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American Academy of Optometry funding for UNSW PhD scholar

UNSW PhD scholar Ms Sidra Sarwat will advance her research into vivo labelling and bioimaging of the tear film using silicon quantum dots with the support of seed funding from a US institution.

Sarwat has received the 2020 Joe and Janet Barr Early Career Cornea and Contact Lens Research Award from the American Academy of Optometry Foundation to support her studies.

It is the second consecutive year a UNSW PhD student has won the award, with Ms Rabia Mobeen named a joint winner in 2019.

Sarwat, who is currently isolated in Pakistan due to COVID travel restrictions, received her BSc (Hons) degree in Optometry and Orthoptics from Rawalpindi Medical College in Pakistan, and Master of Optometry from UNSW.

She has been working as a teaching fellow and academic at UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science since 2017. She has also supervised five undergraduate research projects and is serving as a reviewer for peer review optometry journals.

“My research fellow who received this award last year inspired me to apply for this grant. It is a great encouragement for early research students and helps them to get involved in cutting edge research and attend American Academy of Optometry annual meetings,” Sarwat said.

Her goal is to continue research into the possible application of novel nanoparticles in studying the dynamics of the tear film.

“I would like to use funding from this award to formulate silicon nanoparticles and visualise tear film lipids in an animal model. I believe that this will help in better understanding tear film dynamics and improving drug delivery systems for ocular surface diseases,” she said.

“I intend to use the results of my project to present at national and international conferences and to get grant funding to further support my research.”

The award provides $2,000 for research project seed funding in the area of cornea/ocular surface or contact lenses to support a new upcoming project not already funded from another source.

The award also provides travel funding to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry.