Research Excellence Awards

Our prestigious awards recognise achievement and celebrate outstanding contributions to research in the fields of optometry, optics and vision science.

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All Award winners to date are listed below. Information about how to apply or nominate for future Awards will appear here in due course. 

Research Excellence Awards

The President's Research Medal

This Award is for outstanding contribution to research and recognises a lifetime's career in optometric/vision science research.  The Medal is awarded every four years.

2014: Professor Larry Thibos

Professor Thibos won the inaugural President's Research Medal for his lifetime contribution to our understanding of the effects of optical aberrations of the eye on visual performance, as well as the limits to spatial vision imposed by the retinal architecture and the characterisation of vision in the peripheral field.

Professor Thibos is Emeritus Professor of Optometry at Indiana University. As an established leader of research into the fields of visual optics and visual performance, his work includes the investigation of the structure of the retina and vision quality. This research continues to provide a better understanding of vision loss and is a basis for developments of new methods of clinical practice.

Watch a video of Professor Larry Thibos from Indiana University, USA presenting the inaugural Research Excellence Lecture entitled "From optics to vision: the ultimate challenge".


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The Arthur Bennett Prize

For outstanding research undertaken anywhere in the world, this Prize is awarded every two years.

2015: Professor Joanne Wood,
for contributions to the fields of vision, ageing and driving

Professor Wood's work at the Queensland University of Technology's School of Optometry and Vision Science, in Australia, has focused on the areas of vision, ageing and driving. Her contributions in this area have been important because they have developed an original and multidisciplinary approach to research.

Professor Wood received the prize before presenting the George Giles Memorial Lecture at Optometry Tomorrow 2015. Her lecture provided an overview of recent literature indicating which visual functions are important for safe driving, and these research findings are related to the practical issues regarding vision testing for licensing and assessing fitness to drive.

The whole lecture is available for free to College members here. Please note, unless logged in the video will time out after two minutes.

2012: Dr Jeremy Guggenheim,
for work on the interaction between genetic and environmental factors in myopia development

Dr Guggenheim’s research looks into the genetic linkages in myopia. In particular, his work on the interaction between genetic and environmental factors in myopia development has contributed significantly to the field.

The following papers on Dr Guggenheim's work are avaible to view.

Chen, Y-P., Hocking, PM, Wang L, Povazay B, Prashar A, To CH, Erichsen JT, Feldkaemper, M., Hofer, B., Drexler, W., Schaeffel, F., Guggenheim, JA., (2011).  Selective breeding for susceptibility to myopia reveals a gene-environment interaction. IOVS 52 (7), 4003-4011.

Guggenheim, JA., Northstone K, McMahon G, Ness AR, Deere K, Mattocks C, St Pourcain B, Williams C., (2012). Time Outdoors and physical activity as predictors of incident myopia in childhood: A prospective cohort study. IOVS 53 (6), 2856-2865.

Chen, YP., Prashar, A., Erichsen, JT., To, CH., Hocking, PM., Guggenheim JA., (2011). Heritability of ocular component dimensions in chickens: Genetic variants controlling susceptibility to experimentally-induced myopia and pre-treatment eye size are disctinct. IOVS 52 (7), 4012-4020. 

Chen, YP., Prashar, A., Hocking, PM., Erichsen, JT., To, CH., Schaeffel, F., Guggenheim, JA., (2010). Sex, eye size, and the rate of myopic eye growth due to form deprivation in outbred White Leghorn chickens. IOVS 51 (2), 651-657.


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The Neil Charman Medal for Research

The College's annual Award for outstanding research by a College member, the Medal is to honour excellent research at a level above postgraduate.

2015: Dr Hema Radhakrishnan,
for research on ocular accommodation and collagen cross linking

Dr Radhakrishnan is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester. She was awarded the 2015 Neil Charman Medal for Research for her work on ocular accommodation and collagen cross linking, with the Awards Panel delighted to be able to recognise this work.

A published research paper in relation to this work is below.

Beshtawi, I., Akhtar, R., Hillarby, M., O'Donnell, C., Zhao, X., Brahma, A., Carley, F., Derby, B. & Radhakrishnan, H (2014). Biomechanical changes after repeated collagen cross-linking on human corneas assessed in vitro using scanning acoustic microscopy. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 55(3), 1549-54.

2014: Dr Jonathan Denniss,
for research into improving clinical tests for the diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma

Dr Jonathan Denniss is a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. He received the Neil Charman Medal for Research for post-doctoral work undertaken largely at the University of Melbourne in Australia between 2011 and 2013.

In the diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma, clinicians rely on combining information from multiple tests (imaging, perimetry, etc.) to make their clinical decisions. To combine this information in an objective way requires the use of a structure-function map that relates visual field locations to regions of the optic nerve head and surrounding retinal nerve fibre layer. Existing schemes used in world-wide clinical practice employ a low-resolution (six regions), one-size-fits-all approach based on data from a small population of eyes. This existing approach is inflexible to different clinical tests (such as different visual field test patterns), and does not take into account the considerable differences in ocular anatomy between different patients, meaning that the map may be a poor fit to individual patients.

Jonathan and his colleagues have addressed this important clinical problem by developing a novel computational approach to mapping the visual field to the optic nerve head. Their method allows maps to be produced that are tailored to the individual patient’s ocular anatomy, for any set of visual field locations (and therefore flexible for use with different tests), and with high resolution (up to 1° optic nerve head sectors).

The below articles represent a sample of Jonathan’s work and are available in full, for free, below.

Jonathan Denniss, Allison M. McKendrick, Andrew Turpin (2012). An anatomically customizable computational model relating the visual field to the optic nerve head in individual eyes. IOVS 53 (11), 6981-6990.

Jonathan Denniss, Andrew Turpin, Fumi Tanabe, Chota Matsumoto, Allison M. McKendrick (2014). Structure–function mapping: variability and conviction in tracing retinal nerve fibre bundles and comparison to a computational model. IOVS 55 (2), 728-736.

Jonathan Denniss, Andrew Turpin, Allison M. McKendrick (2014). Individualized structure-function mapping for glaucoma: practical constraints on map resolution for clinical and research applications. IOVS 55 (3), 1985-1993.

2013: Dr Peter Allen,
for research looking at the interface between vision and reading difficulties

Dr Peter Allen is Head of the Visual Function and Physiology Research grup at Anglia Ruskin University.  His research includes work looking at Visual Stress, where symptoms of reading difficulties are associated with perceptual distortion.

Coloured overlays are often prescribed by optometrists to alleviate the symptoms of distortion associated with Visual Stress. Peter and his colleagues investigated the effects of coloured overlays on accommodation, in particular the lag of accommodation behind the plane of the reading material. Accommodative lag was greater in those with Visual Stress than controls, and was selectively reduced in the Visual Stress group with coloured overlays.

A paper covering this work was published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science in December 2010 and is available for free here.

2012: Dr Lisa O'Donoghue,
for research into the epidemiology of refractive error

Dr Lisa O'Donoghue and her team investigated whether looking at uncorrected visual acuity is an appropriate way to detect refractive errors in a section of the population.

The work was part funded by the College and a paper from the project is available below.

Lisa O'Donoghue, Alicja R. Rudnicka, Julie F. McClelland, Nicola S. Logan, Kathryn J. Saunders (2012). Visual acuity measures do not reliably detect childhood refractive error - an epidemiological study. PLoS ONE 7(3): e34441. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034441.

2011: Dr Mhairi Day,
for research investigating the underlying cause of myopia development and progression

This research aimed to investigate the underlying cause of myopia development and/or progression by studying the accommodation response. The role of the accommodation microfluctuations in the accommodation response mechanism was investigated, along with the refractive group differences in response to various targets (Day, Gray, Seidel & Strang, 2009; Day, Seidel, Gray & Strang, 2009). The work provides a possible explanation for cause of the reduction in sensitivity to blur that myopes demonstrate.

Part of the research was funded by a College Research Fellowship Award, and led to the development of a lightweight device to measure pupil size, eye movements and refractive error. For the first time, real-time analysis of blink removal and power spectrum can be conducted, considerably reducing time spent in analysis post-recording. The development of this device has opened up a whole series of future experiments that can investigate pupil size, eye movements and refractive error all binocularly, and in natural viewing conditions it can provide vital information about the oculomotor response in different refractive error groups.

Related research papers:
Day, M., Gray, L. S., Seidel, D. & Strang, N. C. (2009). The relationship between object spatial profile and accommodation microfluctuations in emmetropes and myopes. J Vis, 9(10), 5 1-13.

Day, M., Seidel, D., Gray, L. S. & Strang, N. C. (2009). The effect of modulating ocular depth of focus upon accommodation microfluctuations in myopic and emmetropic subjects. Vision Res, 49(2), 211-8.

2010: Dr Leon Davies,
for research into the effect of ageing on in vivo human ciliary muscle morphology and contractility

This research, undertaken through a College Research Fellowship Award, provided important information about presbyopia through the largest in vivo study to date investigating relaxed and contracted ciliary muscle characteristics across a broad range of subject ages.

The research provides evidence that supports a lensocentric model of presbyopia development, whereby continued growth and alterations in lenticular viscoelastic properties reduce the ability of the capsule to mould the lens into an accommodated form.


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The Philip Cole Prize for practice-based research

For excellence in practice-based research by College members, this Prize is to honour the important contribution that practising optometrists continue to make to the optometric evidence base.

2015: Dr Peter Campbell,
for research into anterior chamber angle assessment

Dr Peter Campbell completed a College-funded Small Grant Scheme project in 2013. This practice-based research compared clinical techniques for anterior chamber angle assessment, and assessed their relative merits for clinical practice.

The work was published in March 2015 in the below paper.

Campbell P, Redmond T, Agarwal R, Marshall LR, Evans BJW. Repeatability and comparison of clinical techniques for anterior chamber angle assessment. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 2015; 35: 170–178.

2014: Dr Ross Henderson
for research into the different GOS arrangements in England and Scotland and their impact on patient care

Dr Ross Henderson has a PhD in vision science and over 20 years service in independent, chain and hospital practices. Dr Henderson is Optometric Advisor for NHS Taysideand was the first Scottish trained optometrist to qualify with a Diploma in Therapeutics and Ophthalmology Co-management. He received the Philip Cole Prize for practice-based research for his College-funded Small Grant Scheme project, completed in 2011.

Prior to 2006, General Ophthalmic Service (GOS) arrangements in Scotland and England were similar. In 2006, the Review of Community Eyecare Services in Scotland highlighted the importance of the role of community optometrists in the management of eye conditions and, in response to this document, statutory changes within the NHS (The National Health Service (General Ophthalmic Services) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2006, 2010) in Scotland provided for GOS (community) eye examinations that are universally free and flexible with regard to patients’ needs.

Ross’ research compared Scottish and English GOS to identify areas of practice that might be influenced by the different GOS arrangements north and south of the border and evaluated their impact on patient care. It looked at the eye conditions detected and recorded by optometrists and found that similar eye conditions were detected in Scotland and England.However advice given or action taken as a result of an examination was provided to a higher proportion of patients in Scotland.English GOS patients were more likely to incur private charges or have Primary Care Trusts provide funding for supplementary examinations in addition to the NHS sight test.

A paper covering Ross’ work is available free to College members below (please log-in to view).

A comparison of Scottish and English General Ophthalmic Services: a preliminary evaluation of the impact on patient care (Optometry in Practice 2012, Volume 13 Issue 4, 139 – 150).

2013: Dr Ian Beasley,
for work investigating the possible association between pattern glare and stroke

Ian’s practice-based doctorate work, undertaken at Aston University, measured susceptibility to pattern glare within a stroke population.


It showed an association between stroke subjects and elevated levels of pattern glare, with cortical hyperexcitability identified as a plausible explanation. A paper on this work is available below.

Ian G. Beasley, Leon N. Davies (2012). Susceptibility to pattern glare following stroke. Journal of Neurology 259 (9), 1832-1839.

2012: Shona Hadwin,
for research on the performance of UK optometrists in evaluating the appearance of optic disc images

This study, funded by the iPRO Small Grants Scheme, investigated the performance of UK optometrists in evaluating the appearance of optic disc images for the presence of glaucoma.

The study was published in the below paper (available to College members and subscribers only).

Hadwin SE, Redmond T, Garway-Heath DF, Lemij HG, Reus NJ, Ward G, Anderson RS. Assessment of optic disc photographs for glaucoma by UK optometrists: the Moorfields Optic Disc Assessment Study (MODAS).Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 2013, 33, 618-624. doi: 10.1111/opo.12066

2011: Michael Beech,
for research to validate an online referral guide for melanocytic fundus lesions

This work, supported by the College's Small Grant Scheme funding, undertook to evaluate a referral tool for melanocytic fundus lesions.

The project confirmed that there was substantial agreement between optometrists and an ocular oncologist in the planned management of these lesions, and that the tool could even be developed further to make it more effective in future.

2010: Dr Jonathan Pointer,
for work investigating habitual versus optimal visual acuity

Dr Pointer’s research has demonstrated the importance of using optimal correction in vision-related studies. This is a very useful contribution to recommended research methodology, and will help to enhance the conclusions of future research projects.


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The Giles Van Colle Memorial Award (in conjunction with the Giles Van Colle Memorial Foundation)

This Award is for outstanding research or clinical case work relating to paediatric optometry.

2015: Lynne Speedwell,
for work in the area of prescribing contact lenses to help treat pathological conditions in children

Lynne Speedwell is Head of the Optometry Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.

The Giles Van Colle Memorial Award is awarded in conjunction with the Giles Van Colle Memorial Foundation, and it recognises outstanding research or clinical case work relating to paediatric optometry. Both the College and the Foundation were delighted to recognise Lynne's contribution to practice in the prescribing of contact lenses to help treat pathological conditions in children, which she has worked to disseminate through her work in writing and co-editing text books such as Contact Lenses (published by Elsevier).

2013: Dr Dorothy Thompson
for research which is helping children's sight by looking at retinal damage caused by metabolic illness

Dr Dorothy Thompson is an optometrist, who works as a consultant clinical scientist in visual electrophysiology at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.  Her studies of the retina in children with a rare metabolic condition, and the ensuing progressive pigmentary retinopathy, demonstrated a similarity in pathology with stationary night blindness.  This finding has helped to develop a way of investigating for the presence of metabolic illness, and the threat to sight that can ensue.

Dorothy’s work has been published in the below paper.

Thompson DA, Lyons RJ, Liasis A, Russell-Eggitt I, Jägle H, Grünewald S. Retinal On-Pathway Deficit in Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation Due to Phosphomannomutase Deficiency. Arch Ophthalmol. 2012;130(6):712-719.

2011: Rasmeet Chadha,
for work investigating the effect of visual impairment on the quality of life of children aged 3-16 years old

This work explored the under-researched area of quality of life for visually impaired children.  It found that those with visual impairment scored lower in quality of life tests than children who were not visually impaired.


It emphasised the need for further research into the benefits of various habilitation methods on quality of life. The work was published in the paper below (please note, only the abstract free to view).

Rasmeet K. Chadha, Ahalya Subramanian (2010). The effect of visual impairment on quality of life of children aged 3–16 yearsBr J Ophthalmol doi:10.1136/bjo.2010.182386


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The Bernard Gilmartin OPO Award

This Award is given annually to a highly regarded paper published inOphthalmic and Physiological Optics in the preceding five years.

2015: Professor Carly Siu-Yin Lam, Chin-Hang Lam, Dr Sam Chi-Kwan Cheng and Dr Lily Yee-Lai Chan

Lam CS-Y, Lam C-H, Cheng SC-K & Chan LY-L. Prevalence of myopia among Hong Kong Chinese schoolchildren: changes over two decades. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 2012, 32, 17–24

This paper was written by colleagues at the Centre for Myopia Research in the School of Optometry at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The Award was accepted on behalf of the authors by Professor Carly Siu-Yin Lam.

The paper outlined a cross-sectional study that aimed to determine the current prevalence of myopia amongst Hong Kong Chinese schoolchildren and whether there had been any increase over the last two decades. It found that the prevalence of myopia amongst this population was similar to that of two decades ago, and therefore no evidence of an increase in prevalence during this period. It did, though, find that the prevalence and degree of myopia was high in this group when compared with figures for other ethnic groups.

2014: Professor Seang-Mei Saw, Dr Chen-Wei Pan and Dr Dharani Ramamurthy

Pan C-W, Ramamurthy D & Saw S-M. Worldwide prevalence and risk factors for myopia. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 2012, 32, 3–16.

This paper was written by colleagues at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore.  Professor Seang-Mei Saw collected the Award on behalf of the whole team.

Myopia, the most common type of refractive error, is a complex trait including both genetic and environmental factors. Numerous studies have tried to elucidate the aetiology of myopia, but the exact aetiology is still unclear.

This paper summarised the worldwide patterns and trends for the prevalence of myopia and evaluated its risk factors in population-based studies.

It found that environmental factors play a crucial role in myopia development, but that the effect of gene-environment interaction on the aetiology of myopia is still controversial with inconsistent findings in different studies. Longitudinal cohort studies or randomised clinical trials of community-based health behaviour interventions should be conducted to further clarify this area.

2013: Professor Brendan Barrett

Barrett, B. T. (2009). A critical evaluation of the evidence supporting the practice of behavioural vision therapy. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 29: 4–25.

Professor Brendan Barrett is a Professor of Visual Development at the University of Bradford. His 2008 paper looked at the evidence to support the theory and practice of behavioural optometry. It showed a lack of controlled trials in the literature to support the approaches of behavioural optometry, and he concluded that, because most such approaches are not evidence-based, they cannot be supported.

2012: Dr TJ Van Den Berg, Dr L Franssen, Dr JE Coppens

Van Den Berg, T. J. T. P., Franssen, L. and Coppens, J. E. (2009). Straylight in the human eye: testing objectivity and optical character of the psychophysical measurement. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 29: 345–350 (available to College members and subscribers only).

Dr Van Den Berg collected the award on behalf of his co-authors. Their paper looked at whether measures of straylight given by the psychophysical technique are compatible with those made by optical methods.

2011: Dr R Calver, Prof D O'Leary, Dr E Osuobeni, Dr H Radhakrishnan

Calver, R., Radhakrishnan, H., Osuobeni, E. and O’Leary, D. (2007). Peripheral refraction for distance and near vision in emmetropes and myopes. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 27: 584–593.


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The George Giles Postgraduate Research Prize

For outstanding postgraduate research by College members, nominations or applications are welcomed from all PhD or Masters research projects.

2015: Dr Laura Sweeney,
for research into the effect of 3D displays on binocular visual function

Dr Sweeney completed her PhD, a College-funded Postgraduate Scholarship, in 2015. Entitled 'The effect of stereoscopic display viewing upon sensory and motor aspects of binocular function', it represents a significant contribution to both our understanding of how the accommodation and vergence systems function and how abnormal stimulation by 3D targets can affect them.

A published article from the PhD is available below.

Sweeney, L. E., Seidel, D., Day, M. & Gray, L. S. 2014. Quantifying interactions between accommodation and vergence in a binocularly normal population. Vision research, 105, 121-129.

2014: Dr Pádraig Mulholland,
for research into the relationship between measures of retinal structure and visual function

Dr Pádraig Mulholland is a Specialist Optometrist and the Interim Research Lead for Optometry at Moorfields Eye Hospital and he received the George Giles Postgraduate Research prize for his PhD work, completed in April 2014.

Padraig’s research has focused on the ability of the visual system to integrate light energy over both space and time and how this facility varies with differences in retinal ganglion cell density. The outcome of this research has significant implications for the optimal design of perimetric stimuli and potentially the nature of the relationship between measures of retinal structure and visual function.

Padraig is now in receipt of funding from the College (in the form of a Clinical Research Fellowship) to continue work in this area and, in the long-term, advance the translation of this research into a clinically viable instrument.

An abstract of Padraig’s work is available below.

Temporal summation varies with visual field eccentricity for perimetric stimuli scaled to the area of complete spatial summation (Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2013;54: E-Abstract 3924)

2013: Dr Andrew Astle,
for research investigating the treatment of amblyopia in adults

Dr Astle completed his PhD in the Visual Neuroscience Group at the University of Nottingham.  His work looked at whether vision could be improved in adults with amblyopia (commonly referred to as a "lazy eye").

Amblyopia is a very common visual disorder that develops early in life and reduces vision in one eye. Treatment is usually restricted to childhood when the visual system is thought to be plastic.

Andrew's project challenged this idea and demonstrated significant clinical improvements in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and stereoacuity (3D vision) using a technique called perceptual learning. Andrew is now looking at ways to optimise the technique to deliver greater improvements in individuals with this and related conditions.

Papers relating to Andrew’s work are available below.
Astle, A. T., McGraw, P. V., & Webb, B. S. (2011). Recovery of stereo acuity in adults with amblyopia. BMJ Case Reports, doi:10.1136/bcr.07.2010.314.

Astle, A. T., Webb, B. S., & McGraw P. V. (2011). The Pattern of Learned Visual Improvements in Adult Amblyopia. IOVS 52 (10), 7195-7204.

Astle, A. T., McGraw, P. V., & Webb, B. S. (2011). Can perceptual learning be used to treat amblyopia beyond the critical period of visual development? Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics 31 (6), 564-573.

2012: Dr Amit Jinabhai,
for research into higher order aberrations in keratoconus

The College funded Dr Jinabhai's PhD which investigated the effect of suspending rigid gas-permeable (RGP) contact lens wear in patients with keratoconus (irregular thinning and protrusion of the cornea).


It found that following RGP lens wear suspension, changes occured to both the patients' corneal profile and visual performance. This finding may impact on the management of keratoconic patients, particularly when prescribing alternative contact lens designs.

2011: Dr Daryl Tabrett,
for research into the factors influencing self-reported visual function of the visually impaired

In this College funded PhD, Dr Tabrett produced important information about the effects of depression and the adjustment to vision loss in affecting peoples’ perceived disability due to vision loss.


It provides evidence to support the need for emotional support for people with low vision, and so by demonstrating the need for referral of those patients in need of emotional support makes a valuable contribution to optometric practice.

2010: Dr Tony Redmond,
for research into spatial summation and the structure/function relationship with age and in glaucoma

Dr Redmond’s work has shed crucial light on the development of the eye in early glaucoma, and the conclusions will allow glaucoma testing to be further refined and improved. The thesis also provided substantial new insight into the relationship between retinal structure and retinal function.


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If you have any questions please contact Martin Cordiner, Head of Research, by email or on 020 7766 4346.