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Case study: CRN Research Delivery Manager talks about her path in research

For this year's Your Path in Research campaign CRN KSS talks to people working in research about how they started their careers.

How did you start your research career?

I started my working life as a midwife and was intrigued with how the interventions I carried out and how I cared for the families I looked after, were evidence-based. I was interested in what the processes were to get findings of research put into practice.

I wanted to be involved in that part of clinical care – collecting the evidence to prove an intervention or a new way of practicing midwifery was suitable and effective. At the time, the only midwifery research studies running at the trust I was working in were observational, and I am an interventional scientist at heart. That desire to be involved in supporting clinical research, plus an injury, led me to pursue a degree in Physiology. Upon graduating I looked for opportunities to undertake a Ph.D, but this wasn’t to be, and through a series of strange but ultimately fortuitous events I ended up getting my first clinical research role as a Clinical Research Assistant coordinating breast cancer trials at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA.

What do you enjoy about working in research?

I love working in clinical research, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love the variety, the fact that no two studies are the same, and that I have such an amazing group of dedicated and passionate research and clinical colleagues to work with. I can’t believe that I get to be a small link in the chain that helps make a difference to how people are treated and cared for.

One of the aspects of midwifery that I loved was being able to teach and support families about what was happening. I use those skills every day in my current role, to support colleagues who are less experienced with aspects of the research process with which I am more familiar.

I am passionate about research being a part of normal day to day clinical care. A research agenda jointly led by clinicians, patients, and citizens should be our aspiration. I am also passionate about supporting research outside of NHS settings and I was so happy when these studies became eligible for the same support for delivery of research as those being run in NHS trusts. A lot of my work focuses on Primary Care, Public Health, Social Care and other Independent Healthcare Service Providers, and I love the challenge of adapting our process to be able to help researchers and people working in these settings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought clinical research to the forefront of people’s minds. I have always been proud to do the job I do, but never so much as now. When I see results of research reported in the news and think about the lives saved and the better outcomes patients have experienced as a result of that research, I can still hardly believe that I have played a tiny part in contributing to that. I am fortunate to be working on the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine trials, and being on the cutting edge of that research is incredible!


What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn more about a research career? 

Ask as many people as you can, as much as you can about what it’s like to work in research. Find an opportunity to shadow colleagues who have research as part of their role. Contact your local Clinical Research Network and ask for support with finding contacts. We need more people to contribute to developing the evidence base for all sorts of treatments and anyone in any research role would be happy to talk (probably at length) about what it’s like.