Which independent fellowship do you hold and what is your main research goal?
I currently hold a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Future Leader Fellowship. I research the metabolism of mycobacterial peptidoglycan.
What was your academic background prior to the award?
I completed my PhD in the laboratory of Professor Anthony Clarke at the University of Guelph, Canada. During my PhD I studied the acetylation of bacterial carbohydrates with an emphasis on peptidoglycan. Following this, I moved to Birmingham where I joined the laboratory of Professor Gurdyal Besra. In Professor Besra’s laboratory I began to study the metabolism of mycobacterial peptidoglycan. This independent research project was supported through a Wellcome Trust ISSF grant. I then went on to apply for and be awarded the BBSRC Future Leaders fellowship.
What attracted you to your fellowship?
I applied to a few different fellowships, some before I finished my PhD. The process of applying became easier over time. I believe that the fellowship I currently hold suits my particular circumstances and research needs well, so I do not mind that it was a journey to get here - this is common with many fellowship applications. A fellowship is a personal award so make sure to research your different options and apply to the best one for you. Make sure you have read and understood the scheme guidance notes before applying.
Do you have any advice for fellowship applicants?
As the name implies, the Future Leaders fellowship is looking for independent thinkers of the future. Demonstrate this by showcasing your signs of independence so far, for example small grants or any travel grants that you’ve been awarded. Read as many other previous applications to the scheme that you can get your hands on. Equally, ensure as many people as humanly possible have read your application- and take their feedback seriously. These reviewers can and must include both experts and lay readers. One piece of harsh but incredibly helpful advice I gave myself was that if anything was unclear to the reviewer, then it was my fault - not their fault!
In terms of project/idea design, ensure that your fellowship idea is not simply an extension of any of your previous PI’s (Principle Investigator) work. Aim for the tricky balance of ambitious yet plausible/credible. Ensure that the project uses the tools/skills that you have, but also allows for growth. I also found it helpful and insightful to have a dedicated section in the application for most likely failure points and contingencies, should these occur.
How did the University of Birmingham support you?
Firstly, Birmingham supported me by providing a world-class mycobacteriology unit, with the research infrastructure to support all of my proposed experiments. I also received commitments from my department and institute that they would support the delivery of the fellowship. The Research Support Office (RSO) also assisted by arranging internal review and mock-interviews before I made my final application to the BBSRC.