Professor Paul James Donaldson

BSc, PhD (Otago)


Paul is the Director of the Molecular Vision Laboratory and is currently the Head of the School of Medical Sciences.

He obtained his PhD in field of epithelial transport from the Department of Physiology at the University of Otago in 1987, and this was followed by Post Doctoral Fellowships at Yale University and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. In 1990 he returned to New Zealand to take up a research position in the then Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology at The University of Auckland. This marked the start of a long and productive collaboration with Professor Joerg Kistler on the lens cataract research. In 1997 Dr Donaldson accepted a tenured position in the Department of Physiology at Auckland where he set up the Molecular Vision Laboratory. In 2004 he was promoted to Associate Professor and later in that year also became Head of Department.In 2008 he was appointed to the Chair in Optometry and Vision Science and assumed the leadership of the Department of Optometry and Vision Science and oversaw the transfer of the Department from the Faculy of Science to the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. In 2012 Paul was appointed as the Head of the School of Medical Sciences.

Paul built an international reputation as a vision research scientist. His research has been supported by numerous funding agencies including the Health Research Council, Wellcome Trust UK, Marsden Fund, Auckland Medical Research Foundation, Paykell Trust, Lotteries Health and the National Institutes of Health, USA.

He has been actively involved in the International Society of Eye Research (ISER) and the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology for many years as a reviewer, keynote speaker and symposia organizer. He served as the Vice President (Pacific Rim) of ISER and is the Deputy Director of New Zealand National Eye Centre (NZ-NEC), a cross faculty center between Optometry and Vision Science, Ophthalmology and the Molecular Vision Laboratory.

Research | Current

The Molecular Vision Laboratory has extensive molecular and cellular expertise in the general field of membrane transport. Members of the laboratory utilize electrophysiology, imaging, biochemistry, proteomics, molecular biology, and computer modeling to determine how the properties of ion channels and transporters contribute to the integrative function of ocular tissues that comprise the front of the eye. Current research projects in the lens are focused on determining how the interaction of a variety of ion channels and transporters contribute to the maintenance of lens transparency.


Head of School School of Medical Sciences

Honorary Professor Department of Optometry and Vision Science

Honorary Professor, Department of Physiology

Associate Investigator Maurice Wilkins Centre for Biodiscovery,


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Petrova, R. S., Webb, K. F., Vaghefi, E., Walker, K., Schey, K. L., & Donaldson, P. J. (2018). Dynamic functional contribution of the water channel AQP5 to the water permeability of peripheral lens fiber cells. American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology, 314 (2), C191-C201. 10.1152/ajpcell.00214.2017
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rosica Petrova, Ehsan Vaghefi
  • Umapathy, A., Li, B., Donaldson, P. J., & Lim, J. C. (2018). Functional characterisation of glutathione export from the rat lens. Experimental Eye Research, 166, 151-159. 10.1016/j.exer.2017.10.010
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Julie Lim
  • Schey, K. L., Petrova, R. S., Gletten, R. B., & Donaldson, P. J. (2017). The Role of Aquaporins in Ocular Lens Homeostasis. International journal of molecular sciences, 18 (12).10.3390/ijms18122693
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rosica Petrova
  • Vorontsova, I., Donaldson, P. J., Kong, Z., Wickremesinghe, C., Lam, L., & Lim, J. C. (2017). The modulation of the phosphorylation status of NKCC1 in organ cultured bovine lenses: Implications for the regulation of fiber cell and overall lens volume. Experimental Eye Research, 165, 164-174. 10.1016/j.exer.2017.08.009
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Julie Lim
  • Qiu, C., Maceo Heilman, B., Kaipio, J., Donaldson, P., & Vaghefi, E. (2017). Fully automated laser ray tracing system to measure changes in the crystalline lens GRIN profile. Biomedical Optics Express, 8 (11), 4947-4964. 10.1364/BOE.8.004947
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ehsan Vaghefi, Jari Kaipio, Bianca Heilman
  • Lim, J. C., Perwick, R. D., Li, B., & Donaldson, P. J. (2017). Comparison of the expression and spatial localization of glucose transporters in the rat, bovine and human lens. Experimental Eye Research, 161, 193-204. 10.1016/j.exer.2017.06.012
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Julie Lim
  • Yoganandarajah, V., Li, B., Umapathy, A., Donaldson, P. J., & Lim, J. C. (2017). Regional differences in glutathione accumulation pathways in the rat cornea: Mapping of amino acid transporters involved in glutathione synthesis. Experimental Eye Research, 161, 89-100. 10.1016/j.exer.2017.04.002
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Julie Lim
  • Lim, J. C., Vorontsova, I., Martis, R. M., & Donaldson, P. J. (2017). Animal models in cataract research. In P. M. Conn (Ed.) Animal models for the study of human disease (pp. 103-116). London, United Kingdom: Academic Press. 10.1016/B978-0-12-809468-6.00004-8
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Julie Lim


Contact details

Alternative contact

Laboratory Office

Level 4, Room 502-401K
Auckland 1023
New Zealand


Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 505 - Bldg 505
Level 1, Room 101F
New Zealand

Web links