During October, we are posting a series of blogs about careers in research as part of the NIHR’s Your Path in Research campaign.

For our second post, we spoke to some of our current Clinical Training Fellows about their advice for clinical staff thinking of moving into research.

The Clinical Training Fellowships are for clinicians to take time out of their medical training to gain vital research skills.

Dr Frances Conti-Ramsden

Dr Frances Conti-Ramsden, who is currently undertaking a Fellowship, says the programme has given her a unique opportunity for her research.

“I’m interested in women’s health and during my medical training I found my feet in research through working with Professor Lucy Chappell while I was a trainee. ​For the last two years I have been an Academic Clinical Fellow in Obstetrics & Gynaecology working in Professor Chappell’s group. ​It has been really exciting to work in a translational research team where you can see how research contribut​es to changes and recommendations for clinic​al practice. I developed my clinical research skills during this time, but realised that I really wanted to improve my data analysis skills. I felt very reliant on statisticians and bioinformaticians and wanted to have more independence in my projects and develop a health data science skills set.

“Taking a year out of my clinical training for the Fellowship has really paid off. It has enabled me to upskill to a completely different level in my data handling and analysis skills, a skills set which is quite unique amongst obstetricians. I’m working with genetic data and at first I couldn’t even open the data files! But after accessing the right training, I’m running complex analyses on this data myself. There’s no substitute for having that dedicated research time – there’s no way I could have done all of this alongside a clinical workload.”

For people thinking of getting research experience, her advice is to find a supervisor that has an interest in you and in forwarding your career.

“If you are interested in research, you can start with a really simple small project wherever you are working. Make sure you write it up and submit it to a conference. Those sorts of things can really help start conversations with potential supervisors. Don’t be afraid to initiate those conversations and get your work out there.”

Dr Ozan Demir is also currently an NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC Clinical Research Fellow in coronary physiology. He got involved in research during his seniorDr Ozan Demirhouse officer posts, where he was inspired by the senior academics he worked with. He has now taken time out of his training for the Fellowship.

“This Fellowship has enabled me have dedicated time to learn research methodology and develop my research ideas at a world renowned academic centre. I most enjoy working within a highly motivated clinical research team that is conducting research in wide range of topics that has the potential to improve clinical patient care.

His advice to people thinking about a career in research is to do your homework.

“I would advise anyone thinking about a move to research to speak to numerous peers and senior academics about their current research activities. Read around topics to get a better appreciation. These will enable you to make an informed decision regarding what type of research and on what topic you wish to pursue.

“Once you have decided on your desired research field look into joining a research group to do formal research. During this time you learn the necessary foundation skills to become an independent researcher.”