Aston develops ocular expert of the future

Rachel Walsh KTP Associate
Rachel Walsh receiving her award at Aston's annual KTP Poster Competition.

Aston University and The Macular Society have recently completed an extremely successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project to educate patients and eye care professionals on the impact of nutrition on macular degeneration.

The KTP Associate working on the project, Rachel Walsh, has been inspired to continue her work from the project and is now undertaking a PhD at Aston University.

During the year-long KTP, Rachel worked with The Macular Society, a specialist charity that supports people with central vision loss caused by macular degeneration, and ocular nutrition experts Dr Hannah Bartlett and Dr Frank Eperjesi from the School of Life and Health Sciences, to design and implement and innovative online nutrition patient portal to publish on The Macular Society’s website. The aim of the portal is to educate patients with age-related macular degeneration how nutrition can reduce and/or slow down the progression of their condition.

After Rachel finished her degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Worcester in June 2012, she came across the KTP at Aston University and the idea that she could help people with her nutrition expertise appealed. She submitted a successful application and began her year-long KTP in September 2012.

Throughout her project, Rachel significantly improved her research skills through training programmes and advice from Dr Bartlett. However, what surprised Rachel were the other unexpected vital skills she gained, such as interpersonal skills through interaction with patients and project management skills from the large amount of responsibility she was given to produce the portal.  During her time as a KTP Associate, Rachel also won the ‘Early Stage Projects’ category at Aston’s annual KTP Poster Competition, where KTP Associates are invited to make a poster that highlights their work.

Everyone involved in the project has been very impressed with the finished portal and The Macular Society has received positive feedback from the large amount of users. Rachel said of the project: “I am incredibly happy with what has been achieved and I am so thankful for all the help I have received from Aston. This KTP has provided me with so many opportunities that will help me onto the career ladder and I would thoroughly recommend them to other graduates.”

Rachel is now continuing her work with Aston through studying her PHD in nutrition after a suggestion from Dr Bartlett, who was thoroughly impressed at the research Rachel did for her KTP.  Dr Bartlett said of Rachel: “Rachel was extremely well suited to the KTP scheme as she is hard working, conscientious and pro-active. Her achievements surpassed expectations. I am very much looking forward continuing our work together.”

KTPs help businesses to improve their competitiveness, productivity and performance by accessing the knowledge and expertise available within UK Universities and Colleges. In order for a KTP to be successful, a relationship is formed between a company and an academic institution. The KTP Associate helps to facilitate the transfer of knowledge. Aston is one of the most active universities for KTPs in the West Midlandsand has a history of recruiting the highest quality Associates to work on collaborative projects.

To learn more, or to make an enquiry about KTPs at Aston, please contact  Martin May, KTP Manager, m.r.may@aston.ac.ukor 0121 204 4253.