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Safal Khanal

Assistant Professor

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HPB 526

Schedule a UAB Eye Care Appointment: 205-975-2020

Teaching/research interests: Eye growth regulation and refractive development; retinal, choroidal, and cortical defocus signaling mechanisms; myopia development, progression, and control; visual electrophysiology; ocular imaging

Office hours: By appointment


  • BOptom, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, Optometry
  • OD, Southwestern University, Philippines, Optometry
  • PhD, The University of Auckland, New Zealand, Optometry

Safal Khanal, OD, PhD, FAAO is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He received his optometry and vision science training in Nepal and the Philippines and earned his Bachelor of Optometry and Doctor of Optometry degrees. Dr. Khanal then worked as a consultant in a conjoint optometry/ophthalmology practice in Nepal, before joining the University of Auckland School of Optometry and Vision Science in New Zealand. During his time at the University of Auckland, Dr. Khanal also served as an educator in the Bachelor of Optometry degree program, teaching clinical optometry courses and supervising undergraduate students in summer research and honors projects. After completing his first postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of John Phillips, BSc(M Eng), BSc(Optom), MSc, PhD, MCOptom, FAAO, at the University of Auckland Myopia Lab, he moved to the United States for his second postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratories of Timothy Gawne, PhD and Jason Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, FAAO, at the UAB School of Optometry. In 2021, Dr. Khanal established his own research lab at the UAB School of Optometry where he now leads an independent research program focused on myopia and visual electrophysiology. Dr. Khanal’s research support portfolio includes grants from the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind Inc., American Academy of Optometry, and UAB Vision Science Research Center for basic and clinical myopia research projects.

Dr. Khanal became a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry in 2016. He holds active professional membership in several organizations, including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and the International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision, and continues to serve as an ad-hoc reviewer for several leading journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (IOVS), Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics (OPO), Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, Eye and Contact Lens, Optometry and Vision Science, Documenta Ophthalmologica, Clinical and Experimental Optometry, Journal of Optometry, BMC Ophthalmology, Scientific Reports, and Experimental Eye Research.

Research interests:

Dr. Khanal’s laboratory conducts basic, clinical, and translational research related to myopia (short sight) mechanisms and treatment. His current research interests lie in understanding the mechanistic basis of emmetropisation, eye growth regulation, and refractive development, through a combination of imaging, electrophysiology, and molecular techniques in animal models (tree shrews) and humans. The overall goal is to inform how the eye detects the sign of defocus and regulates its growth and what causes this regulatory mechanism to malfunction leading to the genesis of refractive errors like myopia in children. Dr. Khanal aims to use the knowledge gained to devise novel, effective strategies (optical, pharmacological, and behavioral) targeted at preventing the onset and slowing the progression of myopia in children.

Recent courses taught:

The University of Alabama at Birmingham
OPT 122: Ocular Microbiology (Course Director)
VS 111: Ocular Anatomy (Guest Lecture)
VS 610: Ocular Anatomy and Biology (Guest Lecture)
OPT 228: Public Health Optometry (Guest Lecture)
VIS 611: Ocular Pathology (Guest Lecture)
VS 121: Visual Optics (Myopia Panel)
VIS 779: Advanced Graduate Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies

The University of Auckland
OPTOM 430B: Contact lens Practice
OPTOM 416: Clinical Optometry
OPTOM 316: Optometry
OPTOM 272: Structure and Function of the Visual System
MEDSCI 316: Sensory Neuroscience: From Molecules to Disease

Selected publications:

Peer-reviewed journal articles

  • Khanal S, Bai Y, Ngo W, Wilson L, Barnes S, Nichols KK, Nichols JJ. Human meibum and tear film derived cholesteryl and wax esters in meibomian gland dysfunction and tear film structure. The Ocular Surface. 2022; 23:12-23.
  • Bai Y, Ngo W, Khanal S, Nichols JJ. Characterization of the Thickness of the Tear Film Lipid Layer in Meibomian Gland Dysfunction using High-Resolution Optical Microscopy. The Ocular Surface. 2022; 24: 34-39.
  • Logan NS, Radhakrishnan H, Cruickshank F, Allen PM, Bandella PK, Davies LN, Hasebe S, Khanal S, Schmid KL, Vera-Diaz FA, Wolffsohn JS. IMI: Accommodation and Binocular Vision in Myopia Development and Progression. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2021;62(5):4.
  • Khanal S, Norton TT, Gawne TJ. Amber light treatment produces hyperopia in tree shrews. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2021 Aug 11.
  • Norton TT, Khanal S, Gawne TJ. Tree shrews do not maintain emmetropia in initially focused narrow-band cyan light. Exp. Eye Res. 2021 Mar 10:108525.
  • Khanal S, Phillips JR. Which low-dose atropine for myopia control? Clinical and Experimental Optometry. 2019; 103: 230-232.
  • Khanal S, Rathod SN, Phillips JR. The acute effect of atropine eye drops on the human full-field electroretinogram. Doc Ophthalmol. 2021 Jun;142(3):315-328.
  • Kharal A, Khanal S (co-first author), Shrestha JB, Shrestha GS, Paudel N. Flash VEP in clinically stable pre-term and full-term infants. Doc Ophthalmol. 2020 June 6.
  • Uprety S, Morjaria P, Shrestha JB, Shrestha GS, Khanal S. Refractive status in Nepalese pre-term and full-term infants early in life. Optom Vis Sci. 2017 Oct 1;94(10):957-64.
  • Ramamoorthy P, Khanal S (co-first author), Nichols JJ. Inflammatory proteins associated with contact lens-related dry eye. Contact Lens and Anterior Eye. 2021 Apr 3:101442.
  • Khanal S, Ngo W, Wilson L, Barnes S, Nichols KK, Nichols JJ. Human meibum and tear film derived (o-acyl)-omega-hydroxy fatty acids in meibomian gland dysfunction. The Ocular Surface. 2021; 21: 118-128.
  • Khanal S, Bai Y, Ngo W, Wilson L, Barnes S, Nichols KK, Nichols JJ. Human meibum and tear film derived (o-acyl)-omega-hydroxy fatty acids as biomarkers of tear film dynamics in meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye disease. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2021;62(9):13
  • Khanal S, Paudel N, Joshi MR. Optometry in Nepal: historical perspectives. Clinical and Experimental Optometry. 2021 May 2:1-4.
  • Bai Y, Ngo W, Khanal S, Nichols KK, Nichols JJ. Human precorneal tear film and lipid layer dynamics in meibomian gland dysfunction. The Ocular Surface. 2021 Mar 23:S1542-0124(21)00018-5.
  • Turnbull P, Khanal S, Dakin S. The effect of cellphone position on driving and gaze behavior. Scientific reports. 2021 Apr 8;11(1):1-0.
  • Khanal S, Turnbull PRK, Lee N, Phillips JR. Effect of atropine on global flash mfERG responses to retinal defocus. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2019;1(60):218-225.
  • Khanal S, Turnbull PRK, Vaghefi E, Phillips JR. Repeatability of arterial spin labeling MRI in measuring blood perfusion in the human eye. JMRI. 2019 Apr;49(4):966-74.

Editor-reviewed articles

  • Khanal S. Combination treatment strategy for myopia control. Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. May 18, 2022.
  • Khanal S. Not all myopias are the same. Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. April 20, 2022.
  • Khanal S. Myopia—Not Just "Nearsightedness" But a Disease. Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. September 15, 2021.
  • Khanal S. Myopia Management: A Specialty or Primary Care? Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. July 21, 2021.
  • Khanal S. Ocular Growth Charts: A New Decision-Making Tool For Myopia Management. Mastering Myopia, Contact Lens Spectrum. June 23, 2021.
  • 2020 Khanal S. Evidence-based Myopia Management: Clinical Considerations. MiVision. December 2020. (Continuing Professional Development Article)
  • Khanal S. 0.01% Atropine’s puzzling disconnect. MiVision. February 2020.
  • Turnbull P, Khanal S. Atropine – Efficacy & Possible Mechanisms for Myopia Control. MiVision. November 2017.
  • Khanal S. Which low-dose atropine for myopia control? NZOptics. March 2020.


  • 2020 Euclid Emerald Certification for Orthokeratology Lenses
  • 2020 Bausch + Lomb Vision Shaping Treatment VST Process Design Certification Program
  • 2019 Applying electrophysiological techniques to translational vision research, ARVO, Canada
  • 2018 Human Lab Course on Electrophysiology, ISCEV symposium, Reims, France
  • 2017 Managing Myopia Course, Brien Holden Vision Institute Academy, Sydney, Australia
  • 2016 UT.7.20x: Foundations of Data Analysis, University of Texas, USA
  • 2015 Global Blindness: Planning and Managing Eye Care Services, LSHTM, London, UK.

Academic distinctions and professional societies:


  • 2014 Dean’s List, Doctor of Optometry, Southwestern University, Philippines
  • 2015 Lt-Col Henry Kirkpatrick Scholarship (Not taken)
  • 2015 CARIPARO PhD Scholarship (Not taken)
  • 2015 University of Auckland PhD Scholarship (funded by CooperVision Inc.)
  • 2015 World Council of Optometry Travel Grant for First World Congress of Optometry
  • 2015 Best English paper, First World Congress of Optometry, Colombia
  • 2015 Asia Pacific Optometric Congress Travel Grant
  • 2016 American Academy of Optometry Student Travel Fellowship
  • 2017 FMHS Postgraduate Student Association Travel Grant
  • 2018 Scientific and Educators’ Meeting in Optometry Travel Grant
  • 2018 International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision Travel Grant
  • 2018 Centre for Brain Research Knowledge Exchange Grant
  • 2018 UniServices PhD category Winner, Velocity Innovation Challenge 2018
  • 2018 Eberhard Dodt Memorial Award
  • 2018 American Academy of Optometry Student Travel Fellowship
  • 2019 New Zealand Association of Optometrists Higher Degree Research Write Up Scholarship
  • 2021 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Travel Grant
  • 2022 Emerging Vision Scientist, Alliance for Eye and Vision Research
  • 2022 American Academy of Optometry Career Development Award

Professional affiliations/organizations

  • 2022– Member, American Academy of Optometry Academy Optometry SIG
  • 2022– Member, American Academy of Optometry Vision Science Section
  • 2022– Committee Member, ARVO Ethics and Regulations in Human Research
  • 2022– Member, UAB Vision Science Research Center<?
  • 2022– UAB Faculty Senate
  • 2020– International Myopia Institute White Paper Task Force Member
  • 2020– Editor-in-Chief, Mero Eye Journal
  • 2018–2020 Member, Cornea and Contact Lens Society of New Zealand
  • 2018– Member, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • 2018 Member, International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM)
  • 2018 Scientific Committee Member, First All Nepal Optometry Conference
  • 2018–2019 Grant Officer and Faculty Research Committee, FMHS-PGSA
  • 2018–2020 Member, International Sports Vision Association
  • 2017 Co-chair, Abstract Review Committee, HealtheX, The University of Auckland
  • 2017 Health, Safety and Wellbeing Committee, Campus Life, The University of Auckland
  • 2017–2019 Member, Australasian College of Behavioral Optometrists
  • 2016–2017 Member, University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee
  • 2012– Member, Nepalese Association of Optometrists (NAO)
  • 2015– Member, Nepal Health Professional Council
  • 2014– Member, International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision (ISCEV)