Equipping doctoral research students at King's College London to excel

Category: Development (Page 1 of 4)

Introducing our new Royal Literary Fund Fellows for 2023-24

A black and white profile photo of Alex Wong

Alex Wong

This year, to help students and staff with the various challenges of academic writing, the Doctoral School at KCL will host two new fellows of the Royal Literary Fund. My colleague, Miranda Seymour, will be available for appointments on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. My name is Alex Wong, and I’ll be working on Thursdays and Fridays. We’d be delighted to see you in our office on the Waterloo Campus, and will also be offering some sessions online.

RLF fellows are professional writers, working in various genres, who hope that their experience of planning, writing and editing will enable them to give good, practical advice (and cheerful encouragement) to those who are finding the task of writing difficult, as well as to anyone who simply wants to find ways of improving the clarity, economy and elegance of their scholarly prose. Come to us if you’re stuck, or baffled, or have a problem to solve; but you’ll be just as welcome if you have no particular problem, only aspiration!

Miranda is an acclaimed biographer and novelist, and I am primarily a poet, though I also have extensive experience in prose nonfiction. We both know what it is like to undertake long, complex projects involving significant research, and we’re familiar with many of the hurdles one can meet along the way. More fundamentally, we know about the essential mechanics of sentences. Writing clearly and precisely may often be a matter of writing more ‘simply’, but that is not always an easy or intuitive thing. The challenges of effective and communication are real ones; but they are also—when approached in the right way—interesting, enlivening challenges that engage imagination as well as intellect.

A colour profile photo of Miranda Seymour

Miranda Seymour

Our sessions will be highly individual, tailored to each person’s particular needs and aims. Our hope, in each case, is to help people write in ways that feel satisfying to them. We’ll help you clear away any unnecessary complications, cumbersome jargon and unhelpful rhetoric, so that you can articulate your thoughts and arguments in ways that are at the same time more natural and more creative.

Although I do have a background in academic teaching myself, it’s important to note that Miranda and I are here as writers, not as scholars. We’re not academic staff of KCL, don’t discuss students’ work with their supervisors (or anyone else), and are entirely outside the systems of supervision and assessment. This means we’re able to offer confidential, impartial and unjudgmental advice, purely on the business of writing and editing. We’re not here to evaluate the content of your work. In fact, we’re not here to evaluate your work at all: we need only to understand it well enough to guide you, where useful, towards better expression.

Some sessions will look at big, structural concerns, on the level of the whole article, thesis or book; others will deal with small concerns, on the level of the sentence. Depending on what you hope to address, you might send us a short sample of work in advance (which can be very helpful), or you might just bring a piece with you when you come, which we can go through together, line by line.

Are you struggling to get your thoughts down on paper at all? We can certainly sympathize, and will offer some tips on waging the battle against blockages and procrastination.

Maybe your supervisor corrects your grammar or punctuation time after time, and you’re not entirely clear why? Or maybe a peer reviewer finds your tone too casual, too defensive, too dogmatic? We can help you make sense of critical feedback (vexing as it can often be) and find constructive ways forward.

Perhaps you want to discuss the best ways of structuring different kinds of material, such as argument, exposition, narrative or ‘literature review’. You may have a specific passage in mind, presenting unique difficulties: something you’re not sure how to approach. Or else you may want to talk about general qualities of your writing—the basic ‘nuts and bolts’ of paragraphing, for instance. We might spend a whole session discussing the pros and cons of different potential titles for your work.

In short, there are many different reasons why you might come to see us, and many different ways in which we could help. Each session is a unique encounter for us, and the writing we’re going to see will be extremely various in subject matter, approach and style. The various disciplines of the academic world all work in different ways, but the fundamental need for clarity and precision applies in all of them, as does the value of a flowing and engaging style. The means by which these are achieved are ultimately more constant than one might assume.

Do come and see us if you think we could be of any help. We look forward to meeting you!


Appointments are available Tuesday to Friday during term time and will be available primarily in-person on Waterloo Campus;, but some will be available online. Appointment bookings will open on 2nd October 2023. Email one Fellow in the first instance to make an appointment:

King’s 3MT Grand Final 2022

The King’s Three Minute Thesis Grand Final which took place on 28th April 2022 gave a wonderful insight into the captivating and prodigious research taking place at King’s.

A total of 14 PhD students across the King’s faculties took on the challenge of presenting their research to a lay audience within three minutes, using a single slide. This year, the four faculty heats were held online and eight participants went through to the Grand Final held in-person in the Bush House Auditorium during the Spring PGR Induction.

Julia Fajardo-Sanchez was selected as the King’s winner and has been put forward for the Vitae National Quarter Finals. The King’s Judges said Julia’s engaging presentation was “inspiring”, persuasive, and her stage presence was “excellent”. Julia is based in the Department of Life Course Sciences within the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, and her 3MT is titled Seeing the Whole Picture.

Here are Julia’s thoughts on her King’s 3MT experience:

Julia Fajardo Sanchez

The Three-Minute Thesis experience has been absolutely amazing. The team organizing the competition helped us along the way and all the criteria was made available on time. I felt very comfortable during the heats as the team encouraged us and made us feel at home between our peers. I knew it is a worldwide competition that can increase the exposure on your research and with that in mind, I decided to compete. If there are two things that, no matter what the result, we can all get out of participating is to increase your confidence by speaking in public and to engage even more with the purpose of your research by bringing the essence of your work to the public. I am definitely grateful for the opportunity, and I recommend it to everyone who would like to try it!”

Alex Martin, from the Department of Psychology in the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, was the Runner-up this year as the judges were highly impressed with her ability to convey the human angle on the need for her research very persuasively. Alex’s 3MT is titled the Role of the Father in Reducing Risk of Depression within Families.

Here are Alex’s thoughts on her King’s 3MT experience:

Alex Martin

“It has been an absolute honour to take part in the 3MT competition. I would strongly encourage others to take part. First, the process of developing my talk for a lay audience gave me the opportunity to ‘zoom out’. This gave me insight into my own research which I didn’t have before, having been immersed in the detail for so long. I really enjoyed reflecting on why my research matters outside of our academic bubble. Second, taking part has opened several doors. I will be collaborating with the DTC to develop a workshop on presentations. I have also shared the talk with several charities and was asked to develop a blog for them to publish – so my research has had real-world impact as a direct result of the 3MT competition. Third, taking part has been really good fun! Congratulations to the other contestants for such interesting and engaging talks – and to the very deserved winner!”

Nigel Eady, Director of Research Talent at King’s, and Chair of the Grand Final Judging Panel, said:

“Both Julia and Alex really engaged the audience in the first few moments of their talks. The simplicity of the images they used was powerful and they immediately drew you in, wanting to know more. Julia also used the stage effectively and both she and Alex explained the human angle on the need for their research very persuasively. As with all the best presenters, they deployed the minimum of technical language, leaving us as an audience feeling we had learned something new and feeling inspired at the amazing work of King’s postgraduate researchers.”

Tom Rusbridge, Research Staff Development Consultant, and Judge of the Grand Final, said:

“The winning presentation captured what 3MT is all about. Julia had a witty and memorable hook to draw the audience in, explained the rationale and process of research clearly, and used accessible language throughout. To cap it off, the presentation was confident and engaging in spades. I wish Julia every success at the national semi-final.” 

Watch the King’s 3MT finalists’ presentations and read about previous finalists’ experiences and advice for future participant below.

Learn about last year’s 3MT winner, Curie Kim who went on to represent King’s at the Vitae National 3MT Quarter Final Competition in the blog post titled King’s 3MT Grand Final 2021. You can also view the King’s 3MT finalists from 20142017, 2018 and 2020.

15 top tips for writing a funding/grant application

Blog post by Dr Nigel Eady, Director of Research Talent, Centre for Doctoral Studies

I spend quite a lot of time reading applications for funding. Some are for around £100k or more, for example, scholarship funding for a PhD, others may be much smaller, a few hundred pounds to attend a conference.

Funding schemes are nearly always competitive. In some instances, you don’t get funding just because there were too many good applicants. However, you’d be surprised how many people make very basic mistakes that significantly reduce the chance of getting funded.

So here are my top tips to give yourself the best chance possible!

  1. Check remit/eligibility carefully. If you’re not sure what you’re proposing is in the remit of the scheme, then ask! You also want anyone reading your application to see really clearly that you’re a good fit for the scheme or the funder. You certainly don’t want to spend lots of time preparing an application to find out you weren’t eligible anyway!
  2. Contact the administrator for advice. Don’t be afraid to contact the people running the scheme. Their job is to answer your questions! They are judged on the smooth running and impact of the scheme. They want to get good bids and they are better able to do that if they are talking to potential applicants. They like to build relationships with the people they’re funding.
  3. Follow the guidance you’re given. If a question says ‘max 400 words’, don’t write more than 400 words! Word limits are partly there for fairness and consistency, so everyone is given the same opportunity to present their application. You need the people reading and scoring your application on your side, so do everything you can to keep them happy! You don’t want them thinking you’re trying to gain an unfair advantage, and you don’t want them annoyed that there’s lots of extra info to read! Beware – some forms will just cut off anything over the limit!
  4. Remember the panel may not be experts. Please write in plain English – no jargon, acronyms…. Or at least as few as possible! I have a PhD in biochemistry. That means I understand certain research disciplines but it won’t take long for me to get lost (or annoyed!) by jargon that may make sense to you, but not to me.
  5. Don’t forget the panel are probably busy! If your application is hard to read or confusing or very long, it’s not going to help how your reviewers feel about your application. If it’s easy to read and understand then the panel will likely be on your side and more likely to advocate for you to get funded!
  6. Demonstrate commitment to what you want to do. Have you already applied anywhere else for funding? Why not? Funders like to see commitment. It may persuade those reviewing your application that you’re really serious about doing the research, going to the conference or whatever you’re asking for money to do.
  7. Show that other people think you’re worth funding. In an academic setting, it might be as simple as showing you have the support of your supervisor or department or faculty through a short written statement or letter. Even better, is there someone who will commit part of the funding for what you want to do? This is often called ‘matched’ funding. Always be clear what funding you already have and what other funding you’ve applied for. You can’t ‘double fund’, i.e. get funding from two places to do the same thing! Always read the information about the funding scheme carefully and check what’s allowed (and maybe double check with the administrator).
  8. Be honest about the costs. Time spent getting your budget right won’t be wasted. If you ask for too much money, you may immediately be ruled out. If you underestimate, you might end up having to deliver something without enough money! Panel members will often be considering whether a budget is realistic. You should definitely be truthful, not least as that shows the panel that you can be trusted with the funds. Requesting exactly the amount on offer tends to look suspicious, unless you’re showing that it will cost you more than the full amount and you’re just asking for the maximum available. Where possible, include quotations for purchases you’d like to make.
  9. Make sure your budget adds up! You’d be amazed how may budgets are wrong! Get someone else to check your calculations and that what you’ve written makes sense. There’s actually lots to say about budgets – maybe I’ll write a separate post with further thoughts!
  10. Provide a clear timeline. Funders want to know that you will spend their money wisely. In your application, show that you can think like someone managing a project and describe what will happen over the weeks or months after you get the money. You don’t necessarily need a proper GANTT chart, a few clear bullet points may be enough. What will you do if something goes wrong? Is there enough time in your schedule to respond to difficulties? Have you already planned for the most obvious risks?
  11. Ensure supporting info supports your request! The supervisor whose statement in support of your application effectively says nothing more than ‘I confirm this person exists,’ isn’t doing you any favours! The more bespoke and tailored the statement the better! Consider what the panel are looking for. Perhaps you can give your supervisor/PI/referee a few bullet points they might consider including in the statement/letter? Hopefully if you’re one of a number of students from the same research group applying, your supervisor won’t have written the same statement for everyone!
  12. Make your application easy to read. Again, keep your reviewers onside. Online forms sometimes make this difficult (as you may have little ability to format text) but do think about formatting and structure. Long, dense paragraphs of text, ridiculously   are all a bad idea!
  13. Ask for feedback. Get as much feedback as you can, especially if your application isn’t successful. Verbal feedback can be even more helpful. People may say more verbally than they are willing to write down! You might be able to turn a ‘failed’ application into a really successful one, based on the feedback you get.
  14. Seek advice on applying. Do you know someone who’s applied before? Will they read your draft application? Are there examples of good/bad applications available?
  15. Think like a reviewer. Imagine you were reading applications to the funding scheme. What would you want to know? Give your reviewers the assurance they are looking for.


If you bear all these points in mind, you’re giving yourself a good chance of getting over the first hurdle and being considered for funding.

All the very best for your funding applications.

Health Professional Researcher Profile: Ms Tootie Bueser

Ms Tootie (Teofila) Bueser

Ms Tootie (Teofila) Bueser, HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow and PhD Student at King’s College London

In this blog post we introduce you to one of our Health Professional Researchers (HPRs) at King’s, Tootie (Teofila) Bueser:

Tootie, could you give us a brief summary of your route into a PhD, including previous research experience, and how this was funded?

I have always wanted to pursue a research career even as nursing undergraduate. As a nurse who trained in a different country (the Philippines), I did not find a supportive environment for this when I started working in the UK. It wasn’t until I was mentored five years down the line by a senior nurse and championed by a cardiology consultant to pursue an MSc that the pathway to a clinical academic career became a possibility for me. I was then nurtured and supported in the cardiovascular and genetics departments at King’s College Hospital and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital which gave me a taster for conducting primary research. I was also becoming more advanced in my clinical practice as a cardiac genetics nurse and identifying gaps in care where evidence was sparse and where I felt I could make a difference. With the guidance of my academic supervisors at KCL, I was able to develop a successful application for the NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship.  

 What are your long-term ambitions for your clinical academic career? 

I have grand plans to set the standard for cardiac genetic nursing practice, have a research group of my own and forge international research collaborations focused on improving the care of patients and families affected by inherited cardiac conditions  maybe one day! I also want to inspire more nurses to pursue the clinical academic career pathway and be a good mentor for them. 

 What tips would you give to a clinician newly embarking on an out-of-programme research project, such as a PhD or MD(Res)? 

I think it is important to have a good balance of research and clinical time. As nurses, we are already qualified so it is key to focus on honing research skills during the PhD but we also need to keep in mind what we need to maintain, or if needed increase, our clinical skills and knowledge. Do not lose touch with your clinical team and set up a patient and public group to guide your research so you are always aware of what is important to patients. Be out there, meet a range of people from different research backgrounds who will not only enhance your academic experience but perhaps turn out to be great collaborators on future projects. On a practical note, get your ethics application in early!  

 What support has been most helpful to you in terms of navigating your clinical academic career to date? 

My academic supervisors have been great at supporting me through my PhD so choose well! It is also crucial that you get support from your clinical team/management as often as nurses, you must work with them to define your role post-PhD and how to make best use of your new skills. Also, find mentors outside your institution/profession as often they can be helpful in achieving your short-term goals and give you a broader view and opportunities for your clinical academic career 

Finally, I don’t think I could have survived this far without the support of my PhD peer group and we have helped each other navigate forms and regulations, I always have someone to lean on through all sorts of ups and downs and we cheer each other on with our successes. Doing a PhD can be quite isolating so having a peer group, alongside quality time with family and friends, counteracts this. 

 What is the most rewarding thing about being a Health Professional Researcher? 

I think being a clinical academic gives you a mindset where you are always actively looking for ways to improve patient care and I think as a nurse, I have a unique insight on how patients experience care and cope with their condition. I find it really rewarding to be able to work collaboratively with patients to design and conduct research that is pertinent to them and to be able to impact on their care more widely that goes beyond an individual consultation.  

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