Centre for Doctoral Studies

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

Page 2 of 10

PhDeets Podcast – Talking about all things PhD

Blog post by Carolin Oetzmann, Katie White & Nicol Bergou.

The PhD Journey can be a turbulent one – from finding the right program to navigating supervisor struggles, and all the madness in between! PhDeets is a podcast aimed at current and prospective PhD students to share experiences and help those trying to figure it out.

About the hosts


We are three researchers working and studying at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.  Each of us are in a different stage of our PhD journey. Katie is in her second year of a part-time PhD, alongside a research assistant role. Nicol is in her first year of a 1+3 programme funded by the Medical Research Council. Carolin is due to start her MRC funded PhD in September 2021, after contemplating whether doing a PhD was the right next step for her.




All three of us are the first in our families to do a PhD and we struggled to make sense of the different PhD programmes, funding options, application processes, career pathways and other things that are difficult to figure out without having a friend or relative who can answer your questions along the way. There is information online, but we wanted to create a platform where diverse student voices could be heard. Being avid podcast listeners, we decided to start a podcast ourselves.





About PhDeets

PhDeets is the podcast we wish we had when we were applying for our PhDs. Its target audience is current PhD students at all stages, as well as people who are deciding whether or not to apply, or those currently going through the ups and downs of the application process. We interview current PhD students, postdocs, lecturers, professors, people who left academia during or after their PhDs, those who are recruiting people with PhDs into industry positions, career advisers and really anyone who has any useful insights into the academic journey.


Previous episodes

We use our experiences to inform the topics we cover, but we also reach out to people to ask what topics they’d like to hear about. Some of our previous episodes are:

  • Neurodiversity at university – Panel discussion of neurodivergent researchers Claire, Katrina and Sheila about what being neurodivergent means to them, how it impacts their university life, what support they find helpful, diagnosis and labels, and more.
  • Luke’s journey to becoming a lecturer – We interviewed Luke Devereux, a lecturer at Middlesex University about his journey from PhD to becoming a lecturer, changing topics between undergrad ad postgrad, getting teaching experience, and balancing teaching and research responsibilities.
  • More than one way to do a PhD – Another panel discussion with PhD students Jaya, Shaheim, Victoria and Fiyory about the differences and similarities between their PhD programmes, including a partnership with the industry, self-funded PhD, 1+3 programmes, student versus supervisor driven applications, our reasons for doing a PhD, and applying for funding as an international student in the UK.


If you’d like to propose a topic for a future episode, or get in touch about anything to do with the podcast, you can message us on Twitter @PhDeets_podcast or you can email us at podcast@phdeets.com




You can find the podcast on our website phdeets.com or wherever you get your podcast.

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.  

Science Communication Fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Blog post by Emily Prpa, PGR student in Diabetes & Nutritional Sciences


The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology offer a range of different Fellowships to UK PhD students (in 2nd year or above) in biology and health sciences, energy and environment, physical and digital sciences, and social sciences. The Fellowships give students the chance to work with POST or other teams within Parliament, such as the House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries and the Select Committees. I carried out my 3-month POST Fellowship between September and December 2020, extending the final year of my PhD at King’s College London. Despite being part of the first intake of PhD students to participate in this scheme remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have still taken away invaluable knowledge, skills and lasting friendships.

I worked on a project researching the reformulation of food and drink products. This required me to scope the research area and conduct interviews with stakeholders in order to write a 4-page summary on the topic, known as a POSTnote. A POSTnote is an impartial, balanced and peer-reviewed analysis of new and emerging research evidence which is provided to the UK Parliament. As a POST Fellow you are immediately given a great deal of responsibility – within my first few weeks I was interviewing key stakeholders (from across academia, government, industry and the not-for-profit sector) and planning the first draft of the POSTnote. However, during my time at POST, I worked collaboratively with my supervisor, editing and redrafting the report to produce a balanced, impartial and succinct overview of the topic. The final draft was reviewed by POST scientific advisers, board members and interviewed stakeholders.

The finished POSTnote on food and drink reformulation to reduce sugar, salt and fat levels can be found here. In brief, food and drink reformulation is one tool used to promote healthier diets and reduce the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease. The POSTnote highlights that it is difficult to measure whether current UK policies encouraging product reformulation (voluntary and fiscal measures) have had a direct positive impact on public health. It also describes challenges and opportunities for reformulation such as product quality, industry engagement and consumer attitudes. Finally, it highlights that improving public health through better diet requires a number of complementary policy approaches alongside reformulation, including incentivising healthy food and creating a healthy food environment.

I am proud to be an author of this POSTnote. However, I came away from the Fellowship with so much more than this publication. Firstly, I learnt a unique style of written science communication – given that MPs and Peers are extremely busy, I crafted the skill of translating complex scientific information into concise lay terms. I was also exposed to the inner workings of Parliament and built important relationships with key stakeholders (such as Public Health England, the Food & Drink Federation and leading academic researchers). I delved into a novel and exciting topic of food science by using a range of resources including government reports, publications from the House of Commons and Lords libraries and grey literature – stepping out of my comfort zone by not solely relying on academic research.

I was worried that carrying out my Fellowship during the COVID-19 pandemic would affect the overall experience. However, I needn’t have worried. During my time at POST, I attended conferences on nutrition and policy, had a tour of Parliament and joined coffee breaks to meet other advisers and Fellows at POST – all virtual of course. The team at POST helped create a community between all the current Fellows and organised additional workshops for us, including a QnA session on policy careers.

I strongly encourage any PhD student to apply for this scheme. You can sign-up to the POST newsletter or follow @POST_UK on Twitter to stay updated on the Fellowship opportunities available at POST. These are also a great way to see newly approved POSTnote topics; if any are within your field of research, it is worth getting in touch with the lead adviser because your expertise could be valued.



Institute of Food Science and Technology Fellowship 2020/2021

Bridging research and policy – POST Parliament

POST Parliament resources

How to write a policy briefing

POST Parliament Fellowship




Health Professional Researcher Profile: Professor Bijan Modarai

Professor Bijan Modarai is the King’s Chair in Vascular Surgery and a British Heart Foundation (BHF) Senior Clinical Research Fellow. He completed his Basic Surgical Training in London before being awarded a BHF Clinical PhD Studentship in 2002. He graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry in 2006 and completed his Higher Surgical Training as an NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer at King’s and as an Endovascular Fellow at The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. He was appointed as a Senior Lecturer in Vascular Surgery at King’s and Honorary Consultant Vascular Surgeon at GSTT in 2012, having secured a BHF Intermediate Clinical Research Fellowship. He was awarded a Hunterian Professorship by The Royal College of Surgeons of England in 2017.

He is a Council member of the British Society for Endovascular Therapy, examines for the Fellowship of European Board of Vascular Surgery and co-leads the GSTT/King’s Biomedical Research Centre School of Translational & Experimental Medicine.

Bijan is the King’s medical lead for INSPIRE, an initiative from the Academy of Medical Sciences that seeks to engage medical, dental, and veterinary undergraduates with research.

Bijan will be joining a panel to discuss the challenges of navigating dual careers as a health professional researcher at our ‘Managing Dual Careers series of webinars in April 2021. Book your place via Skills Forge. 


We chatted to Bijan about his career as a clinical academic, and in particular his views on enhancing the diversity of the pipeline of future clinical academic leaders.

Bijan, tell us about a typical day (or week) in the life of a clinical academic leader in vascular surgery? 

The great thing about being a clinical academic is that no day or week is the same! My role is fully funded by the British Heart Foundation, allowing dedicated time for research and the opportunity to maintain a flexible timetable depending on what the clinical demands are. Clinically, my time involves seeing patients, participating in MDTs (multidisciplinary team meetings), operating, and on call sessions. 

Research-wise, I spend my time supervising PhD students, in lab meetings, liaising with national and international collaborators, and forging new collaborations to get new research off the ground. My research team spans basic and translational science, from cell biology in the lab to data-driven clinical research. It’s very much a bedside, to bench, to bedside model. I also spend time reviewing papers, writing grants, and (less so now in the pandemic) attending meetings to present and discuss the research with international colleagues. 

One thing that I’d say has helped me in navigating the dual career as a clinician and researcher is focussing my clinical practice to a specific, specialised area. It’s really important not be a jack of all trades clinically as you’ll have no time for research.  

Looking back to the early stages of your career, what do you think were the biggest challenges in forging your career as both a clinician and a researcher? What tips did you find helped you overcome these? 

Many clinicians are concerned that there’s a perception that if you take time out for a PhD, then you de-skill clinically. Perhaps it’s getting better these days, but when I started it was relatively unusual for an individual in a craft speciality such as mine to take three years out for research towards a PhD. It’s important that Trusts and academia work together to improve this, and that clinical training committees have appropriate expectations for clinicians who are also doing research.  

However, a key piece of advice I’d give to clinicians is that in order to have kudos with your clinical colleagues, it’s important to strive hard to ensure you achieve the same, if not better, clinical competencies than your clinical colleagues not doing research. This is an important mindset to have and is achievable with the right prioritisation strategies. I’d encourage any clinician undertaking time out of programme for a research degree to try and carve out flexible time e.g. an afternoon a week, to maintain clinical skills. 

What got you interested in research? 

In truth, I didn’t set out knowing I’d be a clinical academic. I did an intercalated BSc in medical school, that gave me a taste of research. What really led me into this path was the mentorship and opportunities I was exposed to early on in my early clinical jobs.  I had some excellent mentors who encouraged me, and with them I wrote a proposal for a PhD, funded by the BHF. I wasn’t sure whether doing research was the right thing to do, and at that stage there was no defined career path, but then the NIHR IAT programme was created and I was one of the first NIHR-funded surgical ACLs.  

The period after a PhD can be particularly difficult to navigate as a clinician. How should clinical PhD students find opportunity to stay engaged in research after their degree? 

This is still a huge issue that we need to tackle, namely the lack of opportunities post-PhD to continue driving up research outputs in order to be competitive for clinician scientist or intermediate fellow funding. The way I achieved it was through supervising a PhD student whilst I was an ACL, thereby enhancing the research outputs to be competitive for the BHF intermediate fellowship. 

Many clinicians don’t realise that there’s no one size fits all, in the quest to be a clinical academic. In many ways, everyone must forge their own bespoke pathway at every stage.  Key to this is the relationships you cultivate, both within the Trust (e.g. your Programme Director) and academic colleagues. You need to bring people on board to help you navigate the pathway. Skills in negotiation, interpersonal skills, all are key and should not be underestimated.  

It can be more difficult for those in minority groups to imagine themselves achieving this when there are fewer senior role models who look like them. While things are improving, women and BAME communities are still underrepresented in cardiovascular surgery and in senior clinical academic research. Again, seeking mentorship is key. There are many ways to find mentors outside your immediate clinical or academic environment. For example, social media helps you see what people are interested in and connect with them. Attend talks and events, and crucially, don’t be shy – talk to people afterwards. I remember an inspirational talk I attended from a young Asian plastic surgeon which left a long-lasting impression – this was 25 or 30 years ago. If someone inspires you, contact them, don’t wait, or assume they won’t have the time to respond. It’s flattering to be contacted no matter what level you’re at. 

However, it’s certainly not just down to the individual. It’s the responsibility of senior people to seek talent and provide opportunities based on merit, to everyone. We must always be conscious of the balance of opportunities we give people. More senior academics must also highlight examples of successes from those they mentor, and from underrepresented groups in particular. I’d also recommend participating unconscious bias training, to help you think about biases you’re not even aware you have. 

What other advice do you give early stage clinical academic colleagues? 

You can’t do everything! It’s so important to have focus, and to decide what the priorities are in conjunction with good advice from colleagues. If you’re good, you’ll be approached to do 101 different things, and part of your success depends on filtering those, knowing where your talents are, and where your time is best spent. 

You can’t underestimate the importance of having the skills to work in a team, and interpersonal skills to find mutually beneficial opportunities that help you move forward. Always be grateful to those who do help you. Find ways to be part of a supportive, social, non-hierarchical cohort of clinicians and scientists. Don’t be arrogant, know at the early stage that you’re starting from scratch as a researcher, have humility and be the kind of person that others want to see succeed. 




« Older posts Newer posts »