Clinician scientist, Chrissie Thirlwell

  • Scheme: Clinician Scientist Fellowship
  • Awarding committee: Training and Career Development Board
  • Career level: Senior Lecturer
  • Research area: Basic biology – integrated genomic analysis of neuroendocrine tumours, biomarker discovery, cfDNA and analysis of single circulating tumour cells. Early phase clinical trials.
  • Year awarded: 2010
  • Funding length: 5 years
  • Location: University College London, UCL Cancer Institute

Career background

2010 – 2015: Cancer Research UK Clinician Scientist, UCL Cancer Institute.

2008 – 2010: NIHR Clinical Lecturer Medical Oncology (50/50 Clinical training and Research whilst SpR training completed).

2007 – 2008: SpR Medical Oncology UCL Hospitals

2003 – 2007: MRC Clinical Research Fellow. Colorectal Cancer Genetics. Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, Lincolns Inn.

The application process

How do you decide which grants to apply for?

My current Clinician Scientist grant was an essential part of continuing my academic career.

Since securing my clinician scientist grant I have also secured 4 further collaborative grants and funding for a Clinical Fellow – again from Cancer Research UK.

In terms of bureaucracy, what are the most time-consuming steps in submitting a grant?

When choosing which grants to go for it is very important to select those calls where there is a reasonable chance of success as every grant submission is time consuming if done properly.

It is important to make the research question and rationale behind the grant application very clear.

How do you deal with complex things, like costings and ethical approval?

Depending on your institute there is usually help with costings / FEC.

Advice on applying for funding

Start early, circulate for advice on content and proof reading. Avoid any typos and bad formatting as this makes the application look sloppy: this will be interpreted to mean that you are a sloppy scientist! If there is an interview / presentation involved, set up practice runs with both people that you know and don’t know.

Make the grant easy to read with clear objectives, as the reviewers will have reams of paperwork to get through!

The research 

What makes a successful grant?

A clear and relevant research question, good research infrastructure, realistic costings, appropriate collaborations in order to have the best scientific input.

Getting feedback from colleagues on your research proposal

Always get feedback prior to submission.

Pitfalls and advice

Comments from reviewers prior to interview/panel review are always very helpful (even if they are not quite what you want to hear!). You can then focus on addressing these at the interview/presentation.

Advice as a committee member

Avoid typos and poor formatting as this makes your scientific approach look sloppy. Do not cram too much in if there is a space restriction as this makes the submission harder to read.

In short – do anything to make the reviewers’ jobs easier!

Find out more about this funding

Chrissie's advice for applicants

"Make the grant easy to read with clear objectives, as the reviewers will have reams of paperwork to get through!"

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