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Dr Kirsten Hamilton-Maxwell

Dr Kirsten Hamilton-Maxwell

Director of Learning & Teaching, Senior Lecturer

School of Optometry and Vision Sciences

+44 (0)29 2087 5100
+44 (0)29 2087 4859
Room 2.14, Optometry and Vision Sciences, Maindy Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ
Media commentator


Teaching overview

As the School's Director of Learning & Teaching, my aim is to provide a rich and rewarding educational experience for our students.

As an optometrist myself, I enjoy being able to pass on what I know to the next generation via my involvement with the clinical teaching of the undergraduate programme. I am currently the Module Leader for Basic Clinical Techniques (1st year) and Investigative Techniques (2nd year). I have teaching responsibilities throughout Years 1-3 of the undergraduate programme which include lecturing, clinical instruction, optometric supervision and research supervision.

Research and scholarship overview

My main research interest is improving the accuracy and interpretation of eye pressure measurements, via an understanding of how external factors such as corneal properties and environmental processes interfere with them.  It is hoped that my research will advance the diagnosis and management of glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible vision loss worldwide.

I also have an interest in the understanding and enhancement of assessment and feedback practices in higher education, as well as the use of technology-enhanced learning.


Educational and qualifications

  • 2007: PhD in Optometry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
  • 1998: Bachelor of Optometry, First Class Honours and the University Medal, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Career overview

  • 2017-present: Senior Lecturer, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2007-2017: Lecturer, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2003-6: Postgraduate student and demonstrator, School of Optometry & Vision Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
  • 1998-2002: Optometrist

Honours and awards


  • OVRF-Maki Shiobara Scholarship (2006)
  • Australian Postgraduate Award (2003-2006)
  • Bankstown City Council Scholarship (1994-1997)
  • Revesby Workers Club Scholarship (1994-1997)


  • The University of New South Wales (UNSW) University Medal for Optometry. (1998)
  • The SOLA Optical Australia Pty. Ltd. Prize for the best overall performance in OPTM4301 Visual Science IV (1997)
  • The Theo Kannis Prize for Clinical Optometry for the best overall performance in Clinical Optometry throughout the Bachelor of Optometry course (1997)
  • The Hoya Lens Australia Pty Limited Prize for the best overall performance in Ocular and Visual Science throughout the Bachelor of Optometry degree course (1997)
  • The Australian Optometric Association Prize for outstanding academic performance in the Bachelor of Optometry course (1997)
  • The Head of School's prize for outstanding overall performance in the Bachelor of Optometry course (1997)
  • The Bausch and Lomb Prize for the best performance in Year 3 of the Bachelor of Optometry course (1996)
  • The Martin Wells Pty Limited Prize for the best performance in OPTM2208 Diagnosis of Ocular Disease (Year 2) and OPTM3208 Diagnosis and Management of Ocular Disease (Year 3) (1996)
  • The Essilor Australia Pty Limited Prize for the best performance in OPTM3301 Visual Science III and OPTM3309 Ocular Science III (1996)
  • The Safilo Australia Prize for the best performance in OPTM2302 Clinical Optometry II (1995)
  • The Martin Wells Pty Limited Prize for the best performance in OPTM2301 Ocular and Visual Science II (1995)
  • The Optical Products Ltd Prize for the best performance in OPTM2303 Spectacle Lens and Optical Systems (1995)
  • The School of Physiology and Pharmacology Staff Prize for Physiology 1 or Principles of Physiology for the best performance in PHPH2112 Physiology 1 or PHPH2122 Principles of Physiology (1995)
  • The Optometrists Association of NSW Prize for the best performance in OPTM1202 Clinical Optometry I (1994)

Professional memberships

  • 2009-present: Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • 2007-present: Registered with the General Optical Council
  • 1998-present: Registered with the Optometry Board of Australia (currently non-practising)

Academic positions

  • 2006: Part-time Research Assistant (0.2FTE), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia,
  • 2003-2006: Part-time Clinical Supervisor, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Committees and reviewing


  • 2018-present, Director of Learning & Teaching, OPTOM
  • 2018-present, Chair of the Undergraduate Examining Board, OPTOM
  • 2015-2018, Deputy Director of Learning & Teaching, OPTOM
  • 2014-2018, Assessment & Feedback Lead, OPTOM
  • 2015-2016, Equality & Diversity/Athena Swan Committee, Deputy Chair, OPTOM
  • 2013-2014, School Research Audit Ethics Committee, Deputy Chair, OPTOM

External commitments

  • 2019-present, OSC representative on the College of Optometrists Education and Standards Committee
  • 2019-present, Optometry Schools Council, Member
  • 2019-present, External Examiner, Association of Optometrists, Ireland
  • 2015-2018, Academic contact for the Westbourne School “Research in Action” project
  • 2013-2018, STEMnet ambassador

School, College and University committees, panels and working groups


  • 2018-present
    • Undergraduate Board of Studies, Chair
    • Undergraduate Learning & Teaching Committee, Chair
    • WOPEC Board, Member
    • Student/Staff Panel, Member
  • 2017, General Optical Council reaccreditation group, OPTOM
  • 2015-2018
    • Examinations Committee, Member, OPTOM
    • Clinical Placements Working Group, OPTOM
    • Learning & Teaching Committee, Member, OPTOM
  • 2016, “Cardiff Essentials” Online Assessment Information Task & Finish Group, University
  • 2015-2016, OSCE group, Biomedical & Life Sciences
  • 2014-2016, AHFEA mentor
  • 2013-2016, Student Survey Coordinator, OPTOM
  • 2012-2013 and 2015-2016, Student/Staff Panel, Member, OPTOM

Policy and strategy

  • 2018-present
    • School Board, Member
    • School Operations Board, Member
  • 2016, Workload Model Implementation Group, University
  • 2010-2011
    • Athena Swan Steering Group, Member, OPTOM
    • Staff Development and Equality & Diversity Committee, Member, OPTOM
  • 2007-2009, Strategy and Resources Committee, Member, OPTOM
  • 2007
    • PCUTL HEA Accreditation Panel, Member, University
    • PCUTL General Panel, University


  • 2008-2010, Student equipment kit coordinator, OPTOM










Teaching roles and responsibilities

My current teaching roles and responsibilities are as follows:

Module Leader
As Module Leader for OP1201 Basic Clinical Techniques and OP2203 Investigative Techniques, my role is to oversee many aspects of these modules including innovation and development, timetabling, teaching, assessment and feedback, as well as module administration.

Lecturer and Prac Leader
As the Lecturer for OP1201 Basic Clinical Techniques and OP2203 Investigative Techniques (Diagnostic Techniques), my role is to prepare, organise and deliver lectures and lead practical sessions that equip students with core clinical skills and knowledge that they will need as an optometrist. It is also my responsibility to design, conduct, mark and provide feedback for all coursework for these modules.

Research Project Supervisor
I supervise a number of student research projects each year as OP3207 Research Project and OPT060 MSc Research Project modules, in which students are required to conduct a practical project or a detailed literature review over 6-9 months. The topics that I offer are quite varied but tend to revolve around my main research areas (eye pressure, ocular biometrics and education) and the core themes that arise in the modules that I teach. MSc project students are also welcome to suggest their own topics.

Scholarship of education

High-quality education is critical to the development of future optometrists. Through original research and educational scholarship, I strive to develop and test improvements to support our students, primary in the following two areas:

Assessment & feedback

Assessment & feedback is at the heart of education programme, allowing staff and students to monitor and improve performance. My interests in this area are broad and recent examples include:

  • Student perceptions of clinical assessment and feedback
  • Student-led assessment design
  • Electronic assessment & feedback

Technology-enhanced education

Technology is a rich and flexible medium that can be used in many ways to support learning. Again, I have many interests, and recent examples of my work include:

  • Lecture capture (using Panopto) and podcasting
  • "Gamification" of learning

Understanding intraocular pressure (eye pressure)

According to the World Health Organisation, glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss worldwide.  The pressure within the eye is the most important risk factor development and progression of glaucoma; reducing eye pressure, either by eye drops or by surgery, is the only recommended treatment at the current time.  Even if your eyes are completely healthy, your eye pressure will not be a fixed number. It can fluctuate for a large number of reasons including the time of day, if you hold your breath, exercise, or even what you had to eat and drink.   It is therefore very important that researchers, such as myself, are fully able to understand how and why eye pressure varies so that your optometrist or ophthalmologist can measure and interpret it confidently.  Examples of my research projects in this area include:

  • Eye pressure is usually highest when you first wake up in the morning.
  • Eye pressure can fall if you have been for a short walk, such as if you walked from the nearest bus stop, on your way to your sight test.

Improving tonometry, the measurement of intraocular pressure

Once we have sorted out what the normal eye pressure should be, we need an accurate way of measuring it.   Eye pressure is usually measured by an instrument called a tonometer and the process is called tonometry.   The problem with trying to measure the eye pressure is that we cannot measure it directly because it exists inside the eye, but instead need to rely on tonometers that assess it indirectly by measuring the force needed to flatten a small area of the cornea (the clear dome at the front of our eye).   This means that the accuracy of tonometry depends on the properties of the cornea through which it is measured.   Work is underway to identify the relevant factors and to determine what this means for eye pressure measurement, including:

  • A small amount of clinically invisible corneal swelling, such as the kind that occurs while we are asleep, causes tonometers to overestimate the eye pressure.
  • Tonometers are not only sensitive to the thickness of the cornea in its centre, but also in the surrounding areas.
  • Many types of tonometer are sensitive to corneal properties including Goldmann applanation tonometry (the blue light test) and non-contact tonometry (the air puff test).   In fact, even a new type of tonometer known as the Pascal Dynamic Contour Tonometer is not immune to this problem.
  • Corneal biomechanical properties, although completely invisible to most clinical instruments, can cause tonometers to read incorrectly.

Corneal size, shape and its other properties

Given that the cornea has such a large influence on eye pressure measurement (tonometry), another area of my work includes defining and quantifying corneal characteristics, including biomechanics and thickness, in health and disease.   Most recently, we reported that a single drop of anaesthetic (commonly used to help your optometrist or ophthalmologist measure the thickness of your cornea) was enough to cause a temporary increase in corneal thickness.


  • Cardiff Centre for Education Innovation Seed-corn grant (2016)
  • Cardiff University Research Opportunities Programme (2013)
  • Nuffield Foundation Vacation Studentship (2007)
  • OVRF-Maki Shiobara Scholarship (2006)
  • Australian Postgraduate Award (2003)


I am interested in supervising PhD and MSc students in fields similar to:

  • ocular biometry
  • corneal biomechanics
  • intraocular pressure
  • glaucoma
  • assessment and feedback
  • learning and teaching technology