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Interview day: what’s it like to face a fellowship panel?

Dr Joanne Ng agreed to have a mock Clinical Research Training Fellowship interview filmed to give future applicants the chance to see exactly what it’s like to face the panel. The video below shows you the interview in full in the room where all MRC fellowship interviews take place. Beneath that you can see what the panel made of Joanne’s interview, and her reaction.

What did the panel think?

This is the feedback the panel gave about how Joanne performed:

panel-interview-stillThe presentation

The fellow used the 3 minute presentation at the beginning of the interview well and she provided a good overview of herself and her project. The brief explanation of her background and current position was clear. She demonstrated her interest in pursuing a research career and she described her motivation to undertake the project. The majority of the presentation was dedicated to the aims of the project and experimental plans. This made good use of the opportunity to benchmark the key elements of the proposal within the panel members’ minds.

Responding to questions

While clearly nervous, during the interview the fellow gave clear responses, directly addressing the questions asked. She gave a good explanation of the preliminary data underpinning the project, including her role in its generation and the nature of collaborators’ engagement.

Joanne gave robust responses to questions about the appropriateness of the model systems to be used. She also demonstrated good background knowledge of alternatives available and the rationale for the final selection.

Timelines

Joanne’s responses to questions about the timelines of the project were good. She had clearly considered the key steps in delivering the project in depth. She explained developments related to the project since the point of submission – 6 months before the interview. The panel considered this to be a strength of the proposal.

Outcomes

The fellow addressed questions about outcomes to be measured well. However, Joanne could have been better prepared for questions around what a successful outcome for the project as a whole would look like. The relevance of current skills to her future career was well addressed. Clear thought had been given to how she planned to progress, and how this project would underpin that progression.

Plan B

Joanne’s plan B and contingency plans could have been clearer. She could have shown greater engagement in responding to questions about key risks, alternative approaches and other possible mitigation strategies.

Sample sizes

When asked to explain why the sample group sizes were appropriate the response refers to others’ knowledge rather than robustly defending the rationale underpinning the sample size selection. A more principled argument would have given us reassurance the results would be robust and reproducible with potential sources of bias and variability suitably accounted for.

The verdict

Overall, the fellow responded to the panel’s questions well. She gave a strong defence and demonstrated ownership of her project. She also showed understanding of the relevant research landscape.

What was it like?

Joanne Ng

Joanne Ng

So that was my CRTF interview. Well almost. I had my real interview in 2013 (thankfully without cameras) but the MRC asked me to come back and do it again to give future applicants an idea of what it’s like to face the panel. I hope you find it useful!

Since I was awarded my fellowship I moved from paediatric neurology clinical training so I could learn skills in different aspects of basic science. I’ve covered behavioural studies of animals, molecular biology, how to analyse brain disease through ‘neurohistopathology’ and how to develop treatments for genetic diseases. Understanding the clinical disease and aiming to develop a new treatment has enabled me to focus my research. My highly experienced gene therapy and molecular neuroscience supervisors have provided excellent support.

In 2016 I presented my results at the British Society of Gene and Cell Therapy meeting and won the Fairbairn Award. I will be submitting my PhD thesis in October 2016.

My plan is to continue to refine this gene therapy for dopamine transporter deficiency to get it as close as possible to something which could be used as a treatment. I aim to use the skills I have obtained through my fellowship to develop and translate new therapies and gene therapies for other untreatable childhood neurological disorders.

Read more about Joanne’s successful funding application on Gateway to Research

Get ready

Hear more from the panel and find about how to prepare a Clinical Research Training Fellowship application and for the interview in our videos:

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