Meet NVRI’s PhD Candidates

Our next generation of vision researchers


Since its inception, the NVRI has provided a unique space for PhD students to establish their research foundation. Maximising its diverse collaborations with universities and private companies across Australia, the corridors of NVRI are usually filled with students from various institutions.

The NVRI hosts PhD candidates who are enrolled at a mix of Melbourne based Universities and linked to our valued collaborators. This results in a range of disciplines being studied within the larger scope of visual science research, and establishes the concept of multidisciplinary research and collaboration from the outset of their research careers.

So far, we have highlighted our Alumni, but what is it like to undertake a PhD at the NVRI? We caught up with some of our PhD candidates to get a glimpse into their research projects and what makes NVRI the institute of choice for them.

Jordan Sibberas

Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, The University of Melbourne

PhD project: Vision Processing in Higher Cortical Areas

Why did you choose to do your PhD at the NVRI? What makes it different than other research institutes/ universities.

The mix of clinical and lab-based studies provides a unique opportunity to see the theoretical or more abstract lab-based research translate into a clinical setting, where it serves a practical benefit to people’s health. Coming to the NVRI for my PhD has been an incredible opportunity. I have been part of a group which has both allowed me to make the most of my skills that I have developed in past study, as well as develop and hone new skills.

James Begeng

School of Software and Electrical Engineering, Swinburne University of Technology

PhD project: Optical stimulation strategies for retinal prostheses

Have you found the NVRI a supportive place to complete your PhD?

At the NVRI there is a lot of room to modify a project to follow your research interest, and my supervisors are always available for a constructive data discussion. Generally, you’re encouraged to steer your own PhD project in the direction you see fit, which is as it should be, I think. I’ve really valued the wealth of institutional knowledge at NVRI, which has made for some interesting casual discussions that have ended up becoming large sections of a thesis chapter.

William Kwan

Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, Monash University

PhD project: A cell specific approach to modulate retinal ganglion cell activity

What has been the greatest learning experience during your time with the NVRI?

The importance of a team with mixed experience. Our lab is an eclectic mix of physicists, biologists and engineers. As most problems are multidisciplinary in nature, it makes sense that the team needs to be multidisciplinary as well. Traditionally this was achieved with external collaborators, but I feel like having that mix within the team makes for a better unit. It’s also a lot more fun and eye opening when we all see things with different perspectives.

Yiqing Shen

Deptartment of Biomedical Engineering, The University of Melbourne

PhD project: Statistical inference to identify computational microcircuits in the brain

Can you tell us a bit more about the aim of your research? Could you see yourself working at the NVRI after your PhD completion?

My project aims to develop and test a novel method that can efficiently identify neural microcircuits and their dynamics, based on the extracellular multi-electrode recordings of in vitro cortical cultures. This method helps investigate the pathophysiology of neurological diseases, and prompts the development of techniques such as brain-machine interface (BCI), neural implants, and artificial intelligence (AI).

If I decide to continue my career in research, NVRI would be a very good choice for me. NVRI gives us a very good choice to see what others are working on and learn from others. I think working at NVRI after my PhD would be great for my career.

Zuitian Tao

Department of Biomedical Engineering, The University of Melbourne

PhD project: Visual Motion in Brain

What would you tell other prospective research students about the NVRI?

I have already told some friends in my department that the NVRI is a great place to begin your research career. I thought PhD would be tough, however, everyone here is so supportive. I have developed strong theoretical, simulation, modelling, and experimental skills in visual neuroscience.

Simon Higham

Biomedical Engineering, RMIT University

PhD project: In Vivo evaluation and optimisation of a carbon-based micro-electrode neural recording device

The NVRI is home to specialised equipment and facilities, how has this been a helpful aspect while completing your PhD?

The facilities at NVRI allows me to go straight from the design and manufacture of my electrodes directly to testing. Having the ability to perform all the stages required for my experiments is quite unique and incredibly helpful for the progression of my work. Combining this with the world class experience that many of the people at NVRI have when it comes to neural interfacing has been exceptionally helpful.