Professor Barbara Krystyna Pierscionek

Deputy Dean (Research and Innovation)

Affiliated with MTRC, VHSRG and Health Research Cluster.

Faculty:Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care

Location: Chelmsford

Areas of Expertise: Cell and Molecular Biology , Vision and eye research , Ophthalmology , Health and wellbeing , Biomechanics of human movement , Ethics

Research Supervision:Yes

Professor Barbara Pierscionek has expertise in optics, biochemistry, biomechanics, nanotechnology, cell biology and how these apply to the study of eye development, ageing and disease as well as to new technologies for sight improvement. She is also qualified in law and has research interests in ethico-legal aspects of Big Data and emerging technologies. 


LinkedIn: Barbara Pierscionek


Professor Barbara Krystyna Pierscionek graduated from Melbourne University in Australia with a PhD on the protein chemistry and optics of the eye lens and was awarded a prestigious NHMRC research fellow (MRC equivalent) shortly after graduating to start an independent research program on the optics of the eye. Barbara was supported by the NHMRC at Monash University and La Trobe University before returning to the UK.  She led the Vision Research group in Biomedical Science at Ulster University and worked as the Associate Dean (Research and Enterprise) in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing in Kingston University. Subsequently Barbara held dual roles at Nottingham Trent University: Associate Dean Research in the School of Science and Technology and pan-Institutional Head of Health and Wellbeing. More recently Barbara led research in two Schools as Associate Dean Research in the School of Life Science and Education and in the School of Health and Social Care at Staffordshire University.

Barbara has continued as an active researcher in the areas of optics and biomechanics of the eye, ageing of the eye and eye disease, bioinformatics, sports and binocular vision, nanotechnological applications to the eye and ethico-legal aspects of Big Data. She has received support for her research with funding from Research Councils (EPSRC, BBSRC), EU, Fight for Sight, Royal Society and industry (Essilor International and Zeiss Meditec) as well as being awarded beam time grants for work in Japan at SPring-8 the world’s largest synchrotron.

In addition to qualifications in science, Barbara has an MBA and legal degrees including an LLM in cybersecurity. She has also worked in the criminal justice system and as a lay judge in employment tribunals.

Barbara has published over 150 peer review papers, 4 book chapters and a book on law and ethics for the eye care practitioner.

Spoken Languages

Polish (fluent), English (fluent), French (intermediate)

Research interests

  • optics and biomechanics of the developing and ageing eye
  • bioinformatics of lens proteins
  • ethico-legal aspects of Big Data for healthcare and medicine 
  • advanced cell culture of ocular and neural cells
  • binocular vision and sports vision
  • nanotechnologies and new drug modalities for cataract and glaucoma

Professor Pierscionek researches in: developmental optics and ageing of the eye, making advanced measurements of refractive index and protein density of eyes in eyes from various species at the world leading synchrotron in Japan (SPring-8); biomechanics of the eye using Finite Element Analysis to study changes that occur with presbyopia, myopia and other refractive errors;  bioinformatics of cataract and an emerging interest in glaucoma; novel therapeutics for cataract and related protein-folding diseases using nanotechnologies and innovative pharmaceutical agents. She also researches on how ethical principles and the law need to adapt to rapid advances in technology and the use of personal data.

Areas of research supervision

  • Ageing and development of the optics of the eye 
  • Opto-mechanics of the eye: two PhD studentships to start in 2021 funded by EU MSCA Doctoral Training Centre
  • Bioinformatics of glaucoma
  • Biomechanics of the anterior eye: recent successful PhD Dr Kehao Wang (graduated 2018, Kingston University)
  • Nanotechnological applications for cataract treatment: recent successful PhD Dr Belal Hanafy (graduated 2020, Nottingham Trent University)
  • Robotics for eye surgery (co-supervisor in project with Warsaw University of Technology, Faculty of Mechatronics)


  • B.Sc (Optom) University of Melbourne 
  • PhD University of Melbourne 
  • MBA, University of Bradford 
  • Post Graduate Diploma in Law (LLB equivalent),(LMU)
  • Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, LMU 
  • LLM (Electronic Communications and the law) LMU

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Association of MBAs
  • Expert Evaluator in Ethics for the EU Commission
  • Peer review college member for the EPSRC 
  • Grant Assessment Panel Member for Fight for Sight
  • Overseas Academic Advisor and Review Panel Member for the Department of Health Technology and Informatics at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University 
  • Panel Member of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme
  • Editorial Board Member (Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science)
  • Executive Editor (Experimental Eye Research)

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

EU MSCA-ITN-ETN “OBERON” Opto-Biomechanical Eye Research Network proposal number 956720, Total value 3.88 million euro (2021-2025).

EU Co-operation in Science and Technolog, (COST) action: Network on Privacy-Aware Audio- and Video-Based Applications for Active and Assisted Living: Goodbrother: (value dependent on networking and events) (PI Florez, Pierscionek: UK co-investigator) value dependent on networking activities .

EU Co-operation in Science and Technology (COST) action: International Interdisciplinary Network on Health and Wellbeing in an Age-friendly Digital World NET4AGE-FRIENDLY: (PI Dantas, Pierscionek: UK co-investigator) value dependent on networking activities.

SPring-8 synchrotron beam time: grant 2020A1193 Changes in functional properties of the eye lens with development, age and disease ”. 5,760,000 Yen circa £42,854.

Selected recent publications

Peer review papers

Wang, K., Vorontsova, I., Hoshino, M., Uesugi, K., Yagi, N., Hall, J.E., Schilling, T.F., Pierscionek, B.K. Aquaporins have regional functions in development of refractive index in the zebrafish eye lens. Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science (in press)

Bahrami, M., Goncharov, S. and Pierscionek, B.K. Adjustable internal structure for reconstructing the gradient index of the crystalline lens. Optics Letters 39 (5) 1310-1313 (2014)

McGlade, D., McClenahan, C. and Pierscionek, B.K. Pro-donation behaviours of nursing students from the four countries of the UK. PLoS ONE (2014) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091405

Mahendiran, K., Elie, C., Nebel, J-C, Ryan, A. and Pierscionek, B.K. Primary sequence contribution to the optical function of the eye lens. Scientific Reports 4 doi:10.1038/srep05195 (2014)

Bahrami, M.,Hoshino, M., Pierscionek, B.K., Yagi, N., Regini, J. and Uesugi, K. Optical properties of the lens: an explanation for the zones of discontinuity. Exp. Eye Research 124, 93-99 (2014)

Rai, U.S.J.P., Young, S.A., Thrimawithana, T.R.,Abdelkader, H., Alani, A.W.G., Pierscionek, B., Alany, R.G. The suprachroidal pathway: a new drug delivery route to the back of the eye. Drug Discovery Today 1359-6446 (2014)

Abdelkader, H., Alany, R.G., Pierscionek, B. Age-related cataract and drug therapy: opportunities and challenges for topical antioxidant delivery to the lens. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 67, 537-550 (2015)

Abdelkader, H., Pierscionek, B., Alany, R.G. Novel in situ gelling ocular films for the opioid growth factor-receptor antagonist-naltrexone hydrochloride: fabrication, mechanical properties, mucoadhesion, tolerability and stability studies. International Journal of Pharmaceutics 477, 631-642 (2014)

Alany, R.G., Abdelkader, H., Pierscionek, B., Carew, M. Critical appraisal of alternative irritation models: three decades of testing ophthalmic pharmaceuticals (Review). British Medical Bulletin 113, 59-71 (2015) 

Al-Kinani A., Naughton, D.P., Calabrese G, Vangala A., Smith, J.R.,Pierscionek, B.K.     Alany, R.G. Analysis of 2-oxothiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid by hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography: application for ocular delivery using chitosan nanoparticles. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 407, 2645-2650 (2015)

Klein, H., Pierscionek, B.K., Lauritzen, J., Derntl, K., Grzybowski, A. and Zlatkova, M. The effect of cataract on early stage glaucoma detection using spatial and temporal contrast sensitivity tests. PLoS ONE Jun 8;10(6):e0128681 (2015)

Evanger, K., Pierscionek, B.K., Vaagbø, G., Thorsen, E., Haugen, O.H. Myopic Shift during Hyperbaric Oxygenation Attributed to Lens Index Changes. Optometry and Vision Science  92, 1076-1084 (2015) 

Abdelkader, H., Swinden, J., Pierscionek, B.K. and Alany, R.G. Analytical and physicochemical characterisation of the senile cataract drug dipeptide  alanyl-L-histidine (carnosine). Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis 114, 241-246 (2015) 

Gómez-Correa, J. E., Balderas-Mata, S. E., Pierscionek, B. K and Chávez-Cerda, S. Composite Modified Luneberg model of human eye lens. Optics Letters 40, 3739-3742 (2015)

Bahrami, M., Hoshino, M., Pierscionek, B.K., Yagi, N., Regini, J., Uesugi, K. Refractive index degeneration in older lenses: a potential functional correlate to structural changes that underlie cataract formation. Experimental Eye Research 140, 19-27 (2015)

Pierscionek, B.K., Bahrami, M., Hoshino, M., Uesugi, K., Regini, J., Yagi, N. The eye lens: age-related trends and individual variations in refractive index and shape parameters. Oncotarget 31, 30532-30544 (2015) 

Bahrami, M., Haidari, A., Pierscionek, B.K. Alteration in refractive index profile during accommodation based on mechanical modelling. Biomedical Optics Express 7: 99-110 (2016)

Rumbold J. and Pierscionek B.K. Why patients shouldn’t “own” their medical records.Nature Biotechnology 34, 586 (2016)

Abdelkader, H., Longman, M., Alany, R.G., Pierscionek, B.. Phytosome-hyaluronic acid systems for ocular delivery of L-carnosine. International J.Nanomedicine 11, 2815-27(2016)

Wang, K., Venetsanos, D., Wang, J., Pierscionek, B.K. Gradient moduli lens models: how material properties and application of forces can affect deformation and distribution of stress. Scientific Reports 6:31171, DOI: 10.1038/srep31171 (2016)

Abdelkader, H., Longman, M., Alany, R.G., Pierscionek, B.K. On the anti-cataractogenic effects of L-carnosine:  Is it best described as an antioxidant, metal chelating agent or glycation inhibitor? Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity v.2016, Article ID 3240261, 1-11 (2016) doi:10.1155/2016/3240261

Kayyali, R., Savickas,V., Spruit,M.A., Kaimakamis,E., Siva,R., Costello,R.W.,Chang,J., Pierscionek,B., Davies,N., Vaes,A.W., Paradiso,R., Philip,N., Perantoni,E.,D’Arcy,S., Raptopoulos,A., Nabhani-Gebara,S. Qualitative investigation into a wearable system for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: the stakeholders’ perspective. BMJ Open 6, e011657 (2016)

Kayyali, R., Odeh,B., Spruit,M.A., Frerichs,I., Davies, N., Perantoni,E., D’arcy,S., Vaes,A.W., Chang,J., Deering,B., Philip,N., Siva,R., Kaimakamis,E.,Chouvarda,I., Pierscionek,B., Weiler,N., Wouters, E.F.M., Raptopoulos,A., Nabhani-Gebara,S. COPD care delivery pathways in five European Union countries: mapping and healthcare professionals’ perceptions. International Journal of COPD.  11, 2831-2838 (2016)

Asejczyk-Widlicka, M., Srodka, W., Pierscionek, B.K. A Comparative Analysis of Goldmann Tonometry Correction. Journal of Glaucoma 26, 233-240 (2017)

Trease, C.H., Longman, M.R.,Augousti, A.T.,Foot, P.J.S., Pierscionek, B.K. Cell morphology and growth observation studies on novel, chemically unmodified and patterned polymer surfaces for advanced tissue culture applications. Polymer 109, 13-24 (2017)

Rumbold, J.M.M., Pierscionek, B. The effect of the General Data Protection Regulation on Medical Research. J.Med Internet Res 19(2): e47 (2017)

Rumbold, J.M.M., Pierscionek, B. A critique of the regulation of data science in healthcare research in the European Union. BMC Medical Ethics DOI10.1186/s12910-017-0184-(2017)

Rumbold, J. and Pierscionek, B., 2017. Does your electronic butler owe you a duty of confidentiality? Computer Law Review International 2, 48-52 (2017)

Giovanzana, S., Evans, T., Pierscionek, B. Lens internal curvature effects on age-related eye model and lens paradox. Biomed Optics Express 8, 4827-4837 (2017)

Wang, K., Venetsanos, D., Wang, J., Augousti, A.T., Pierscionek, B.K. The importance of parameter choice in modelling dynamics of the eye lens. Scientific Reports 7:16688, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-16854-9 (2017)

Sobnath DD, Philip N, Kayyali R, Nabhani-Gebara S, Pierscionek B, Vaes AW, Spruit MA, Kaimakamis E. Features of a Mobile Support App for Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Literature Review and Current Applications JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 5(2):e17 (2017)

Grzybowski, A. Schachar, R.A., Gaca-Wysocka, M., Schachar, I.R.,Pierscionek, B.K.         Maximum human objectively measured pharmacologically stimulated accommodative amplitude. Clinical Ophthalmology  12, 201-205 (2018)

Grzybowski, A. Schachar, R.A., Gaca-Wysocka, M., Schachar, I.H., Kamangar, F., Pierscionek, B.K. Mechanism of accommodation assessed by change in precisely Registered ocular images associated with concurrent change in auto-refraction. Graefes Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology 256, 395-402 (2018)

Rumbold, J.M.M., Pierscionek,B.K. What are data? A categorization of the data sensitivity spectrum. Big Data Research 12, 49-59 (2018)

Abdelkader, H., Fathalla,Z., Moharram, H., Ali, T.F.S., Pierscionek, B.K. Cyclodextrin enhances corneal tolerability and reduces ocular toxicity caused by diclofenac. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2018 1-13 (2018)

Laibe, J., Caffrey, A., Broutin, M., Guiglion, S., Pierscionek, B.K. Coil conversion to β-strand induced by dimerization. Proteins: structure, function and bioinformatics 86,  1221-1230 (2018)

Contreras, .J.L., Rumbold, J. Pierscionek, B. Patient data ownership. JAMA 2018;319(9):935. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.2167 (2018)

Wang, K., Venetsanos, D.T., Wang, J., Pierscionek, B. Combined use of parallel-plate compression and Finite Element Modelling to analyse the mechanical properties of intact porcine lens. Journal of Mechanics in Medicine and Biology 18:1840013 (2018)

Rumbold, J., Pierscionek, B. Contextual anonymization for secondary use of big data in biomedical research: proposal for an anonymization matrix. JMIR Medical Informatics. 6: e47. ISSN 2291-9694 (2018)

Wang, K., Pierscionek, B.K. Biomechanics of the human lens and accommodative system: Functional relevance to physiological states Progress in Retinal and EyeResearch  17, 114-131 (2019)

Asejczyk-Widlicka, M., Jóźwik, A., Kasprzak, H., Sobczak, M., Pierscionek, B.K. Data analysis of the ocular response analyzer for improved distinction and detection of glaucoma. J.Opt. Soc. Am. A 36, B71-B76 (2019)

Wang, K., Hoshino, M., Uesugi, K., Yagi, N.,Pierscionek, B.K. Contributions of shape and stiffness to accommodative loss in the ageing human lens: a finite element model assessment. J. Opt. Soc. Am. A, 36, B116-B122 (2019)

Hanafy, B.I., Cave, G.W.V., Barnett, Y., Pierscionek, B.  Ethylene glycol coated nanoceria protects against oxidative stress in human lens epithelium. RSC Advances, 9,16596-16605 (2019)

Rumbold, J.M.M., O’Kane, M., Philip, N., Pierscionek, B.K. Big Data and diabetes: the applications of Big Data for diabetes care now and in the future. (Invited Review) Diabetic Medicine, (2019)

Wang, K., Venetsanos, D.T., Hoshino, M., Uesugi, K., Yagi, N. Pierscionek, B.K.A modelling approach for investigating opto-mechanical relationships in the human eye lens. Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. 10.1109/TBME.2019.2927390 (2019)

Cheng, C., Parreno, J., Nowak, R.B., Biswas,S.K., Wang, K., Hoshino, M., Uesugi, K., Yagi, N., Moncaster, J.A., Lo,W-K., Pierscionek, B. and Fowler, V.M. Age-related    changes in eye lens biomechanics, morphology, refractive index and transparency.Aging 11,12497-12531 (2019)

Hanafy, B.I., Cave, G.W.V., Barnett, Y., Pierscionek, B. Treatment of human lens epithelium with high levels of nanoceria leads to Reactive Oxygen Species mediated apoptosis. Molecules 25, 441 (2020)

Wang, K., Vorontsova, I., Hoshino, M, Uesugi, K., Yagi, N., Hall, J.E., Schilling, T.F., Pierscionek, B.K. Optical Development in the Zebrafish Eye Lens. FASEB (2020)

Jaimes-Nájera, A., Gómez-Correa, JE, Coello, V., B. K. Pierscionek, BK, Chávez-Cerda, S. Single function crystalline lens capable of mimicking ciliary body accommodation. Biomedical Optics Express 11, 3699-3716 (2020) 

Wang, K., Hoshino, M., Uesugi, K., Yagi, N., Young, R.D., Frost, B.E., Regini, J.W., Quantock, A.J., Pierscionek, B.K. Cell compaction is not required for the development of gradient refractive index profiles in the embryonic chick lens. Exp. Eye Res. (2020)

Gaballa, S.A, Kompella, U.B., Elgarhy,O., Alqahtani, A.M., Pierscionek, B., Alany,  R.G., Abdelkader, H. Corticosteroids in ophthalmology: drug delivery innovations, pharmacology, clinical applications and future perspectives. Drug Delivery and Translational Research (2020)

Kayyali, R., Funnell, G., Odeh, B., Sharma, A., Katsaros, Y., Nabhani-Gebara, S.,  Pierscionek, B.,Wells, J., Chang, J., Investigating the characteristics and needs of frequently admitting hospital patients- A cross-sectional study. BMJ Open 10:e035522. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-035522

Abdelkader, H., Pierscionek, B., Wertheim, D. and Alany, R.G. Curcumin in situ gelling polymeric insert with enhanced ocular performance. Pharmaceutics (in press)

Jóźwik, A., Asejczyk-Widlicka, M., Kurzynowski, P., Pierscionek, B.K..How a dynamic optical system maintains image quality: self-adjustment of the human eye. Journal of Vision (in press)

Book Chapters

Florez-Revuelta, F., Padilla-Lopez, J.R., Dinsmore, J., Pierscionek, B. Privacy and ethical issues. Chapter 19, Active and assisted living:  technologies and applications. Florez-Revuelta, F., Chaaraoui, A.A.(eds) pp 389-408 Institution of Engineering and Technology (2016) ISBN: 978-1-84919-987-2

Laibe, J., Broutin M., Caffrey, A.,Pierscionek, B., Nebel, J-C. Data Mining the Protein Data Bank to Identify and Characterise Chameleon Coil Sequences that Form Symmetric Homodimer β-Sheet Interfaces In: Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering, pp.118-126 (2017) DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-56154-7_12

Recent presentations and conferences

The paradox and synchrony of the eye lens SPIE Student Chapter Leuven Belgium February (2015)

What structure can teach us about function in the eye. OPTO 2015 conference Wroclaw, Poland May (2015)
X-ray synchrotron interferometric measurement of eye lens media: evidence of a stepped gradient lens. Medical Applications of Synchrotron Radiation, European Synchrotron Research Facility, Grenoble, France October (2015)

Advances in eye research using nanotechnology. 1st International conference on Advances in Pharmaceutical Science. Alexandria, Egypt, November (2015)

Phosphors in the Eye 3rd International workshop on persistent and photostimulable phosphores, Arlington, Texas, USA, November (2015)

The paradox and synchrony of the eye lens (Plenary lecture) SPIE Student Chapter Hamilton, Canada, December (2015) 

Ageing variations in the refractive index gradient of human lenses. 4th International Conference on the Lens. Kona, Hawaii, USA December (2015)

Nanomaterials for the Eye. International Forum of Nanomedicine. Changsha China, July (2016)

Modelling material properties in eye lenses: stress distributions and deformation.EMPVO VIII Topical Meeting on Visual and Physiological Optics, Antwerp, Belgium, Aug (2016)

Models of zonular forces for presbyopia correction. (Keynote) International Society of Presbyopia. Copenhagen, Denmark, Sept (2016)

Ageing changes in the refractive properties of the lens: How the biological lens can inform implant design. 22nd International Society for Eye Research conference.Tokyo, Japan Sept (2016)

What next for British Science? Assessing Architectural Changes to Research Funding and Evaluating the Impact of BREXIT, Policy-UK Forum, December (2016) (Invited speaker)

Modelling the physiological optics of the eye. ARVO ASIA Brisbane, Australia February (2017)

Mechanisms and models of the accommodative system. Presbyopia Club 21, Poznan, Poland, April (2017)

Species variations in gradient index profiles. 5th International Conference on the Lens. Kona, Hawaii, USA December (2017)

The eye lens: is it a crystal ball? Auckland University, Visiting Distinguished Professor lecture. January (2017)

Ethical Principles as applied to eye care practice. Auckland University, Visiting Distinguished Professor lecture. January (2017)

Perspectives on eye research. Monash University, Australia, Invited Professor seminar. January (2017)

The influence of zonular angles on human lens accommodation. EMPVO IX Topical Meeting on Visual and Physiological Optics, Athens, Greece, August (2018)

Optics of the Lens and Changes with Ageing 24th  International Society for Eye Research conference. Belfast, Northern Ireland, September (2018)

Future healthcare challenges in the EU from the ethico-legal perspective. Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, June (2019)

Development of refractive index in the embryonic chick lens. 6th International Conference on the Lens. Kona, Hawaii, USA December(2019)

Media experience

TV appearances on Australian science program “Quantum”; on UK “The One Show”; RTE Ireland and has published in The Age in Australia. Founding member of the Australian Science Communicators. Recently spoke on BBC Radio Stoke on the Perry Spiller show about a measured response needed to COVID-19.