We asked Professor Moin Saleem what he thinks is so important about research and his tips for pursuing a research focused career.
Professor Moin Saleem, FRCP, PhD
Research is crucial for all aspects of medicine, in order to move our knowledge forwards and to apply that knowledge in a scientifically sound way to patients for their benefit. Without active research at all levels, no aspect of medical care can develop further.
It is also important for us as scientists and clinicians on a personal level, to be able to make a difference to patients and public, the scientific community, and importantly to satisfy our own curiosity!
“…it is an incredibly exciting time to be a researcher, with many, many opportunities available”
Biological advances and techniques are advancing at an incredible pace, from understanding of the genome, to cell and gene therapies, to artificial intelligence approaches, it is an incredibly exciting time to be a researcher, with many, many opportunities available, and advances being actively translated to patient therapies. In kidney disease for example, we are currently developing gene therapy programmes for the first time ever in the kidney, which will move to clinical trials within the next 2-3 years. This has stemmed from basic laboratory research in Bristol, and in particular the work of PhD students in the lab.
In order to develop a career in research it is therefore important first of all to get some direct experience and find out if you think you are suited to it, and whether you enjoy it. This involves both reading around the topics and hands on work with experienced researchers, so that you can take ownership of your own piece of work. This is exactly what a summer studentship will provide.
“…get some direct experience and find out if you think you are suited to it, and whether you enjoy it… This is exactly what a summer studentship will provide.”
To further develop a research career, it is important to be aware of the steps you would need to take. This means finding a suitable research project, and most importantly in my view, a good supervisor and research group where there is enough critical mass for you to be learning the key basics of scientific methods.
You need to identify relatively early on what type of research suits you, for example basic laboratory science, or epidemiology and statistics, or perhaps bioinformatics and big data projects. Then you will need to work towards developing a project suitable for a PhD, for which you will need to apply for your individual funding, with the support of your supervisor.
A PhD is a training period, where you will develop the skills and mindset needed to establish your own independent research career. It will foster independent thinking and working, and allow you to learn all the basic skills needed to continue on an academic path.
Bristol is a great place to be involved in research. It has some world leading research groups, with excellent overall pastoral care, and the ability to immerse yourself in all areas of science. It is also a great city to live in, with many graduates and young professionals to mingle with.