Academic Toolkit - ACT!

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Pre-PhD preparation
Initial planning

Find a supervisor

Start 1 year before funding application deadline and complete by 10 months before funding application deadline

All research needs a supervisor.


Projects and supervisors are clearly linked.

In general, the supervisor is the key person who will guide and support you across your Fellowship period, so choose carefully!  Often, your supervisor is someone you have worked with before.  If you are a newly appointed NIHR ACF, you may have been assigned an academic supervisor who should help you decide what the project is that you want to do. Given that working a project up for submission to the funder typically takes more than 12 months, you need to have made a decision about what your direction of travel is within the first 12 months of your ACF.  This can be challenging when you have your exams to get through, and particularly if you are in a craft specialty, but you do need to think about it; it is a reasonable focus for discussions with any initial assigned supervisor(s).

The RCPCH Regional Academic Advisor (see link below) may be able to help you find local supervisors, but don't be afraid to seek out non-Paediatricians - particularly relevant for lab-based projects. For those in London, ProjectMatch may be helpful in identifying a supervisor and/or project. 

What should you look for in a supervisor?

Scope them out on their web page, see if they have a Twitter account, talk to their existing Fellows.  See if the area they are interested in aligns with what you want to do – people won’t supervise out of their area. Check whether they have funding to support the generation of pilot data in support of your Fellowship application.

Meet up with them and see if you feel you can get along – this is the person you are going to work with for at least 3 years (plus the preparation time). Talk to the people in their lab or group and find out what they are really like. Be prepared to meet multiple potential supervisors.

RCPCH Regional Academic Advisors list 12.9.18 External link

List of Regional Academic Advisors in Paediatrics and Child Health

Develop your research question
Plan for OOP and inform TPD
Find your collaborators
Investigate funders
Think about feasibility
Find a mentor
Approvals for clinical projects
Check whether your study is research
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