Dr Nikolas Pontikos, one of Moorfield Eye Charity's Career Development Award beneficiaries, standing beside an internet server with colourful wires

Our Career Development Award helps future leading researchers focus on their research to catapult them to the next stage of their career. We asked two award holders what this funding means to them.

Dr Nikolas Pontikos and Dr Tessa Dekker are two Career Development Award holders.

Nikolas’ research combines genetics and imaging to assist genetic diagnosis using AI, while Tessa studies the development of visual systems and how this contributes to adaptive perception and action. 

You’ve got a year of funding! What are you looking forward to working on in that year?

Nikolas - I am very happy to now be in charge of my exciting research programme and to be able to focus full time on it. I’m most excited about the results of applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) to retinal images and to see what is achievable, what I will learn from these and where this will take my research in the future.

Tessa - We’re hoping to find that new methods can help better explain the mechanisms that drive the normal development of vision in children. I’m also planning to use them to look at children with eye disease, to see if these new methods can pick up improvements in vision after intervention or treatment, so they can be used as outcome measures for clinical trials and in hospitals. That would be very cool.

Dr Tessa Dekker is a research fellow in Experimental Psychology and director of the UCL Child Vision Lab.

Dr Nikolas Pontikos works on using AI to help diagnose genetic eye disease and founded the Eye2Gene platform.

Are there any other perks to this grant, besides the money?

Nikolas – Besides providing protected research time, the grant has given me a boost in motivation and recognition, helped me get principal investigator status at the institute (UCl institute of ophthalmology) and given credibility to my researcher profile and my research plan.

Why should researchers consider applying for one of these grants?

Tessa – I think it’s a really great opportunity. When you’re at the stage in your career where you’re creative and you have your own vision, it’s sometimes not easy to get that translated into a grant. It’s probably one of the most important awards in my entire career, because it will allow me to consolidate my own independent research programme and lab at one of the best places in the world.

One piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking of applying?

Tessa - You need to present yourself and your research programme overall, but also a specific piece of research. It’s quite important to demonstrate that you’ve got an independent vision that you can really contribute something to - that there’s something special about you, and you’re going to make a brilliant addition to the research around ophthalmology.

Nikolas - Go for it! Talk to Moorfields Eye Charity first to find out if your work, project and profile fits their remit, then put in an application. They are very helpful in the whole application process and are very happy to give you feedback.