Eight new PhD studentships for 2016-19

17 March 16

written by:

Ade Deane-Pratt

(more articles)

Fight for Sight has awarded a new round of grants for eye research.

Fight for Sight has awarded a new round of PhD studentships in eye research for 2016. The 8 projects total almost £0.8 million and will start with the academic year this October. They cover a broad range of topics, including some really strong additions to our glaucoma research programme.

Each year, we provide funds for some of the best young science graduates in the UK to develop their skills with supervision from leading academic eye researchers. It’s win all round as results from the projects can significantly advance research, we encourage a new generation of potential world-leading academics to stay in eye research and there can be an immediate benefit to people with sight loss, too.

New NHS test

Dr Rachel Gillespie recently finished her 3-year Fight for Sight PhD studentship at the University of Manchester, where she was supervised by Professor Graeme Black. Rachel was looking at developing genetic tests for babies who are born with cataract or develop them early on (childhood cataract). Her PhD work has led to a new NHS test that’s available from the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine.

Head and shoulders shot of Rachel wearing her PhD graduation cap and gown.
Dr Rachel Gillespie

“I’m really glad to have had the chance to spend my PhD working in an area that will mean faster and more precise diagnosis for the patients, improved care and the right genetic counselling for the families,” said Dr Gillespie. “Fight for Sight funding made it possible and I’d like to say a huge thank you to the charity and to everyone who makes a donation. It does make a real difference.”

Rachel is now working as a member of the Inherited Retinal Disease Consortium (known to us as the RP Genome Project). It’s a collaboration between four of the UKs biggest academic institutions and leaders in eye research, funded by Fight for Sight and RP Fighting Blindness. Its aim is to use advanced genetic sequencing to pinpoint new causes of retinal degeneration and build a database of patients with known genetic faults. She also continues to work with colleagues from Manchester Royal Eye Hospital investigating the cause of cataracts in infants and children.

Fundamental and innovative research

Dr Dolores M Conroy is Fight for Sight’s Director of Research. She said: “Once again we have a really interesting crop of both fundamental and innovative research projects in which the students will develop their skills and understanding in the fight against sight loss and become the future leaders in vision research.

“Each year Fight for Sight PhD students drive eye research forward, for example in Rachel’s work on congenital cataract, which is a rare condition, and also in some of the major causes of sight loss such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. I look forward with confidence to seeing what impact our class of 2019 will have in the field of vision research.”