Eye Health and Diagnostics

This multidisciplinary project examines the complexity of the eye by connecting the physiology, engineering and optics of our visual system.

To create a clear image of the outside world, the eye uses a sophisticated system of biological-optical elements.

The close links of the physiology and optical functionality of the ocular tissue are the main focus of our project.

Our multidisciplinary approach takes advantage of bioengineering, optometry and ophthalmology resources at the University, as well as at other centres of excellence around the world.

Individual components of the ocular system have been studied, in particular:

  • Mathematical
  • Anatomical
  • Physiological
  • Optical.

We believe that the close collaboration of clinicians and engineers gathered here offers the opportunity to marry different aspects of a perfect image formation system.

To help us in our research we have developed:

  • A large deformation model of the cornea to improve keratotomy surgery
  • An ophthalmic virtual environment for eye surgery training
  • A model of how the ocular lens generates its own circulation system in the absence of blood vessels, combining state-of-the-art microscopic imaging modalities with finite element modelling.

How our eyes work

The cornea on the outermost layer of our visual system refracts the light into the eye and at the same time absorbs oxygen from the outside environment to nourish the inner avascular tissues.

Behind the cornea lies the ocular lens, which changes shape to focus on the different objects at variable distances and at the same time corrects for imperfections of the other optical tissue.

Since the ocular lens is not supported with a vascular feeding system and is not in contact with the outside world (unlike the cornea), it is entirely dependent on a multifaceted system of fluid dynamics for maintaining its physiological homeostasis.

The light is finally focused on the retina, on the back of the eye, where the light-sensitive cells then convert the optical signal to an electrical pulse which can be understood by our brain. The retina has an unusually high demand of oxygen and energy, compared to other biological tissue, in order to maintain its normal functionality. This demand is met by a dense vasculature network on the back of the retina.

Funding partner

We gratefully acknowledge that our project was made possible with the support of:

  • Marsden Fund, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand.


Primary contact

Jason Turuwhenua


Peter Hunter
Jason Turuwhenua
Ehsan Vaghefi


Peter Qiu
Mehrdad Sangi
Duncan Wu


T Richard Mathias (SUNY Stony Brook)


Paul Donaldson (FMHS)
Peter Thorne (FMHS)
Gary Housley (UNSW)

International links

  • Australia: UNSW
  • US: SUNY Stony Brook