Michael Kelly

Thanks for the questions, break a leg Nancy Emma and Andrew

Favourite Thing: I love to analyse my data, learn new mathematical methods and draw figures and graphs to explain my findings.



Aston University 1986, Open University 1996, University of Manchester 1999, University of Manchester 2012


BSc(Hons) Ophthalmic Optics 1986, Dip Optometry 1987, BA Mathematics 1994. MSc Ophthalmology & Vision Science 1999, PhD Neuroscience 2012

Work History:

I started my career as an ophthalmic optician, testing eyes, dispensing spectacles and contact lenses.

Current Job:

I am a research associate funded by an NIHR i4i award investigating the usefulness of measuring vision in low light to assess diseases of ageing in the eye


The University of Manchester

Me and my work

I investigate how humans see in the dark and when dazzled by bright lights.

My work has several different strands. My main work is developing a device that measure how well people adapt to a dark environment. This work will tell us lots about the health of the eye before there is any loss of sight. It will also help in the development of treatments for age related eye disease. This work includes a clinical trial to evaluate the device we are developing and this means quite a lot of paperwork and meetings. I will be recruiting participants for this study in two months (fingers crossed).

I also investigate other aspects of vision. I have worked on how well people see when they are dazzled, and have made mathematical models of how changing a light alters how we perceive a colour under that light.  I have created software to analyse the flow of tears under contact lenses, the flow of liquids/tears over a contact lens and the interaction between the surface of a contact lens and the air.

My MSc project was concerned with the production and sequence of proteins used as the eye heals following surgery.

My Typical Day

A brief meeting first thing to set priorities for the day, see what has been done and what needs to be done.

After an initial meeting I usually attend to those things highlighted in the meeting. The things I usually do are as follows

  • writing
    • a new paper or a review of one that we have submitted
    • the documentation so that we can get ethical approval for any experiments we carry out on people
    • reports to funding bodies or industrial collaborators
    • presentation or lecture
  • admin
    • finance – time sheets
    • purchasing – equipment
  • obtain regulator permission to use devices we build in human experiments
  • recruit subjects
  • perform experiments
  • think of experiments
    • build the apparatus
    • write software to control the new apparatus
    • write software to analyse data I have collected
  • drink tea

What I'd do with the money

I’d like to build something to show how we interpret colours.

We tend to have a fairly constant sense of what colour objects are even when the light shining on them is very red or blue. If we can only see in a closed area then we are quite good at ignoring the bias the coloured light introduces, but if we have another region to compare this ability breaks down. Peeking through a keyhole its very hard to tell what colour the light in the room is, but if we look in from outside the colour of the lighting is easy to see.

I would use a dolls house to show what effect different coloured lights  have on the colours we seen inside the house.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

geek, creative, quiet

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What's your favourite food?

Jaffa cakes

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Camping in a campervan, in the Arctic circle, the Balkans, the Baltic, Russia and the Alps

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to study animal behaviour, or statistics.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I did get into trouble at infant school, for digging up and throwing tulip bulbs over the fence.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths, Biology and Art

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Found a new application of a mathematical technique that shortens the time we need to get the information we want about someones eyesight

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Popularisers of science, Ian Stewart, Carl Sagan, Desmond Morris, and a desire to understand my pet chickens and dog.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

An optometrist, but would rather be a chicken farmer or a house builder.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

More work as enjoyable as this job. A unimog 404 and somewhere to drive it.

Tell us a joke.

I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned

Other stuff

Work photos:

These pictures are of my son acting as a dummy subject while the apparatus to assess peoples response to a dazzling light was set up. The first picture shows the electrodes attached to the skin around the eye, this measures the activity of the muscles that control the eyelids. myimage2
The picture also shows a skin conductance unit, the skin electrode head unit and a camera to monitor the size of the pupil. The pupil is the central black hole in the middle of the coloured part of the eye.  The second picture shows the task, the subject had to read the email on the screen and report how uncomfortable they felt when the large circular light was switched on.  myimage1
The data collected was therefore a mixture of objective and subjective information about being dazzled.