Another summer of vision science

19 April 2024
Peering into eye research at the Save Sight Institute laboratories
The Save Sight Institute laboratories held their annual summer introduction to human eye anatomy, cell biology, neuroanatomy and electrophysiology for students.
A scientist in the laboratory

Associate Professor Michele Madigan demonstrating laboratory techniques.

During December 2023 to January 2024, the ‘Summer of Vision Science’ at the Save Sight Institute's (SSI) laboratories once again welcomed an energetic group of students from University of New South Wales (UNSW) Medicine and Health, UNSW Science, Western Sydney University Medicine and the University of Sydney.

The programme ran with guidance from Associate Professor Michele Madigan (University of Sydney and UNSW), supported by colleagues at SSI and the Lions NSW Eye Bank. Through their efforts, the students visited SSI and Sydney Hospital groups—experiencing vision science laboratory techniques firsthand and learning about real-life clinical applications.

For the laboratory days focused on basic science, hands-on activities covered areas across human eye anatomy, immunobiology, tissue culture and cell biology, and eye pathology. Under Associate Professor Madigan’s watchful eye, the students visualised and imaged tissues and cells using the SSI’s state-of-art Zeiss laser confocal and axioimager microscopy systems. In between, there were plenty of chats about eye anatomy and diseases, research and career pathways in clinical and vision science, plus good lunches around buzzy Macquarie Street.

The group also ventured to the SSI Laboratory, Biomedical Building (University of Sydney ATP Redfern Campus), where they enjoyed an afternoon with Macula Research Group researchers Dr Ling Zhu and Dr Shaoxue Zeng. Curious as ever, the students had many questions about the journey from bench science to real-world application of eye therapies, such as those that use nanoparticles.

The ever-popular visit to the Lions NSW Eye Bank and NSW Tissue Bank with Pierre Georges and Raj Devasayaham also highlighted the importance of organ and tissue donation, and the critical skills in examination, organ culture, and preparation of human donor corneas for transplantation.

The students were also fortunate to hear from Ms Alyssa Baldicano, a PhD candidate under the Billson Laboratory’s Retinal Networks Group at SSI. Ms Baldicano talked about her retinal neuroanatomy research journey thus far, and shared useful tips on techniques like advanced imaging and rendering, as well as identifying retinal neurons using intracellular injections. The session also included a lively discussion on the value of attending conferences as a research student, with Ms Baldicano proudly showcasing the research poster she had recently presented at the Australia Neuroscience Society meeting.

A group of students in the laboratory

The January 2024 student cohort of SSI's annual 'Summer of Vision Science' programme. 

A chance laboratory encounter with clinical trial orthoptist Mr Jonathan Nguyen led to another insightful conversation on career pathways in vision science, plus a demonstration on preparing clinical trial blood samples for further analysis.

Later on, Ms Jacinta Walz and Ms Stephanie Rozos coordinated a wonderful morning in the SSI Clinic and Electrophysiology suite. Learning about retinal electrophysiology and its applications in understanding how eye and optic nerve disease can disrupt visual function generated great interest in the students, leading to a clinical ‘shadowing’ opportunity for UNSW Vision Science graduate Ms Jennifer Du last February.

A few final student thoughts on the ‘eyelights’ of a ‘Summer of Vision Science’…

“Thank you for giving us this opportunity to learn and explore the greater field of vision science. We appreciate … connecting all the other researchers to give us better insights besides lab-work…”;

“Thank you so much for this experience! I already knew I wanted to go into research, but this program just confirmed my goals.”;

“ ... it was a wonderful time to learn more about research and culturing cells."

“ I am thankful for this opportunity … to delve into the world of research and your world at the eye lab.”

We thank the following students for spending their Summer of Vision Science with SSI:

  • UNSW Vision Science and Optometry: Carmen (Ying Lam) Chan, Mai Khan Truong, Kelvin Huang, Jennifer Du, Chi Yang (Corliss) Yue, Merna Matti, Rita Bayadh, Brendon Yue, Justin McNamara, Blake McCarren, Stephanie Su, Jessie Ye, Ryan Nguyen, Jiwon Hu, Jayden Ta, Jian Lan (Claire) Guo, Natasha Nicholas, Rebekah Nehme and Katrina Meng
  • UNSW Science: Angelica Tran
  • Western Sydney University Medicine: Claudia Tiong
  • University of Sydney: Merna Bayadh