Lisa's story: from pre-doctoral bursary to Principal Investigator
12 October 2018
Regular PDRs with my line-managers have been a crucial part of this career development over the years.
I have been with the department for 12 years during which I have been supported and nurtured to develop my academic career as a social scientist with a focus on applied qualitative health research. I joined as a pre-doctoral student in 2006, and was awarded a University Research Lectureship in 2016. The department has provided consistent and sustained support to allow me – as a woman, parent, mature student - to develop a career as a social scientist within a medical sciences department; in particular funding a pre-doctoral bursary in 2006, supporting flexible working hours and providing promotion support and opportunities.
After an early career as a television and radio producer, I joined the department’s Health Experiences Research Group (HERG) in 2006. I was awarded a pre-doctoral bursary, a flexible grant that funded me for 6 months to work up a proposal for my doctorate and apply for MRC studentship funding. That studentship included a 6-month secondment as a health specialist to the House of Commons Health Select Committee in 2009-2010 which gave me ring-side insights into health policy in the making. The department were extremely supportive in allowing me the flexibility to pursue this extra opportunity during my studies. I completed my doctorate in 2010, on the information and support needs of patients with infertility.
Since 2010 I have been employed within HERG, and supported by Professor Ziebland and Professor Locock (before she left for Aberdeen in 2017) and the wider department to develop my academic career as a researcher, teacher and mentor, working with colleagues within and outside the department. At the instigation of HERG colleagues, I have developed fruitful working relationship with the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit working with Professor Marian Knight and Jennifer Hollowell on three studies as a co-investigator. I have also collaborated with colleagues at the Kadoorie Centre for Critical Care Research as a co-applicant on NIHR funded research studies on noise in the intensive care unit, and efforts to reduce post-ICU mortality. More recently, through support from a small AFOX grant, I have been developing work with colleagues at the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health in Oxford and KEMRI-Wellcome Trust programme in Kenya to test out the potential for patient experiences research in improving health systems in LMICs.
The department’s inclusive approach has been invaluable in supporting my progress from a co-applicant on projects to more recently as a PI, winning my first PI grant from the NSPCR in 2016 and a second in 2018. I now regularly collaborate with colleagues from the department, in particular Professor Richard McManus and his Hypertension group, and the wider university, provide qualitative expertise on mixed methods studies and lecture on qualitative methods courses, and supervise and examine doctoral and MSc students. At a national level I sit on a NIHR grant funding committee and trial steering group and am a trustee of ICNARC.
Regular PDRs with my line-managers have been a crucial part of this career development over the years. Along with members of the HERG team, their encouragement has allowed me to pursue a broad range of opportunities and collaborations along with flexible working arrangements that have helped me to balance work and family life.
Tips for becoming a PI:
- Start small.
- Collaborate widely.
- Learn from those around you along the way.
For details of upcoming workshops for department members on 'How to make the most of your PDR' and 'So you want to be a PI?', along with further training and advice, visit www.phc.ox.ac.uk/mydevelopment
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Professor Trish Greenhalgh explores how we can make the most out of a PDR meeting through a series of entertaining top tips for appraisers and appraisees.