Research opportunities as an Imperial Medical student

Imperial is world renowned for its cutting-edge research output, which became all the more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the MBBS programme has research skills embedded throughout its curriculum in order to instil the importance of evidence-based clinical practice within us as future doctors. This year, I am undertaking an intercalated BSc, a mandatory component of the Imperial Medicine course with my subject area being Pharmacology. While this is certainly the most research heavy year of my degree so far, I have been fortunate enough to take part in numerous projects during my earlier years as well.

The first substantive research initiative I was involved with stemmed from the project I undertook during my Clinical Research and Innovation (CRI) module in second year. The final term of second year is purely research focussed, with the cohort split into groups of three, each of which is assigned a research project. My CRI project took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore, unlike year groups before and after mine, I didn’t get the chance to undertake my project abroad. Nonetheless, CRI was an invaluable early insight into some of the skills involved in a career in academic medicine, and a wonderful opportunity to be mentored by an expert in the field.

My group’s project involved using a large dataset to explore the association between numerous clinical characteristics and the risk of a person with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) going on to have a short-term worsening of their COPD symptoms, known as an exacerbation. We thoroughly enjoyed the research, and working together as a group, in equal measure and were therefore keen to continue the project after the end of the summer term. We were fortunate that our project supervisor was supportive with this and gave us the opportunity to work on a similar, literature-based project, over the summer holiday.

After many months of hard work, we were recently delighted to learn that the manuscript we helped develop had been submitted for publication in a medical journal, with the three of us listed as co-authors. While we were certainly pleased, and incredibly grateful, to receive this nature of output from the project, we had developed so many new skills along the way that the experience itself had felt like reward enough.

Alongside this project, during my time at Imperial I have been lucky enough to be involved with numerous other research initiatives, many of which stemmed from student societies I have been part of. A previous blog post I authored discussed my experience running a plastic surgery-based conference. The feedback we had collated from the delegates who attended formed the basis of another research project I undertook, and recently presented at a national conference hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine. Having the opportunity to explore a research question in depth is enjoyable in itself, however, I personally find collaborating with likeminded individuals to be my highlight of the research process. There’s always something to learn from your peers and working together on a project is an excellent way to do so.

As I continue my BSc studies this year, and return to clinical medicine next year, I’m sure research skills will continue to be a prominent feature of my journey at Imperial and beyond.

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