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As with many things over the past year, there were big changes to this year’s NIHR Doctoral Research Training Camp. Originally scheduled for July 2020, the event was postponed to February 2021, and for the first time it took place online. The new Virtual Training Camp was well worth the wait.

I applied for the Training Camp after speaking to other SPCR trainees about their experiences, as it sounded like it could be a valuable opportunity to support the next stage of my research career. I was not disappointed. The theme of this year’s camp was ‘Preparation for your post-doctoral career’ and it was attended by delegates with a range of disciplines and backgrounds from across the NIHR.

The day started with an inspiring introduction from Professor Dave Jones, Dean for the NIHR Academy and Professor of Liver Immunology at Newcastle University, and Professor Chris Witty, Chief Medical Officer for England, Chief Scientific Advisor (DHSC), and Head of the NIHR. It was a real treat to hear Professor Witty’s thoughts on the importance of multimorbidity research, having multiple careers, and going into policy work (tip: only do it if you think you’ll enjoy it). He also shared some good advice about the value of seeing the other side of publishing and funding applications, for example by peer reviewing, becoming an editor, and sitting on funding panels.Screens shots showing opening slide and speakers training camp

As the day progressed we had a packed schedule of talks and practical group sessions. The talks included building your post-doctoral career, presenting yourself and your research proposal (in writing, in person, and in virtual interviews), how to make a good research funding application as an early career researcher, and framing your research question. We also had several small group mentor sessions throughout the day.

We explored the three P’s of funding applications: Person, Project, Place, with a particular emphasis on ‘Person’. Prior to the Training Camp we were asked to prepare a two-minute presentation about ourselves, with one PowerPoint slide as a prompt. We were asked to consider the questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? Two minutes goes pretty quickly! So condensing everything we wanted to say into such a tight timeframe was a challenge. We delivered the presentations in our group mentor sessions so we could provide feedback to each other and talk about different ways of presenting and drawing out our strengths. It was incredibly useful to hear others perspectives, especially from people working in different disciplines, and to receive advice from an experienced mentor.

The event provided a fantastic opportunity to learn from experts about how to present ourselves, our proposals, and the art of the pitch. I'm taking away some really valuable advice about writing a funding application, presenting, and building a research career. It was a really useful and enjoyable day, and I would highly recommend the Training Camp to others.