, Hyderabad – Vision Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), Public Health division of Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI), Sydney in 2011. Later, I joined LVPEI and played a multiple role as an Optometrist (Consultant at Contact lens clinic & Cornea and anterior segment service, research optometrist at Prof. Brien Holden Eye Research Centre, L V Prasad Eye Institute and teaching Faculty at Bausch & Lomb School of Optometry, Hyderabad (2011-2015). Meanwhile, I succeeded an off-campus Master of Optometry program in 2014 at NIMS University, Jaipur, India.
I always wanted to help my patients who wear contact lenses and most of them do not want to remove the contact lenses end of the day as their lifestyle demands them to use the contact lens over time which results in eye infection. As a contact lens clinician, I want to help them, that’s when I decided to do a PhD program to explore various options for my patients, which led me to apply for the PhD in Optometry at SOVS (School of Optometry and Vision Science Conference), under the supervision of Professor Mark Willcox, Professor Fiona Stapleton, Dr Savitri Sharma and Dr Debarun Dutta.
Tell us about your research specialisation and why you decided to go into this area.
My area of research is antimicrobial contact lenses. Most contact lens users want to use contact lens 24×7. However, they are scared of developing eye infections and remove their lenses at the end of the day. The current lifestyle demands many to use their eyes for 16- 18 hours a day. Imagine a person who can see the world better only with the help of contact lenses, how can they face these challenges? The surface modified contact lens which has antimicrobial activity were developed by my supervisors which showed good results on rabbit eyes when the lenses were worn by rabbits on 24X7 for 2-3 weeks which triggered me to try in humans. My current project investigates the safety and efficacy of these contact lenses in the human eyes with refractive errors.
What are some of the highlights of your research student experience?
Being a student is always a pleasure for me and there is always an opportunity to learn new things. I never thought that will be working with micro-organisms and biochemistry but today I am combining these two areas with my profession “The Optometry”. The highlight of my research student experience is playing with bacteria and coating the lenses with antimicrobial peptide.
You are an external student based in India but you have also spent time at thr School of Optometry and Vision Science, UNSW Australia. What has this experience been like?
For phase one of my study, I am placed at L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India as an external student from UNSW for the data collection. After completing the data collection and few laboratory experiments will be back to SOVS for further works and also to start my phase two experiments. It is always a pleasure to spend quality time at SOVS. So far, my experience at SOVS is amazing and no words to describe it.
What are your career plans once you graduate?
I am keen to work in Research and Development of the Organisation. If I get an opportunity, I will pursue a postdoc to strengthen my area. My dream is to extend my expertise to touch a million of people so that all may see. I am also keen on teaching the upcoming generations in the field of Optometry and vision science.
Any advice for anyone thinking of doing a research degree in Optometry or Vision Science (MSc or PhD)?
My advice for those who are thinking of doing an MSc or PhD in Optometry or Vision Science, is that it’s never too late, do it right now! But make sure you are passionate, decided to dedicate three to four years of your life for research. Remember two things are terribly important, one is to pursue an interesting topic that motivates you a lot and another one is supportive supervisors. I believe that the time and hard work invested while doing a PhD will be worth the opportunities it will open up for your future.