ABOUT DR CAROL GREENE
Ophthalmology, School of Medicine
The road less travelled
Carol is originally from India and completed a BSc in Microbiology in India before heading to the University of Birmingham, UK, to complete an MSc in Applied Genetics. Her search for a career in research led her to New Zealand where she was lucky to get a job as a Research Technician at the Department of Ophthalmology of the University of Auckland, where she was lucky to get a UoA doctoral scholarship to pursue a PhD.
For the first two years of her PhD research, Carol was working on ocularptic cell differentiation strategies; turning cells from the cornea into neurons, looking to repair or replace damaged neurons in the eye in a damaged retinal model. It was at this point, halfway through her PhD work, when Carol reached a crossroad; should she continue her research the “neuronal way”, which would guarantee her a successful submission and a predictable outcome, or should she embark in a different journey that would satisfy her curiosity, yet expose her to considerable risk?
“This is not enough, I want to know more. I chose the exploratory pathway instead of a shortcut.”
Thankfully, Carol chose the latter option and it paid off! She is currently working on developing a regenerative treatment for a condition that affects New Zealand Maori and Pacific people predominantly called Keratoconus.
Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. This cone shape deflects light as it enters the eye on its way to the light-sensitive retina, causing distorted vision.
This progressive disease is over represented in New Zealand due to our unique population mix and it is likely multifactorial (biochemical, genetic and socio economic components). Keratoconus starts during puberty and becomes evident particularly debilitating and crippling in early adulthood. It is known that almost 50% of all corneal transplants performed in NZ are for people with Keratoconus .will need a corneal transplant.
Carol completed her PhD at the Department of Ophthalmology under the supervision of Professor Trevor Sherwin and Professor Colin Green in 2015.
During her PhD she was an active member of the post graduate student community and was President of the FMHS Post Graduate Society. She also won the Spark Ideas challenge during her PhD and this helped her to learn more about research entrepreneurship and commercialisation. After her graduation she started a Postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of her two PhD supervisors.
Through her work on both in-vivo and in-vitro models, Carol has developed a new therapy containing both a growth factor and a synthetic steroid, which may prevent people affected by Keratoconus from ever needing a corneal transplant.
Carol considers herself extremely lucky to have such great mentors. She is currently undertaking translational research in the hopes of commercialising it and has been the recipient of an HRC explorer grant and return on Science funding to help her achieve her goals.
Carol is also a devoted mother to two and a half year old Dariya, in fact she was seven months pregnant when she handed in her PhD Thesis. Today she is 20 weeks pregnant and optimistic about her future, believing that a woman can be an accomplished scientist, a nurturing mother and maintain a good social life and friendships as well.
“As a scientist, there’s no greater satisfaction than seeing your research turn into application.”
“I want to be able to do meaningful research and see the translation from the labs to the clinic and then to the market. I would consider myself lucky if I could accomplish this”