“I formed the main mission of my life: Save life; Save eye; Save sight.”
Dr. Mukhit Kulmaganbetov
Mukhit completed his MBBS in General Medicine and General Surgery at the Kazakh National Medical University (Kazakhstan) and his Residency in Ophthalmology at the Kazakh Eye Research Institute (Kazakhstan). Recently, he finished his PhD study at the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences (Cardiff University, Wales, UK) in the field of early detection of retinal neurodegeneration using optical coherence tomography (OCT) and machine learning tools.
1. How did you get interested in eye and vision research?
The ability to see is our greatest gift. In daily clinical practice, I was convinced of the truthfulness of the proverb of the Kazakh people ‘Better to take life, than vision’. To be able to see the people around us and to enjoy the beauty of nature inspire us to do great deeds. Therefore, my commitment to ophthalmology has become the main source of satisfaction for me. The work at the Kazakh Eye Research Institute, Cardiff University and the Centre for Eye and Vision Research contributed to the development of my clinical, research and management skills in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of ophthalmic diseases. Moreover, being face to face with patients as a doctor, I formed the main mission of my life: Save life; Save eye; Save sight.
2. What brought you to CEVR?
CEVR is a new institution with grand ambitions. This centre made it possible to combine four different cohorts of people: leading researchers of the University of Waterloo and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, junior and senior postdoctoral fellows from high-ranking universities globally, and talented local specialists with various levels of higher education. This is my first job after thirteen years of non-stop medical education and I wanted to have a strong first step as a professional, which determined my choice of CEVR.
3. What is your area of research?
My core research area is ophthalmology and during the past few years, additional fields are being connected to the epicentre of my interest. Early detection and treatment of irreversible incurable retinal neurodegenerative diseases using imaging technologies is the area of my research these days. Working with specialists in data science (Bristol and Cardiff, UK), machine learning and AI (Chicago, US), and quantum optics (Waterloo, Canada) allows me to better understand extraocular research fields and apply them to accomplish the above-mentioned mission.
4. What is your main role?
My role in the current project (Discrimination of Quantum States by the Human Eye) includes the management of the lab, including the design, execution and presentation of the studies. This helps me to become an independent researcher and improve my skills as a facilitator. This is the early step of integration of quantum technologies in the vision sciences, I see the potential of this collaboration for many exciting years of work.
5. What do you wish to achieve in your research at CEVR?
Publications, many publications. Also, we are aiming to optimize the optical setup for directing structured light onto the retina and, therefore, optimize the imaging setup for collecting the backscattered light. Then, we will miniaturize the setup for clinical use. After the test of the device for the diagnosis of macular disorders, we will try to develop commercializable devices for vision science applications.
6. Are there any challenges? How has CEVR supported your research endeavours?
When I joined CEVR, I had a long-term medical and short-term optoelectronics background. My knowledge and experience of quantum optics were limited by theoretical background reading. For training purposes, my teammate, Taran and I recently visited the Institute for Quantum Computing (UW), where the first structured light imaging device was created and tested. During our visit, we were trained to build the experimental setup. Moreover, we could attend the data collection and analysis stages of our studies. This in-job training visit was supported by CEVR.
7. What have you done at work that you are proud of?
First of all, I am proud of being a member of this unique team of physicists and psychophysicists. This group of very supportive enthusiasts are open to any ideas. Also, recently our team attended the Quantum for Health (Q4Health) pitch competition at Institute for Quantum Computing and were listed in the top ten winning teams of the event.
8. Tell us about a breakthrough moment in your research.
One of the biggest challenges of this project is the absence of an analogous device that can project various quantum states of photons to the human retina. Orbital angular momentum (OAM or structured light) is a subject of constant debate among physicists. Nevertheless, understanding of structured light and its potential practical application is broadly being investigated in quantum information processing, atomtronic devices, quantum communication and metrology. Potentially, our and other similar projects can be the foundation for a new field – Quantum Ophthalmology.
9. What does it take to be a researcher in sciences?
Clinical experience has made me understand that there is always the opportunity to discover new ways to improve the quality of life of my patients. The research potential of a doctor is revealed at the most critical moments, when a patient’s life, preservation of the eye as an anatomical organ and restoration of visual function depend only on him or her. Knowing my abilities and willingness to help the patient, to do research will fulfill my academic ambitions.