Research win at Times Higher Awards

November 28th, 2014

The University of Nottingham has won ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2014.

Scientists from the University identified a previously undetected layer of the cornea, the clear protective lens that sits in front of the eye.

The researchers, led by Professor Harminder Dua, found a distinct layer deep in the corneal tissue that plays a vital role in corneal transplant surgery.

Professor Dua said: “Winning this award is fantastic – but the real winners are my team, the University of Nottingham for the support and the environment it provides, and my NHS colleagues who have always encouraged and facilitated my research.”

The discovery has been named ‘Dua’s Layer’ in his honour. He carried out the research with Dr Dalia Said, Dr Lana Faraj, Trevor Gray and James Lowe.

Having identified this new and distinct layer deep in the tissue of the cornea, doctors are now exploiting its presence to make operations much safer and simpler for patients.

The discovery has also sparked a flurry of research questions about its role in diseases of the eye including glaucoma, the world’s second most common cause of blindness, which is a result of defective fluid drainage.

Professor Dua’s research, published in the journal Opthalmology, was the discipline’s most downloaded paper on the ScienceDirect website over the next three months. Collaborative work with researchers in Italy, Egypt, Lithuania and Wales is building on the breakthrough.

Professor Saul Tendler, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at The University of Nottingham, said: “I’m delighted to see this outstanding work recognised by the Times Higher Education judges. This is exciting research that is helping to improve patient care and having a real impact on day-to-day treatment of patients around the world.”

The Times Higher Education Awards judges described the discovery as truly groundbreaking.

Shearer West, head of the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford, said: “The discovery of a new layer of the cornea by Professor Dua has been one of the most exciting recent developments in opthalmology, with the possibility of revolutionising the treatment of corneal diseases.”

The University of Nottingham was also shortlisted in the category of ‘Outstanding International Student Strategy’ for its sector-leading work to support international students. The University has introduced a range of innovative measures to help overseas students including immigration surgeries given by a leading law firm, interactive online sessions with applicants and on-campus police registration all year round.

Now in their tenth year, the Times Higher Education Awards are a highlight of the academic calendar, shining a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of institutions, teams and individuals in the UK higher education sector.

The Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark, joined academics and professional and support staff from all over the country at the event, held in London on November 27th.

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