Bethany Higgins, PhD Student at City’s Crabb Lab, wins the Company’s Masters Medal 2021 for her research into age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

By Mr Shamim Quadir(Senior Communications Officer), Published

The Crabb Lab’s Bethany Higgins was recently awarded the Worshipful Society of Spectacle Makers Masters Medal at their prestigious annual research awards event.

Bethany won the award for research she led into computer-based assessments of everyday visual function in people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and which she undertook as part of her doctoral study at the lab.

Bethany Higgins being awarded Masters Medal by Master Ian Davies

Bethany Higgins accepting her award from Mr Ian Davis, the Master of the WCSM.

AMD is a common condition that affects the middle part of a person’s vision where one sees most clearly, and usually first affects people in their 50s and 60s. Early symptoms include blurring and distortion of vision, which can progress to loss of vision.

Published in the journal, PLOS One, Bethany’s research suggests that, with increasing severity of AMD, people take longer to perform visual searches of everyday objects and also take longer to identify road signs than those with no AMD. The study also suggest that the novel assessments investigated could be useful as patient-relevant, secondary outcomes for clinical trials into AMD.

Reflecting on the award win, Bethany said:

I am honoured to have received the Master’s Medal for my paper. The study has implications for the future management of people with dry AMD. We also used measurements of ‘real-world’ visual function that go beyond the standard vision charts used in clinics and feel more relatable to day-to-day life. I very much hope that this paper will lead to greater understanding of the impact of dry AMD and inspire the of use meaningful measures of ‘real world’ visual function in research.

This is also the third time in five years that the Masters Medal has been awarded to a PhD student from the Crabb Lab. Its previous winners include Dr Deanna Taylor and Dr Daniel Asfaw, both from Crabb Lab, with last year’s winner, Reena Chopra, hailing from Moorfields Eye Hospital.

David Crabb, Professor of Statistics and Vision Research at City, and Crabb Lab lead commented:

Beth is a wonderful PhD student and this award reflects the quality of her very first published article. We are grateful to WCSM; they understand the importance of supporting early career rearchers. It is pleasing to have a hat-trick of medals from recent years – I think this achievement highlights the quality of our PhD training in Optometry and Vision Sciences here at City.

Founded in 1629, the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers is number 60 in the list of City of London Livery Companies by order of precedence. Its mission is to support better vision for all, not only through the prescription of spectacles, but through the whole range of methods available to us in the present day.

The Crabb Lab at City, University of London consists of a mixture of researchers from optometry, psychology, mathematics, health economics and computer science, who focus on measurement of vision through a multitude of methods to relate stages of chronic eye disease and subsequent visual disability to everyday life. Since 2010 it has attracted over £3 million in funding, published more than 80 papers and established a reputation for excellence in clinical research, especially in glaucoma.

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Read the research article, 'Novel computer-based assessments of everyday visual function in people with age-related macular degeneration',  in the journal, PLOS One