Date: 28 October 2019
Vicki Goodwin MBE, a physiotherapist and Associate Professor in Ageing and Rehabilitation, CRN SWP Clinical Specialty Lead for Ageing and Training Lead for the Peninsula ARC has had a pioneering career in ageing research. Her career path shows that with the correct attitude and attributes anyone can achieve their ambition of working in research, but it’s not always a straightforward pathway.
“I’ve always been interested in research and initially applied for an NIHR fellowship but was rejected. So I applied for a research secondment to gain some research experience and reapplied three years later” Vicki says: “and in 2006, I was successful and got an NIHR Doctoral Fellowship to research into preventing falls for people with Parkinson’s. This gave me a taster for good quality research in an academic environment. It was a change in career direction, I never planned to be an academic and I didn’t think of research as a career option but I’m glad I’ve ended up here.”
Supporting early career researchers
The NIHR supports clinical academic careers for Allied Health Professionals through regional internships and national fellowships from Pre-doctoral right up to Research Professor level the enable training and support with the aim of assisting health care professionals to combine clinical activity with patient focused research.
Your motivation is a key factor in your research journey and this can come from something as simple as wanting to improve care for your patients. This was the case for Vicki; she describes how she first got involved while practicing as a Physiotherapist:
“My path started because I’m nosy. I don’t like the idea that things are being done because they’ve always been done that way. I wanted to challenge why no research was being done looking into falls for people with Parkinson’s disease. It all started with one conversation with a colleague and lead to a whole career change into research.”
A unique research perspective
Clinical academics benefit from having their day to day clinical practice informed by up to date research and their clinical work ensures that the research they embark on is relevant and improves patient care. The combination of these roles offers a unique perspective that informs how they deliver patient care and apply research findings in a practical way.
For anyone looking to build a research career balancing the pressures of a busy clinical role with the academic demands of research can be a challenge but you don’t need to do it alone. There is support specifically designed to help you through this process, as Vicki describes:
“The NIHR offer opportunities to get on the research ladder through the Fellowship programme or a grant may be more suitable. I offer guidance and tell them [early career researchers] what they may need to work on. They may be heading in the right direction but not be at the correct stage.”
Tenacity, drive and resilience
As competition for high is rejection will be a reality for many however feedback is always provided to help with future applications.
“There’s lots of competition and funding is hard to get and that is why resilience is an important attribute to have. I’ve been rejected and that’s ok, it can be frustrating but you can stand back revaluate what you did. Was it the right time and the right question? Not everything is going to sail - papers, grants, and fellowships all get rejected. I try to prepare people, for this so they can react and reframe themselves. You don’t just need a ‘plan A’ you need plans B, C, D, E, and F.”
Vicki’s ‘top research tips’
Vicki’s ‘top tips’ for a successful career in research:
As Vicki puts it: “Your career path isn’t a straight line, mines been like a game of snakes and ladders with ups and down. It’s all about finding and taking opportunities with a goal in mind. And when it doesn’t go to plan then rethink but don’t regret. It’s all a learning experience.”
Explore your career path in research
More information on how you can start, or further, your career in research:
There are many other we can support you to develop your career in research too.