Joanne Qiao is a second-year optometry student at the University of Waterloo who has set her sights on improving the way drugs are tested on eyes. Joanne began her university experience in Hamilton where she pursued a bachelors in Biochemistry at McMasters University. She then took her knowledge and expertise to the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision sciences where she worked on her masters with Dr. Lyndon Jones. Joanne’s research looked at protein depositions on contact lens and how they interacted with the eye. Throughout this research, she became frustrated by the lack of effective models that could be used to look at tear film interactions with contacts. There was no model that could accurately simulate the friction, pressure and the periodic nature of a blink!
Rather than continue her masters project without a working model, Joanne teamed up with engineering and other graduate students to create a solution. They created a model called OcuBlink which simulated the blink and tear flow of an actual eye. She and her team have since improved on the design by adding humidity and temperature control, as well as introducing a more representative blink mechanism. Joanne is very excited about the future of the product with applications R&D and education. The product can hopefully replace or reduce the amount of animal testing and deliver more accurate results. The next phase of development is looking to add corneal epithelial cells to the surface of the “eye” to further simulate actual physiology and make it more useful to broader applications.
Joanne is also an active member of the UW optometry community where she acts as the External Affairs Director for the UW AOSA. In her time with the AOSA Joanne has worked with other clubs to put on events, trade shows and visited with the pre-optometry club on campus to answer questions and inspire the incoming classes. Joanne is the perfect candidate to communicate with new students because of her passion and expertise in Optometry. Joanne is also preparing to volunteer this summer, hoping to travel to Senegal and deliver eyecare to underserved populations there. Joanne is an extraordinary and motivated student who doesn’t see obstacles but rather solutions. She works tirelessly to serve other students making us proud to present her as student doctor of the month.