Associate Professor Rod Watkins

Associate Professor

College of Nursing and Health Sciences

place Sturt West Wing (W206)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

Rod Watkins lectured in Applied Optics in Optometry at the University of Melbourne. Under a research contract for the Department of Civil Aviation he developed vision standards for pilots and air traffic controllers which were adopted by Australia and by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

In 1970 he joined the Adelaide optical company SOLA International Pty Ltd, a manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses and medical, defence and commercial optical devices. He was a member of the Board of Directors and held a number of senior management positions including in research and development and the management of scientific and defence precision optical equipment production. During this time SOLA grew from a small base in Adelaide to become the largest manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses in the world with 4,500 employees in 15 countries.

In 1987 he founded Scan Optics Pty Ltd, a company which designs and manufactures optical equipment for ophthalmology in developing countries, and served as Chief Executive Officer until 2008. The company has supported prevention of blindness programmes in 120 countries and has been widely recognised internationally for its work. He has been involved in the governance and management of global blindness through the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, and convened and chaired meetings in Adelaide, London, New York and in India to develop a global concensus on the challenges of, and responses to, the technology demands of global blindness prevention.

In 2011 he joined Flinders University, initially in a General Staff role assisting with the administration and planning of the new Optometry programme and then as a member of the Academic Staff, teaching optics in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of the course.


Flinders University of South Australia
School of Physical Sciences, Department of Physics
Thesis: "A Finite Aperture Model of the Optical System of the Human Eye"

University of London, Imperial College of Science and Technology
Department of Physics (Applied Optics)

University of Melbourne, Faculty of Applied Science
Thesis: "Increment Thresholds in Defective Colour Vision"

B. App. Sc.
University of Melbourne, Faculty of Applied Science
L.O.Sc.    Victorian College of Optometry

Honours, awards and grants

Australian College of Optometry: Honorary Life Member (2016)

National Vision Research Institute of Australia: Fellow (2010)

Australian Government: Member of the Order of Australia (2005)
"For service to optics and optometry through the development and manufacture of ophthalmic equipment designed for use in remote locations throughout the world."

Flinders University of South Australia: Convocation Medal (2000)
For "substantial and significant contributions to the community, including an important contribution to the prevention of blindness in third world countries".

Australian College of Optometry: Fellow (1986)

Prince Philip Prize for Australian Design (1975)
In conjunction with the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Melbourne, for the "Combined Operating Magnifier and Indirect Ophthalmoscope"

Research expertise
Ophthalmology and optometry
Optical physics
Research interests

Interests include:

  • innovative web-based teaching
  • design and development of optical devices for optometry and ophthalmology, for diagnosis and management of disease and for teaching
  • the use of non-sequential optics to model vision in the presence of pathology.

Current projects include:

  • development of a comprehensive web site with interactive eLearning including the optics of the eye and the visual system, optics of vision management and optics of ophthalmic equipment
  • development of optical devices for ocular fundus examination and imaging.

Past projects include:

  • design and commercialisation of:
    • ophthalmic surgical microscopes
    • indirect ophthalmoscope
    • hand-held slit lamp
    • surgical lights
    • ophthalmic operating table
    • slit lamp fundus lens
  • development of a range of software model eyes in sequential and non-seqential optics, currently used by 12,000 optical engineers in the design and evaluation of optical devices for examining and treating the eye.
Further information

Twenty one published papers on vision, ophthalmic optics and global blindness. One book chapter.

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