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Case study: “I absolutely fell in love with research as a career path” - Maria’s journey to working in research

Staff story: Maria Brezitski

After working on the frontline of nursing for many years, Maria Brezitski is now a Senior Clinical Research Practitioner in the Department of Molecular Sciences at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

"I just never realised what research has to offer."


What path did you take to get into research?
I’m a qualified nurse and my clinical background was in operating theatres. I spent four years in anaesthetics and four years in recovery. Then I decided that I wanted to become a psychologist. I found out that a lot of psychology was about research and data collection  so I thought getting into clinical research would boost my application to DCl in Psychology, which was a totally pragmatic career move.

I found a job in the stroke team at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It was very hard in the beginning, because the job was totally different to my clinical work. It took me half a year to settle but I absolutely fell in love with research as a career path. I abandoned my idea of going into psychology and instead did a Masters in Clinical Drug Development.

After that I moved up the career ladder which would’ve been more difficult within the clinical path. I’d like to continue my career in clinical research. Maybe in a different role, perhaps, but still connected to clinical research.


What were your preconceived ideas about research before starting your research career?
That it would be boring. People think that it would be about research methods but it’s a completely different area.

I just never realised what research has to offer. Not many people know about it but it offers so much depth in terms of career development.


What skills do you think are needed for a career in research?
The first thing that comes to mind is adaptability to change. In clinical research everything evolves all the time. You’re always grasping the concept of something because things change so much.

And of course communication skills and the ability to build relationships. All of the above, however, would be pointless without passion - passion for research and the change it brings!


What do you love most about your job?
The possibility of helping people on a larger scale. When I did clinical, I loved working with patients making a difference on an individual level. Research offers the same feeling, but multiplied.

When the trial results come through it gives a very rewarding feeling to have made such a difference to people but on a larger scale. It makes me very happy.


What have been your career highlights?
When I worked in the stroke team it was a very dynamic job, very demanding, very challenging. I worked on a trial which involved surgical clot extraction from the brain, which was very complex.

We once had a 22-year-old patient who suffered a massive stroke. Because previous data had shown that the procedure was very effective, the decision was taken to go ahead with it irrespective of randomisation result. A week later it was so rewarding to see the patient walk out of hospital with minor neurological deficits, being able to speak and move whereas she was half paralysed before.

The procedure was introduced as clinical practice so it was very rewarding to contribute to that.

"It’s amazing what you can do within research. I strongly recommend to give-it-a-go."

What would you say to your younger self when you were considering future careers?
I never looked back after I moved to research so I would just say, I should have done it earlier.

I think many professionals are completely unaware of research as a career path. But all the skills that clinical professionals gain can be applied in clinical research.


Why work in research?
I honestly believe that anyone could find something interesting for them in clinical research. Research offers such a variety of jobs - from something that’s slow paced to dynamic and hyper acute work. Or from working directly with patients to something that’s admin based.

It’s amazing what you can do within research. I strongly recommend to give-it-a-go.