Wit Professor Reflects On Stateside Secondment To Do Vision Research

WIT professor reflects on Stateside secondment to do vision research

Secondment at the University of California San Diego sees Prof John Nolan heading up new DRIVE Study (Driving Improvement through Vision Enhancement)

A six-month secondment from the south east of Ireland to the west coast of the US has given Waterford Institute of Technology’s Professor John Nolan the opportunity to further the understanding about the link between human nutrition and function.

“This collaboration between the Macular Pigment Research Group (MPRG) based within the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI), School of Health Sciences, Waterford Institute of Technology, and the Visual Performance Laboratory at the Department of Ophthalmology at the Hamilton Glaucoma Center at Shirley Eye Institute at University of California San Diego (UCSD) represents another key development for our research field,” says Prof Nolan.

Access to new state-of-the-art technologies and different populations is key to furthering our understanding about the link between human nutrition and function, he advises.

This will be the first time that a project of this type (i.e. to test the impact of carotenoids on ecological visual and cognitive function) will be conducted. There is also the unique possibility to examine these parameters and outcomes in patients with glaucoma. From this initial work, the scientists expect two research papers in 2017.


Part of this study will involve the use of new state-of-the-art motion-enabled driving simulator (RealTime Technologies, Inc.), which is in place at the Visual Performance Laboratory, at UCSD. The simulator is under the direction of Dr. Felipe Medeiros. At a cost of $350,000 US dollars, this simulator is the only one of its kind to be housed in a Department of Ophthalmology in the Unites States.

$350,000 simulator

“We are extremely enthusiastic about this collaboration. Prof Nolan is the world-leading expert in research demonstrating the importance of macular pigment to eye health. With his guidance we have an unsurpassed opportunity to investigate how macular pigment relates to patient performance on daily activities, such as driving,” Professor Medeiros commented.

Professor John Nolan moved to San Diego with his family in December 2016 for a six-month secondment at UCSD.
In May 2017, professor Nolan will return to Waterford to his research headquarters, as he has several active studies ongoing at this facility, but he is now very excited about the new collaboration with UCSD and potential other centres across the US.

A new type of challenge

“Our time in the US has been wonderful,” says Professor Nolan, who is BON Conference Committee Chair. “For me, it represented a new type of challenge. I am pleased that we were able to deliver on this project. We have a lot to do now in Waterford, but I am excited about the future. We are now working at full capacity for the 2018 BON conference, and I expect the work conducted at UCSD to feature at this international scientific conference.”