Dr. Safal Khanal is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. He studies mechanisms of emmetropisation, eye growth regulation, and refractive development. He is a clinical fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and holds an institutional therapeutic license from the Alabama Board of Optometry.

Dr. Khanal’s current research interests lie in understanding mehanistic basis of emmetropisation, eye growth regulation and genesis of refractive errors like myopia. The overall goal of his research is to devise optical, pharamacological, and behavioural (environmental) strategies to prevent the onset and slow the progression of childhood myopia. His interests also extend to the advancement of knowledge in the pathophysiological inflammatory mechanisms underlying dry eye disease and in developing novel and clinically applicable high-resolution imaging techniques for the assessment of human precorneal tear film dynamics. In this regard, his long-term goal is to improve the contemporary diagnostic and monitoring approaches in dry eye disease and to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of the disease. Besides dry eye and myopia, Dr. Khanal’s other research interests include defocus detection, ocular imaging and electrophysiology, and glaucoma.

Prior to joining UAB, Dr. Khanal received clinical training in Optometry and Vision Science in Nepal and the Philippines and earned his Bachelor and Doctor of Optometry degrees, before moving to New Zealand to undertake a Ph.D. under Dr. John Phillips at the Auckland Myopia Lab. His Ph.D. work investigated physiological responses of the human eye using advanced imaging (OCT, MRI) and electrophysiological techniques (global flash mfERG), and informed the mechanistic basis of myopia (short-sight). Following completion of his Ph.D., he worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Auckland Myopia Lab to complete an industry-funded project on the ocular effects of a novel spectacle lens design for myopia. In 2019, he joined UAB where he worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Tim Gawne, Dr. Thomas Norton and Dr Jason Nichols on the emmetropisation responses of tree shrews to narrow-band wavelengths and tear film lipids.

Dr. Khanal has published over 20 peer-reviewed original research articles in various areas of Optometry, Ophthalmology, and Vision Science. He holds professional membership in several organizations, including Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision, and Cornea and Contact Lens Society of New Zealand. He has received a number of scholarships, grants and awards which include Eberhard Dodt Memorial award, Centre for Brain Research Knowledge Exchange grant, Velocity innovation challenge award, and New Zealand Higher Degree Research Write-Up grant, and travel fellowships from American Academy of Optomery, International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision, Optometry Australia, Asia Pacific Association of Optometry, and World Council of Optometry. He continues to serve as an ad-hoc peer-reviewer for leading journals in the field, including Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, Optometry and Vision Science, Documenta Ophthalmologica, Clinical and Experimental Optometry, Journal of Optometry, BMC Ophthalmology, and Experimental Eye Research.


  • Animal and human myopia
  • Myopia interventions
  • Emmetropisation
  • Dry eyes
  • Visual electrophysiology
  • Ocular imaging
  • Glaucoma


  • PhD in Myopia, 2019

    University of Auckland

  • Doctor of Optometry, 2014

    Southwestern University

  • Bachelor of Optometry, 2012

    Tribhuvan University



Assistant Professor

University of Alabama at Birmingham

September 2021 – Present Alabama

Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Alabama at Birmingham

December 2019 – August 2021 Alabama

Projects include:

  • The Role (O-acyl)-Omega-Hydroxy Fatty Acids in Human Lipid Layer Structure and Function in Health and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
  • Effect of wavelength on achieving and maintaining emmetropia

Research Assistant

University of Auckland

March 2019 – August 2019 Auckland

Projects include:

  • Novel spectacles lens for myopia control
  • Fixation controlled acuity to quantify visual impairment in Age-related macular degeneration

Graduate Teaching Assistant

University of Auckland

March 2016 – August 2019 Auckland

Responsibilities include:

  • Clinical teaching
  • Lab assessments
  • Practical skills training

Recent Publications

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IMI Accommodation and Binocular Vision in Myopia Development and Progression

We reviewed the evidence on the role of accommodation and binocular vision in myopia development and progression.



Effect of wavelength on achieving and maintaining emmetropia (PI, Tim Gawne)

This project aims to determine the operating characteristics of the tree shrew emmetropisation system in response to different light spectra.

The effect of cellphone position on driving and gaze behaviour

Cellphone related distracted driving is a growing threat to road safety. This project in collaboration with the University of Auckland aims to investigate whether the use of cellphone in a ‘covert’ lap position while driving affects driving performance or eyegaze behaviour compared to hands-free (positioned on the dashboard) or no cellphone use.

The role of (O-acyl)-Omega-Hydroxy Fatty Acids in Human Lipid Layer Structure and Function in Health and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (PI, Jason Nichols)

This project aims to investigate the role of (O-acyl)-Omega-Hydroxy Fatty Acids in alterations of human tear film lipid layer as a basis for formulating novel therapeutics for meibomian gland dysfunction.

Academic Reports

International Myopia Institute Myopia White Papers 2019

Clinical summaries

Summaries in Nepali by Dr Safal Khanal English

For academic use only

Fellowship and Awards

ARVO virtual travel grant

AAO Student Travel Fellowship

Centre for Brain Research Knowledge Exchange Grant

Velocity Innovation Challenge PhD Category Winner

Scientific and Educators’ Meeting in Optometry Travel Grant

Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences Travel Grant

AAO Student Travel Fellowship

Fellowship of the American Academy of Optometry

CooperVision PhD Scholarship

Asia Pacific Optometry Congress Travel Grant

World Council of Optometry Travel Grant

Best English Paper Award

Lt-Col Kirkpatrick Scholarship

CARIPARO PhD Scholarship



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