I told my Personal Tutor, Major Marion M Wilson MBE, that I was interested in Research right from the start. She always encouraged anything I wanted to learn about, and told me I could be a ‘rising star’ (I still hope to make her proud and live up to that!).If your Personal Tutor is not enthusiastic about pre-reg students being involved in Research (or Research in general) ask them why, and tell them about your aspirations. They are usually thrilled if their students are passionate about something! You may be able to find another member of the Faculty to co-mentor you, with the benefit that they will be independent of your personal/pastoral support and grades
2. Join (or create!) a Research Club.
I found that there were a few friends on the course who were also interested in Research (such as @AdamMPeel). Together with the support of Dr. Katherine Deane @katherine_deane, Dr. Kenda Crozier @DrKenda. Gary Parlett, @garyjparlett, Dr Susan Campbell and other faculty members, we created an undergraduate Research group (informally called The Geek Club). We met up at the school over lunchtime sandwiches or after lectures. With the guidance of the faculty we did a literature review, designed a qualitative research study, sought and obtained ethical approval, conducted semi-structured interviews, did some preliminary analysis of our results and presented at an Undergraduate Research conference. We made friends and helped one another, we made some mistakes and had good days and bad, but we all achieved above our expectations and are very proud to be able to quote our research presentation on our CVs. You can join in a Journal Club in your own Faculty or another one – and if you haven’t got one, start one! It doubles up as a study group when you do your Research exam! Here are some of the Geek club:
I was lucky enough that I had help arranging this from Faculty member Dr Kenda
Crozier. She helped me have a placement at the NNUH R&D department. Remember you can go anywhere, and ask anyone, if you can do all or part of your elective placement with them – the worst that will happen is that they will say no
4. Join a Research based community.
My University was on a Research Park and it had a branch of ResNet @ResNetNorwich, a group for Researchers to network. They were more than happy for me to join, even though I was one of few undergraduates and the only Nurse in the group. They put on very interesting talks such as presenters from the Athena Swan @Athena_SWAN programme, and circulated emails with Research news and articles. I introduced myself to the Head of this group, Dr. Gill Malin @GillMalin, and she also was very supportive. On my behalf she emailed other members of the ResNet group on the Research Park saying that I would like to visit molecular/cellular biology labs – this resulted in an elective placement day at the John Innes Centre @JohnInnesCentre and also put me in touch with a human immunologist (more on that later). Through ResNet and STEMNet, I was able to present Nursing as a career in STEM to local Year 9 pupils, who were very happy to learn about the science and maths we use (and learn to bandage one another’s arms).
5. Do different.
In my third year, I wanted so badly to learn more about molecular and cellular biology. I got in contact with the Institute for Food Research @IFRScience, who had a PhD student, Dr. Pinar Court, studying human immunology. She was more than happy for me to visit and help her in her laboratory, and had permission from her lab Leader Professor Simon Carding, who welcomed me. Every week day that I had a few spare hours, in study or placement time, I helped her in her lab, or she took me to lab meetings and lectures. I already had my GCP training and the IFR arranged for me to take lab safety training and training in handling human samples, via their in-house Research Nurse Aliçeon Blair. They gave me a 6 month visiting student contract, a pass card, and let me park at their facility (great when you’re tired after all those placement hours!). My Personal Tutor was aware of this and happy to allow some hours at the lab to be included in my placement time. It was a good view of what goes on in the lab, and what it might be like to work in Emergency Surgical nursing and be a Researcher in a lab. I got so excited about Immunology that I am now hoping to go on to be a part-time MSc Medical Immunology student this September, whilst working as a staff nurse in Trauma at King’s College Hospital.
Here’s a pic of me and Dr. Pinar in the canteen at the IFR after a lab presentation.
There have been countless people who have been more than happy to be approached by an enthusiastic learner.
In my second year, I undertook a Placement in a Mental Health Trust @NSFTResearch. I asked if I could visit the R&D department for a day. The Manager, Bonnie Teague, was very supportive of my interest in Research and she arranged for me to come back and complete my GCP certificate with the Trust. My Personal Tutor supported this and arranged for me to take the course in theory time.
You will meet some people who can be negative about research. I have found, if you aren’t hearing the response you want to hear, there will be other people with a different view who will help you! For example, a biological researcher once told me that as a nurse nobody would let me near their laboratory. I found someone who was willing to let me in for six months, and gave me my own ID badge!
In my Preceptorship year at King’s College Hospital, @KingsCollegeNHS I visited the ACET Research Team at my Hospital and their Sister Clair Harris was happy to invite me to meetings, include me in emails, and arrange for me to work my first ever bank shift as a Clinical Research Nurse.
Have a mentor.
This could be an academic in your own Faculty or another Faculty, a Researcher you meet on Placement, or a friend – mine is Claire Whitehouse! @ClaireW_UK Claire and I knew one another first as friends, she has become my career mentor as she is several years and steps ahead of me in Nursing and Research, and she is always very generous with her time and suggestions! She’s taught me how to support others too – she takes me along to events and shares things with me. Now I’m trying to disseminate opportunities in Research to my friends and colleagues in nursing, and take them along to things too!
Use Social Media!
I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is to use social networking to your advantage. You may wish to have a professional account separately from your personal account. Researchers use twitter to disseminate concepts and findings more quickly than has ever been possible before, and your network will soon grow. Be positive, be interested in others, and you will reap the rewards.
Never ever give up.
You can follow Lauren @GeekForResearch on twitter