Josie Evans, specialist optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, and Research Fellow, Dr Bethany Higgins, share how City’s Crabb Lab has supported their careers in research.

By Mr Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer), Published

The Crabb Lab at City, University of London aims to understand, diagnose and monitor eye disease in order to improve patient services and outcomes. The lab’s focus is on the measurement of vision to achieve its goals.

Led by David Crabb, Professor of Statistics and Vision Research, the Crabb Lab team is a mixture of researchers from the fields of optometry, psychology, mathematics, health economics and computer science.

The lab has a world-renowned reputation for the development of early career researchers and collaboration with researchers and clinicians from other eye care institutions.

Visiting researcher, Josie Evans

Josie Evans is an Association of Optometrists (AOP) Councillor and specialist optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.

Last year, she received Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) to conduct research at the Crabb Lab, under the direct supervision of Research Fellow, Giovanni Montesano.

Government’s UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) awards HEIF to higher education institutions based on a strong track record of knowledge-based interactions with the wider world, which result in benefits to the economy and society.

Josie Evans smiling and standing against a wallpapered background.
Josie Evans, AOP Councillor and specialist optometrist, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London

Josie’s research project, ‘integration of structural data into perimetric examinations,’ involved the development of a user interface to integrate detailed images of the light sensitive part of the eye (the retina) into tests of patients’ central and peripheral vision (also known as visual field testing, or perimetry).

She presented her research at the 24th International Imaging and Perimetry Symposium in California, winning the IPS Heidelberg Young Researchers Award with a prize of $5,000 towards her research.

Speaking of her experience at the Crabb Lab, Josie said:

It is a privilege to have been able to work with the Crabb Lab. The team have a vast breath of knowledge and experience, and have developed a friendly and inclusive working environment. Giovanni is an incredible mentor and project lead, and an inspiring individual. I am really grateful for his guidance and support, and for the generous opportunity offered by David to work on such an exciting project.

Research Fellow, Dr Bethany Higgins

Dr Bethany Elora Higgins is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Crabb Lab, having previously completed her PhD at the lab from 2018 to 2021. Her doctoral thesis focused on measuring dark adaptation of the retina in people with the eye disease, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

In January, Dr Higgins was interviewed by the European Platform of Women Scientists as its ‘Woman Scientist of Month’ – celebrating women recognised by the scientific community for their achievements, and who are also concerned by the gender-equality goals of the platform.

Head and shoulders photo of Dr Bethany Higgins.
Dr Bethany Higgins, Research Fellow, Crabb Lab

During her interview, Dr Higgins commented on the importance of the support she has received from the Crabb Lab. She said in part:

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have two amazing supervisors and a mentor who guided me through the beginning of my academic career. I’m lucky to have not met any barriers during my career, apart from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I consider my research lab to be a safe space where I was able to grow and be my authentic self in. My supervisors also encouraged me to join Women in Vision UK (WVUK), a network for all women working in and around vision. We have over 350 members so far, and we foster new collaborations, establish mentoring connections, and raises the profile of women working in vision across the UK. We actively campaign for gender equality across the UK and I’ve been the Training Lead on the Executive Committee for four years.

Dr Higgins’ current work spans research at City, University College London and Anglia Ruskin University, including into Charles Bonnet Syndrome – the experience of visual hallucinations caused by the brain’s response to sight loss.

Reflecting on these recent achievements at the Crabb Lab, and the importance of supporting early career researchers, Professor David Crabb said:

These two young researchers have been recognised for their excellence and we are fortunate to have them working in the lab. I think their achievements are wonderful examples of the peer-to-peer support and training we provide in the lab.

Josie Evans and Dr Bethany Higgins  together facing the camera .