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Optometry graduate crowdfunds research


Daisy Shu


By Philip Ritchie


Daisy Shu has used the crowdfunding platform Experiment to secure more than $2000 for research identifying how cataracts form and discovering a way to prevent them from occurring.

She’s a third-year PhD student from the Lens Research Laboratory at the University of Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Optometry and Vision Science from the University of New South Wales.

‘Everyone is really supportive of my research, so I was really touched by it. Lots of academics, friends and even just people in the general public were funding me. It validated the work I’ve been doing,’ Daisy said.

‘It’s a really good way of not only promoting research but also getting the funds, especially given the current climate of government grant funding.’

Daisy’s crowdfunded research builds on her previous laboratory work that showed normal cells turning into cataractous cells after the introduction of transforming growth factor beta.

Now, she plans to discover the role of epidermal growth factor receptors in the formation of cataracts, which have been shown in some cancer studies to activate in the presence of the transforming growth factor beta. Blocking these epidermal receptors could prevent cataracts from forming.

‘By understanding the mechanisms underlying the formation of cataract, we can potentially find a safe, effective and non-invasive way of blocking cataract through the use of an eye-drop,’ Daisy said on her crowdfunding page.

Funds from Experiment will go towards gene expression analysis, blotting reagents, immunofluorescence, tissue culture consumables and laboratory consumables.

Daisy said she came up with the idea to crowdfund her research while at a Science Communication Training Fellowship event for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. At the time, she was also working on a podcast called The Peer Review, created with members of the Bosch Young Investigators from Sydney University. It’s a committee with members from each discipline in the School of Medical Science.

‘I signed up to the fellowship this year, and as part of that we have to do an outreach program. The outreach program could be anything, so I decided to link these two things that I’m doing. I decided to do a podcast on funding.’

At first, crowdfunding was a small part of the podcast, but Daisy said her fellowship co-ordinator wanted a more non-scientific funding focus.

‘Bosch Young Investigators ended up doing an entirely separate podcast on crowdfunding, and I contacted a couple of research programs that successfully crowdfunded projects. I asked them for their tips and tried putting it to the test.

‘That’s when I put up the crowdfunding campaign, and it was amazing because I reached my goal within a short time. Everyone’s so generous,’ she said.

Daisy plans to do a follow-up podcast talking about her experience and tips to update her backers on her progress, which is part of the deal with Experiment’s crowdfunding platform.

Daisy’s has important tips for anyone looking to try crowdfunding: include a short, engaging video, around two to three minutes long, and promote as much as you can.

‘Contact everybody and anybody and don’t be shy about it. Really just communicate it, and if you haven’t reached your goal, continue to promote it because some people forget to follow through.’

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