Date published: 17/05/18
Gaining a new perspective at Arthritis Research UK – Alice Philipson
- Name: Alice Philipson
- Current Organisation: University of Leeds
- Current Position: PhD student
- Secondment organisation: Arthritis Research UK
My name is Alice and I am a PhD student at the University of Leeds. My research is in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine where I am developing a device to isolate a specific population of stem cells for use in autologous stem cell therapies. I decided to apply for a secondment as I think it is an amazing opportunity to gain experience in a different role and I am keen to finish my PhD with a wealth of experiences to widen my career prospects and make the most of the opportunities available.
Moving from the lab into patient engagement
The secondment I am going to carry out is at Arthritis Research UK, specifically working alongside the Research Liaison and Engagement team. This is interesting for me because as a PhD researcher I am focused on the day to day aspects of laboratory research however I want to gain more experience and knowledge of how that research is impacting patients and is being translated to clinics. I also want to play a part in communicating research to a widespread audience, raising the profile and awareness of different research being carried out. This is the kind of role I would like to be involved in after my PhD therefore this experience will be invaluable for me.
I am excited about the new skills I will learn during the secondment, both for my future career aspirations and for my current role as a PhD student. Understanding the process of charity-funded research and especially a charity which has such a high level of patient involvement will be an excellent insight for me as a researcher. I also look forward to building a long-term relationship with ARUK which will strengthen existing and future collaborations within the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering at the University of Leeds.
What I have learnt so far…
I’m just halfway through my secondment at Arthritis Research UK and I am enjoying every minute of it. It is very different to my usual role in the lab and I am seeing a completely different side of academic research.
Working in the research liaison, involvement, and engagement team, my work is focused around grant applications. For example, I have written public summaries from newly funded applications, and case studies where researchers have effectively involved patients and the public in their research. As a PhD student, I have limited experience in grant writing, therefore this is an interesting experience for me and I am learning lots about the whole process.
Other tasks have included summarising research papers and writing reports to communicate the outputs of funded research. I really enjoy being able to see all aspects of research, from projects that are just beginning, to completed projects that are having an impact on people’s lives. I also enjoy the range of research I am being exposed to, from the more fundamental science and pre-clinical studies, to clinical trials.
The secondment is really making me think about academia in general, and where the field is heading in terms of involving patients and the public at every stage of research. I think it is extremely positive that this is now becoming a necessity for many funding bodies, and going back to my own research department I will be much more aware of this.
During the rest of my time at Arthritis Research UK, I am looking forward to seeing some of the projects I have been working on coming together and going ‘live’ on the website and internal networks. I also have the opportunity to attend a concordant event on the ‘Openness on Animal Research in the UK’, which will no doubt be interesting being such a controversial topic. And besides, everyone likes a trip out of the office every now and then!
Looking back now I’ve finished…
Having now finished my secondment at Arthritis Research UK, I wanted to share some of my thoughts regarding the overall experience.
First and foremost, I would highly recommend secondment opportunities to anyone who may be considering one. The chance to experience a different workplace brings no end of benefits, and has definitely improved my confidence in more ways than one. What’s more, in my opinion, it is hard to know the career opportunities or job roles which exist in different companies and sectors until you immerse yourself in their environment. I now have a much clearer understanding of the medical research charity sector and it is an area that in the future I would be interested in working in again.
In terms of how the secondment will impact my immediate work, I believe I have improved my writing style after spending two months mainly producing written work, and particularly writing for a lay audience which is an essential skill for a researcher. Since returning to University, I have already taken part in a digital content competition at the IKC & Regener8 Conference which was aimed at producing content for patients and the public. I felt like I had a much better idea of how to communicate effectively with this audience thanks to the secondment.
The highlight of my secondment was learning so many new skills and knowledge regarding research funding in the medical research charity sector. I saw academic research from a different side, which allowed me to see the bigger picture rather than a tiny piece of the picture I see on a day to day basis.