(BS, Biology, ’18)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My fondest memory of Hofstra was being a peer mentor for commuter students. I didn't have a mentor when I was a freshman, so I wanted to give back when the opportunity arose. I became a mentor to welcome all the incoming students who felt lost and nervous about college. I wanted the new students to feel welcomed in their new environment and to let them know that they had a friend who would help them figure things out. I was later awarded Mentor of the Year for this position!
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing learned in that position?
My first job after graduating from Hofstra was working as a research technician at The Research Foundation at SUNY College of Optometry. I wanted to be a competitive applicant for optometry school, so I was excited to accept this position. Working in this vision science laboratory vastly expanded my academic knowledge and gave me an advantage for optometry school.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I am currently a third year student at SUNY College of Optometry pursuing my dual-degree in Doctor of Optometry and Master of Science in Vision Science. My passion for optometry started in high school when I watched a documentary where an eye doctor entered North Korea to provide eye care. The doctor helped restore vision to many blind/visually impaired citizens, and I was inspired to help patients in need.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
I would tell students to find a work-study position (especially in Student Affairs!) and join clubs. Your education is important in college but so are your extracurriculars. You never know what lessons you will learn or what kinds of friends you will end up making.
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see your career progressing to in the future?
My long-term career goal includes three roles. (1) To deliver eye care to underrepresented communities and diverse populations by providing annual visual and ocular health exams. (2) To become an optometry educator and help teach future optometry students with the knowledge I have learned. (3) To become a vision scientist performing my own ocular surface and contact lens research and applying the latest discoveries to my patients.
- How has your degree from Hofstra helped you?
My passion for research started at Hofstra University in a neuroscience laboratory. The research I conducted allowed my professor to publish the findings in General and Comparative Endocrinology. This research experience made me want to explore more research areas in biology. I enrolled in multiple graduate courses including Molecular Techniques and Advanced Cell Biology to expand my skills and knowledge in molecular biology. This experience helped me secure my position as a research technician immediately after graduation.
- What do you hope your work will contribute to the understanding of CLIDE (contact lens-induced dry eye)?
Dry eye disease is a global problem and the continuous exploration of novel contact lens materials is a necessity. Therefore, the development of a novel protocol to assess the ocular surface has the significant potential to guide the development and testing of novel contact lens materials or other preventive strategies for high myopes experiencing CLIDE symptoms. The purpose of my research is to develop a protocol to assess the ocular surface and identify reliable parameters that will help with the assessment of CLIDE.
- What was a major obstacle you were able to overcome to perform your job?
A major obstacle that many of us experienced was the COVID-19 pandemic. This stopped my research in March 2020 for 2-3 months. However, I was the first student within my OD/MS class cohort to continue my research in the vision science laboratory during the summer of 2020. I was able to show my work as a poster presentation at the 2020 American Academy of Optometry Conference later that year.
- How has your recent award from the American Academy of Optometry Foundation energized your work in optometry?
The 2021 Joe and Janet Barr Early Career Cornea and Contact Lens Research Award has provided me with research project seed funding and allowed me to continue my research without financial burdens. My work has resulted in an accepted abstract for the 2022 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Conference, and I am planning on submitting to the 2022 American Academy of Optometry Conference later this year.
Gulnoza earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience at Hofstra University in 2018. She is currently an OD/MS student at SUNY College of Optometry. She chose SUNY because of its strong commitment to training vision scientists and future clinical leaders in optometry to advance vision care. Her long-term career goal is to become a clinician, optometry educator, and vision scientist performing her own ocular surface and contact lens research, and applying the latest discoveries to patients.
Her passion for research started at Hofstra University in a neuroscience laboratory when she studied song exposure and reproductive physiology in female brood parasites, such as the Brown-headed cowbirds. The research she conducted allowed her professor to publish the results in General and Comparative Endocrinology. This research experience made Gulnoza want to explore more research areas in biology. She enrolled in multiple graduate courses including Molecular Techniques and Advanced Cell Biology to expand her skills and knowledge in molecular biology.
Her passion for research continued at SUNY Optometry when she completed an Introduction to Vision Science course. This course helped her realize that optometry was what she wanted to do. At approximately the same time, she found that Dr. Alexandra Benavente-Perez was looking for a research technician in her myopia research laboratory at SUNY. She was excited to explore the research side of optometry and get hands-on experience in a vision science laboratory. During her time in Dr. Benavente’s lab, she worked to induce high myopia in juvenile marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) by treating them with custom-made negative contact lenses for long periods of time. Dr. Benavente’s lab focuses on studying the structural and functional changes that the myopic eye experiences as it develops myopia with the goal to find markers of degenerative myopia before it occurs. As a technician, she collected data on these animals using a variety of instruments such as A-scan ultrasound, autorefraction, keratometry, and optical coherence tomography (OCT). She also analyzed data and assisted MS and PhD students in their research and data collection, which is reflected as her co-authorship in three conference abstracts.
Over the past year, Gulnoza has independently developed a non-invasive protocol to measure corneal thickness using anterior segment optical coherence tomography (AS-OCT), as well as describe preliminary changes in tear film osmolarity in marmosets wearing contact lenses. Her work has resulted in two abstracts presented at the 2020 American Academy of Optometry Conference and the 2021 British Contact Lens Association Conference.
Gulnoza’s long-term career goal in the field of ocular surface and contact lens research is to translate her current experimental work into the development of a platform to assess novel contact lens materials for dry eye. With this work, she hopes to improve ocular comfort and enhance the quality of life of nearsighted people who suffer discomfort from ocular surface symptoms.