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Globally, 285 million people are visually impaired, with cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) accounting for most of this burden. The effects of potential risk factors (such as smoking, dietary factors, adiposity, diabetes, hypertension and genetic factors) on risk of different eye diseases are not well established, and may vary according to ethnicity, socioeconomic conditions, and the availability of health and eye care services. 

This DPhil project is based on two large ongoing prospective cohort studies, the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB, and the UK Biobank (UKB,, each involving over 0.5 million adults. Both studies collected extensive questionnaire data and physical measurements, with eye examinations, conducted in UKB as well. In addition, genome-wide genotyping and biochemical data were also available in both cohorts. Follow-up on death and hospitalisation is through linkages with registries, medical records or health insurance databases. By Jan 2016, there were >11,000 cataract, 1140 glaucoma, 4000 diabetic retinopathy, and nearly 300 AMD cases identified in the CKB and >13,000 age-related cataract cases in the UKB. 


The student will work within a multi-disciplinary team to gain research experience in literature review, study design and planning, epidemiological and statistical methodology, programming, data analysis and scientific writing.

The specific line of investigation will be subject to further discussion and personal interest, but the general research objectives of this DPhil project will include the following:

  1. Describing and comparing incidence patterns of common eye diseases (e.g. cataract and glaucoma) in CKB and UKB, including distributions by age, gender, socioeconomic status, and adiposity status.
  1. Investigation of associations of environmental and lifestyle factors (e.g. smoking and diet) with risks of common eye diseases. Potential mediators (e.g. adiposity, blood pressure, blood glucose and lipids) will also be investigated.
  2. Identification of genetic risk factors for different eye diseases using available genome-wide genotyping data (500K in UKB, 100K in CKB).

In addition, the student will be involved in planning the third CKB resurvey scheduled for 2019-2020 which will include lens and retina imaging (e.g. PEEK, a professional eye examination tool developed for smartphones). 


The project will provide an extensive range of training opportunities through attending specific courses, meetings, seminars and conferences. There may be opportunities to become involved in fieldwork in China, depending on the direction and development of the project.


A higher degree in medicine, epidemiology, statistics, public health, or other related areas. Previous statistical training/experience is necessary. Candidates should also have a strong interest in eye disease epidemiology.