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

Category: Development (Page 2 of 3)

Health Professional Researcher Profile: Dr Sheila McSweeney

Dr Sheila McSweeney

Dr Sheila McSweeney, recent awardee of an NIHR MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship

Health Professional Researchers (HPRs) at King’s include medical doctors, dentists, nurses, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and members of the 14 allied health professions as outlined on this NHS England webpage, who are also currently engaged in a period of research training.

HPRs are also sometimes known as Clinical Academic Researchers, and this and related terms can refer to pre-doctoral, doctoral, and post-doctoral researchers on a clinical academic pathway at King’s.

In this blog post we introduce you to one of our Health Professional Researchers at King’s, Dr Sheila McSweeney:

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

I undertook medical training in my home city in Ireland and was lucky to have opportunities to gain some basic research experience by undertaking laboratory-based projects at home and abroad.

I also took a year out of training to do an intercalated degree in immunology at King’s College London, which was not particularly common at that time.

These experiences gave me insights into clinical and academic medicine in different countries, and inspired me to remain active in both fields throughout my training.

Following graduation, I came to the UK and undertook training in internal medicine and dermatology. I then began to consider opportunities to further develop my research skills and ambitions.

I am very grateful to have received support from a BRC Clinical Fellowship, as this allowed me to take time out from clinical training and provided me with protected research time for 12 months to develop my research proposal and successfully apply for funding.

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

I hope to use my PhD to explore the pathogenesis of solar urticaria and provide insights that benefit patient care, as the currently available treatments are not particularly effective.

Thereafter, I will complete my clinical training and hope to build a post-doctoral research career exploring aspects of cutaneous allergy, including solar urticaria, other forms of physical urticaria, and contact allergy.

Ultimately, I aspire to work as both a clinician and an academic with my time divided between both aspects of medicine.

What tips would you give to a Health Professional who is starting an out-of-programme research project, such as a PhD or MD(Res)?

Perhaps I am being somewhat glib in saying this, but I think being organized is critical as you are master of your own time, while if I were to pick a second piece of advice, I would suggest that being resilient—even to the point of stubbornness—is so important. Everyone will inevitably experience setbacks and it is one’s response and persistence in the face of adversity that is most important.

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

Speaking to people who have blazed the trail before you: their experiences are invaluable, and you realise that research is accessible to all and that people will follow varied pathways into and through research.

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

I think the complementarity of clinical practice and academic research is the most rewarding aspect of being a Health Professional Researcher. Clinical practice inevitably raises unanswered questions, while academia provides you with the skills and tools to answer those questions.

Health Professional Researcher Profile: Captain Lawen Karim MRCS & GSTT BRC Fellow

Mr Lawen Karim MRCS

Mr Lawen Karim MRCS, BRC Fellow and PhD Student at King’s College London

Health Professional Researchers (HPRs) at King’s include medical doctors, dentists, nurses, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and members of the 14 allied health professions as outlined on this NHS England webpage, who are also currently engaged in a period of research training.

HPRs are also sometimes known as Clinical Academic Researchers, and this and related terms can refer to pre-doctoral, doctoral, and post-doctoral researchers on a clinical academic pathway at King’s.

In this blog post we introduce you to one of our Health Professional Researchers at King’s, Captain Lawen Karim MRCS:

Lawen, can you tell us about your research interests?

I am a specialist registrar in vascular surgery and in 2019 I decided to invest time out of clinical training to undertake a PhD, in order to develop and enhance my expertise in research, and ultimately contribute as a clinical scientist.

My research focuses on improving outcomes for patients with Critical Limb Ischaemia (CLI), the most severe manifestation of peripheral arterial disease.

We aim to develop a Blood Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technique; this is a novel objective tool which will help to identify patients who have had incomplete or inadequate peripheral arterial revascularisation, allowing early re-intervention to help achieve limb salvage.

What was your route into doing a doctorate at King’s College London?

My route into academic surgery was unconventional, as I had very little research experience prior to commencing my PhD.

I graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in 2015 where I was commissioned to the rank of a Captain in the British Army.

After completing and gaining relevant foundation and core surgical competencies in the traditional programme, I secured competitive London vascular surgery national training in 2017.

What are your long-term ambitions for your Clinical Academic Career?

After completing my PhD and having had papers published in high impact journals, I intend to return to surgical training to gain the relevant competencies to enable an academic consultant vascular surgeon with a strong passion in researching lower limb cutting edge modalities.

What has helped you progress in your Clinical Academic Career so far?

The academic department of vascular surgery at King’s has an international reputation in research and has had papers published in many high impact journals.

Established academic surgeons in my host department at King’s have provided ongoing support, guidance and supervision to develop my research.

We have regular departmental meetings in which we set monthly goals to achieve. In this time, I have developed important research skills including: paper critiquing; data analysis; paper writing; and verbal presentations.

What advice would you give to other Clinicians considering academic research?

My advice to prospective Clinicians pursuing research is to select the right project and department for you.

My non-academic background has in no way hindered my progress through my PhD and I believe it is the reason I have found it so exciting and interesting.

The success of any research is dependent on the ability to develop relationships with collaborators and scientific colleagues.

What is the most rewarding part of being a Clinical Academic Researcher?

I highly recommend that all surgical clinicians undertake a period of research as it gives you a different perspective to the patient care pathway.

It is rewarding to be involved in cutting edge surgery which will contribute to the vascular community and improve the care we provide to our patients in the future.

7 top tips when applying for a job (and the guidance for a grant isn’t too much different!)

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

 

I’ve been reading quite a few job applications recently. In some instances, there were people who might perhaps have been a good fit for the role, but really didn’t justify being selected for interview, so I decided to write these quick tips.

 

  1. Evidence the competencies required – don’t just repeat the job description back to the employer! Make every word count – show how your prior experiences and education have prepared you for this role.
  2. Keep your covering letter to a sensible length – 1 side is too short and 4 is def too long! For most roles, 2-3 sides is about right, depending slightly on the level of seniority of the role.
  3. Use your network – if you’ve got colleagues, former colleagues and friends who know people in the sector you want to move to, then let them know you’re looking for interesting roles.  You’ll probably find out about roles much more quickly this way. You might even get recommended to people who are employing.
  4. Ask for more info – if there’s a contact name on the job ad, then drop them a line before the deadline and ask for a chat. A short conversation will ensure you’re clear on what the role really involves, and therefore whether you’re a good fit or not (though the person you speak to is unlikely to tell you whether to apply – that’s your choice, based on your interests & skills and their match with the role, or not). Who knows what you might find out that’s not 100% clear in the job ad. There might be a particular emphasis that the employer is looking for, perhaps there are even other roles on the horizon that you wouldn’t have known before you picked up the phone.
  5. Make use of any help available – King’s has a wealth of careers resources, whether you need help with CVs and covering letters or are still trying to work out what you want to do next. Make sure you get some advice so that your application doesn’t miss the mark because you didn’t present yourself in the best possible light. King’s Careers & Employability provide resources for applications and interviews for researchers, available through KEATS here, and you will find online workshops to support you as a researcher through King’s CareerConnect.
  6. Help your assessors – make it really easy for the people assessing your application to put you forward for interview. Consider what they’re looking for. Evidence is a given (see 1), but also make your letter easy to read (normal size, readable font, well formatted letter) and not so long that you’ve set your assessor against you before they’ve started reading (see 2). If you’re aiming for a significant change in field, explain why and what you’re already doing to ensure that gap doesn’t mean you’re a poor fit for the role.  The assessors will need to see your motivation for this change – what have you done that you can write about, to understand the new field, organisation or role?
  7. Avoid jargon – most sectors have their own jargon, and there may be some words and phrases you need to include, as they show you know the area. However, an application needs to be easy to read. Avoid acronyms if you possibly can. Your assessor probably doesn’t know, or need to know, the structures and hierarchies where you work now.

 

If you bear all these in mind, you’re giving yourself a good chance of getting over the first hurdle, and being invited to interview. All the very best for your job applications.

 

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
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