Vision science projects awarded funding

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
Nijani Nagaarudkumaran and Will Ngo in lab

Vision science at the University of Waterloo will advance thanks to new funding recently announced by the Canadian Optometric Education Trust Fund (COETF).

The School of Optometry and Vision Science was awarded funding for 16 projects. Research topics include drug delivery to the eye, non-invasive brain stimulation to help people with visual impairments, anti-inflammatory agents for the ocular surface, and eye-body coordination in children with amblyopia ("lazy eye").

The Canadian Optometric Education Trust Fund (COETF) was created in 1976 to assist programs in research, education and human resources development in the vision and eye care field in Canada.

This year, University of Waterloo projects were awarded more than $21,000 in total funding. Waterloo people and projects supported through this year’s COETF awards program are as follows:

  • Dr. Haile Darge, postdoctoral fellow – Novel cysteine-functionalized chitosan/β glycerophosphate-based thermosensitive injectable hydrogels for bevacizumab delivery
  • Dr. Elizabeth Drolle, research associate – The impact of environmental conditions and contaminants on the lipid peroxidation of the tear film using a novel in vitro blink model
  • Piyush Garg, PhD student – The impact of PVA crosslinking on slowing the release of target molecules from novel ocular biomaterials
  • Shilpa Gorla, PhD candidate – Effects of modulating pump and aquaporin-0 activity on lenticular stiffness
  • Dr. Alex Hui, Head of Biosciences, CORE, and Dr. Etty Bitton (Université de Montréal) – Properties of contemporary daily disposable contact lens blister pack solutions
  • Cassandra Huynh, MSc student – Flavonoids as novel anti-inflammatory agents for treating ocular surface disease
  • Dr. Melanie Mungalsingh, postdoctoral fellow – Improving the orientation and mobility skills of individuals with visual impairments using non-invasive brain stimulation
  • Nijani Nagaarudkumaran, PhD candidate – Exploring the Role of Autophagy in Regulating Inflammatory Responses in Human Corneal Epithelial Cells
  • Victor Opoku-Yamoah, PhD student – Does lens fluorescence influence adaptive optics fluorescence lifetime ophthalmoscopy (AOFLIO)?
  • Dr. Chau Minh Phan, research assistant professor – Developing an in vitro eye model with cells for simulating dry eye conditions
  • Dr. Sharon Qiu, OD, PhD candidate – Analysis of the Human Limbal Shape in Regular Cornea Populations Using a Novel Corneoscleral Topographer
  • Dr. Parvin Shokrollahi, research associate – Cyclodextrin grafted chitosan particles for Acyclovir delivery to the eye

COETF also announced additional funding from the newly established Dorrie Morrow Fund, which supports projects focusing on children’s vision, particularly for marginalized and at-risk children who do not have access to regular vision care. Waterloo projects awarded through the Dorrie Morrow Fund are as follows:

  • Erica Chow, OD student – Genetic tools for the study of myopia control in zebrafish
  • Ashita Bidarkar, MSc student – ERGs following short-term chromatic adaptation in myopes and non-myopes
  • Lauren Hoare, MSc student – Eye-body coordination during walking in developing children with amblyopia
  • Anne Marie Yeboah, PhD student – Examination of the Efficacy of Vision Therapy for Post-Concussion Visual Dysfunction

The COETF is self-funded by optometrists. To learn more or give, see The deadline for award applications is in early February of every year.