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Professor Anne Lingford -Hughes. Professor of Addiction Biology Consultant Psychiatrist, CNWL NHS Foundation Trust . MRC Clinical Fellowships Panel. My career path. At school, interested in biology not sure about being a doctor. Applied to medical school – 5 rejections

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professor anne lingford hughes

Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes

Professor of Addiction Biology

Consultant Psychiatrist, CNWL NHS Foundation Trust.

MRC Clinical Fellowships Panel

my career path
My career path.
  • At school, interested in biology not sure about being a doctor.
  • Applied to medical school – 5 rejections
    • (Finally) Got in to medical school the following year
  • Still ambivalent about being a doctor, so took up offer a PhD, then post-doc
  • Then after 5yrs returned to clinical training
  • Awarded Wellcome Clinical Research Training Fellowship
    • 2nd time
  • Clinical training completed
  • Senior Lecturer, Reader at University of Bristol
  • Professor at Imperial College London.
  • Clinical research training fellowship: twice a yr
    • provides up to three years' support for clinically qualified, active professionals to undertake specialised or further research training in the bio-medical sciences within the UK for a PhD. A further year’s funding is available for patient orientated clinical research training fellowships.
  • Clinician scientist fellowship: once a year
    • is a post-doctoral clinical fellowship providing up to four years' support. There is also a patient-oriented version of the scheme that provides up to five years' support, which is intended for research which requires up to 40 per cent of the fellow's time to be spent in clinical work.
  • Senior Clinical fellowship: once a year
    • The MRC’s senior clinical fellowships aim to develop outstanding medically and other clinically qualified professionals such that they become research leaders. Is for 5 years
aims and objectives of the research training programme
Aims and objectives of the research training programme

1. to provide (mental) health research leaders of the future.

2. to provide researchers with the armamentarium of key skills necessary to address the ambitions set out in the MRC-led review of (mental) health research.

3. to ensure integration of high quality academic training with professional development.

4. to build capacity in (mental) health research.

5. to increase the capacity of the research community of the future to deliver new treatments for (mental) health conditions and preventive strategies for (mental) illness.


The Institution

The Project


process selection
Process: selection
  • Application checked & validated by organisation
  • First assessment of your application.
    • CV is important.
  • Likely that will be some sifting so that manageable number is sent out for review.
  • Application sent to external reviewers
    • Min 2 reviews needed can be 5-6
      • A ‘bad’ review does not mean you will not get through
      • A ‘good’ review with no meat to it does not always help you
    • review by panel members
  • After discussion select ~20 applicants for interview
  • Interview by panel of ~ 8 board members
  • Rank applications, discussion about candidates scored on the ‘borderline’ of funding.

Overview of schemes 1MRC Research Fellowships for Clinicians

3 /15

Senior Clinical Fellowship

Clinical Training / SCL

10-12 / 50

52 awards (+2x10 Clin Pharm/Path) / ~130

Clinician Scientist Fellowship

Clinical Training / CL

Clinical Research Training Fellowships

Clinical Training / ACF

Approx Years post PhD














planning when to start
Planning When to start?
  • It is never too early.
    • 2-3 years
  • Your CV
    • Have you got the appropriate/any publications?
      • Takes time
    • Have you experience in the techniques you want £1million for?
    • Have you been to a conference, met with key people in the field?
      • ‘I do not know the candidate, but heard them present at a conference/read their latest interesting/important paper’

If in doubt speak to someone

    • Funding Organisation
    • University
    • Current award holder
planning your application
Planning your application.
  • Which organisation funds your area of interest?
    • Look at strategic aims
    • Look to see what they are funding
    • Tailor your application specifically to those of the funding organisation
  • ‘Not much gets funded in my area’
    • why?
    • therefore is there a need to fund YOU since you will build your career and others and therefore this help to build up this important discipline
    • rare disease?
  • At your institution - who has been awarded one?
    • Can you see successful applications?
    • Can you see unsuccessful applications?
preparing application
Preparing application
  • Start early
    • Read the guidance
    • Application submission dates are published well in advance
    • How much notice does your university office want?
      • Finance, approvals etc
    • Does your Head of Department know YOU and about the application?
    • What other people need to sign off or provide letters of support for the application?
your research


Not your supervisors.....

Or their ‘rehashed’ project grant – ‘I’ not ‘we’

Particularly at intermediate fellowships – you need show independence

what do i look for
What do I look for?
  • The candidate
    • Achievement and potential of the candidate
  • The project
    • Does it make sense, do I understand why doing it?
    • Feasibility and timeliness of project
    • Suitability of location
  • Is it interesting / important?
the project
The project.
  • Think about a project which is cutting edge, novel, will address important biological questions and will fit into a niche.
  • Is it what you want to do?
  • Can you enthuse others about it?
  • Why is it interesting / important to study?
  • Why is this the best place to do your research.
the application
The application
  • First draft of the application.
    • Does it make sense scientifically?
      • Hypothesis?
      • Experimental plan including analysis and statistics
    • Be specific
      • What are your research aims?
      • Why is each one important?
      • What classes of statistical model will you be working with (and why is that a good idea).
  • Preliminary data?
  • Does host lab have appropriate techniques, data available?
    • should you also spend time somewhere else ?
  • Is there an appropriate collaborator/group?
  • Can you do the project in the fellowship period
    • Is it too ambitious
    • What happens if expt A leads to expt B and expt A does not ‘work’
    • Is everything in place?

If you can't write down in a couple of sentences why a research aim is important, maybe it isn't...

If you can’t write down a hypothesis, then how do you know your experiment is designed correctly?

advice next iteration
Advice, next iteration.
  • Who is going to look at this?
    • Your supervisor
    • Who else?
      • Research Support Services
      • People who have held fellowships
      • People who have sat on grants panels
      • Senior academics
      • ‘someone who does not like you/ is very tough’
    • Does it make sense to your best friend / mother / ‘man in the street’?
    • If any of these people raise issues or criticise then you need to understand why
      • You may think they have missed the point but so could a reviewer…….
other bits
Other bits.
  • Why do you want an academic career?
  • Career aims
  • Who will benefit?
  • Justification of costs etc
  • Be so good they can’t ignore you. (Steve Martin)
  • Who is on the panel
    • What is their expertise, who is likely to interview you?
    • Methods / statistics
  • ‘Full’ room
    • Panel and staff from the organisation
  • Give short presentation
    • Are you good at presenting?
    • Can you sell ice to the eskimosie can you convince the panel – remember most will not know anything about your area of interest – to fund you
  • Generally 2 people lead your interview one after each other, though others can ask questions after them.
    • Lasts ~20mins and goes fast
    • Body language
    • How to deal with difficult questions
  • Set up as many practice panel interviews as you can.
and if at first you don t succeed
And if at first you don’t succeed………
  • Getting a fellowship is hard because there are a lot of good, smart researchers out there applying for them
  • Why?
  • Feedback
    • About project
    • About you
    • About supervisor/institution
  • The process will have helped you develop your ideas about your research
  • Continue to work on your CV, techniques etc