Interview with 2 students from the MyFUN project

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By Pascal Blaser

In February 2018, I was invited to Tübingen (Germany) to visit the University, the ZEISS Vision Science Lab and the project MyFun. MyFun is an EU-funded project on myopia research and different universities in Europe have been involved for several years.

During a cosy dinner, I met the two students, Pablo Sanz Diez (front right) and Miguel Garcia Garcia (back right) among others. They work at the university on their PhD thesis with the support of the MyFun project.

Tübingen itself is a small, pretty city with many historical buildings, the university campus and clinic is really impressive.

Here is the interview with them about their work and the project.

Question: You are 2 of several students working on the EU supported project "MyFUN". Can you explain more about the project, the goals and who is involved?

Miguel Garcia Garcia: Hi! Nice to meet you and of course, I can tell you more about “MyFUN”. Well, in fact, “MyFUN” is an acronym of “Myopia fundamental understanding needed” and we attempt to get answers to some fundamental, unsolved questions in myopia research. This is a European Commission funded grant under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions within the Horizon 2020 framework, which means that all fellows (Early Stage Researcher or ESR) of the network are doctoral candidates. Each ESR is working on his or her own topic, but the aims of the project can be split into three main work packages: 1) To understand how the eye interacts with visual input and how this can determine the eye growth, 2) How does the eye know, how to growth, after receiving the input signal and 3) how visual performance, adaptation or training may help us to change this condition.

Question: How did you get into the program? 

Miguel Garcia Garcia: Back in Spain, when I was doing my master's degree, I decided to do my doctorate due to the research opportunities it offers. I knew it had to be something that would interest me and by then I was already interested in the field of myopia (I'm an optometrist by training), so when a teacher sent us the offer, I didn't hesitate to apply, I was lucky and here I am, doing what I like.

Pablo Sanz Diez: In my case, I had finished the master's degree a few months ago and I was working in an ophthalmic clinic. I wanted to continue learning and specializing in different aspects of the visual system, so I decided to start looking for doctoral offers in Spain. Because the offer was not very wide, I decided that the best thing for my future would be to make it abroad, so I asked my university professors if they knew of any European grant and one of them told me about the MyFUN grant and the offers at the ZEISS Vision Science Lab in Tübingen. I did not hesitate to send my application, it was a unique opportunity I did not have to miss (…opportunity knocks but once).

Question: And what are your two projects in "MyFUN"?

Pablo Sanz Diez: First of all, MyFUN propose a new effort to answer some fundamental questions of myopia development and therefore MyFUN consider three essential targets, grouped in three overlapping research Work Packages (WP): WP 1 - Unknown features of the eye growth; WP 2 - Biological features controlling eye growth; WP 3 - Visual performance, adaptation and training.

Miguel Garcia Garcia: I´m part of the first Work- Package and my project tries to determine the effect of conventional spectacle correction for near-sightedness in the course of a normal myope eye´s grow.

Pablo Sanz Diez: My project is part of the third Work Package and our purpose is to describe the plasticity of accommodation and define a training technique to reduce the inaccuracies of the accommodative system in myopic subjects.

Question: Five different universities (Tübingen, Murcia, Madrid, Dublin, and Stockholm) are involved in "MyFUN". What is the cooperation and interactions between the teams?

Miguel Garcia Garcia: Actually, there are seven network partners (five Universities and two Industrial partners), and both Pablo and I, are part of one of these industrial partners, Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH.

Regarding the cooperation, as any other Innovative Training Networks, granted by the EU Commission, the cooperation, interaction and network between all the partners is assured. Every one of us has secondments which are exchanges between labs. Furthermore, we meet several times per year in order to understand deeply each other’s work. Additionally, our networking can also result in joined publications, into inter-exchangeable knowledge and for sure are an improvement to our own work.

Question: Are there existing results of the research and if there are, where can we find them?

Miguel Garcia Garcia: Yeah! There are few articles published in different scientific journals and more are to come.

All of the published work have open access, and also the European Union wants that our results are shared within all the researcher in the world as well as the publicity. You may find them under the Grant number 675137, at https://myopiainscience.wordpress.com/publications-from-the-myfun-network/, or in public repositories.

Question: You have published a great blog about the "MyFUN" project. What is the blog about and who should read it?

Pablo Sanz Diez: The MyFUN Blog is called Myopia in Science and it pretends to show the broad spectrum of research and science throughout the world of myopia research. Another purpose of this blog is to meet the MyFUN ESR students and researchers as well as the news published about our projects and experiences behind this remarkable, international and interdisciplinary project. Here you have the link in case you want to know different aspects of MyFUN: https://myopiainscience.wordpress.com/

Thank you very much for this interview and good luck with your studies!

During my visit, Dr. Siegfried Wahl (Director of the ZEISS Vision Science Lab, middle), and Alexander Leube (Doctorate, left) joined me through the university and the research rooms.

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