Introduction to our career support

Supporting research careers

We're committed to building a world-class workforce to continue the fight against arthritis through supporting research careers and ensuring there's sufficient capacity within the UK to translate ideas into benefit for people with arthritis.

Our success depends on the quality of the scientists and clinicians involved. We aim to support the future leaders of musculoskeletal research by encouraging the brightest and most committed researchers, from all relevant disciplines based in the UK and beyond, to become involved in research in this field.

How do we support musculoskeletal research careers?

We support musculoskeletal research careers through:

  • Dedicated fellowship support for outstanding researchers at different stages of their career
  • extensive funding of researchers through our other funding schemes such as challenge calls and centres

We aim to develop the next-generation of world-class musculoskeletal researchers by providing incentives and motivation during early training and education to make musculoskeletal disease an attractive career choice.

We offer opportunities for early research experience through to advanced research training, with the aim of building a workforce of world-class independent researchers that are supported by universities and other research active institutes.

We provide research training opportunities for individuals with an interest in musculoskeletal diseases. These may be:

  • academic clinicians, accepting qualified individuals across all disciplines, including but not limited to rheumatology, orthopaedics and primary care
  • allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, rheumatology specialist nurses, podiatrists and psychologists
  • non-clinical research scientists.

Our strategy is to support training and career development either alone or in partnership with others.

Working in partnership allows us to maximise the impact of our research funding and provide more opportunities to the future leaders in musculoskeletal research. Current partnerships in career support include:

  • Academy of Medical Sciences Starter Grant for Clinical Lecturers Scheme
  • Medical Research Council/Versus Arthritis Clinician Scientist Fellowship
  • NIHR mentorship programme

Our fellowships are reviewed by our Fellowship Expert Group.

Case studies: 2018 Nurse and allied health professional interns - Katharine Fry

Last summer I completed my adult nursing degree at the University of the West of England, having previously studied pharmacy and worked in several healthcare roles.

Throughout my degree, I enjoyed applying my learning to clinical practice; establishing a passion for evidence-based nursing and research. Clinical placement experiences grew my interests in rheumatic and musculoskeletal health, rehabilitation and self-management. I integrated these interests with research through a final-year elective placement with the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) team in Bath. My experience was fantastic and spurred me on to seek further clinical-academic experience through an Internship from Versus Arthritis. For me, the internship presented an unmissable opportunity to develop my research skills and knowledge by learning from world leading researchers and completing my own research project in a centre of excellence of rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease research.

I thoroughly enjoyed my eight-week internship. Prior to starting my internship, my expectations focussed around learning about research and how it is done. However, through the internship I have gained so much more.

Whilst I did significantly develop my research knowledge and capabilities, I also grew professionally and developed a supportive and ongoing network of peers and mentors. It was wonderful to meet with and learn from so many world leading researchers; both through formal workshops and informal networking opportunities. My learning from these elements has really developed my professional confidence and desire to continue to work in research.

For my project, I investigated educational resources for people living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). I was given the freedom to shape my own project; writing my own research question and protocol and justifying my choices. I decided to appraise online resources and planned out how to find and evaluate these resources using validated tools. I spent much of my internship designing and refining my protocol and search strategy, which was an invaluable learning experience that really helped me to deepen my understanding of research processes.

Although my internship is now complete, I am continuing to work on my project with the aim of submitting an abstract to next year's British Society of Rheumatology conference and ultimately publishing a paper. I am also looking forward to starting my new clinical role as a band 5 staff nurse and developing both the clinical and research elements of my career together in the future.

Case studies: 2018 Nurse and allied health professional interns - Pola Bieluczyk

My name is Pola Bieluczyk and I was one of the Versus Arthritis AHP interns for the summer 2018. Originally from Plymouth, last summer I completed my Podiatry BSc degree studies at the University of Southampton. I always wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, and podiatry proved to be the perfect fit for me!

I was always fascinated by research, stemming from volunteering as a research assistant in a project investigating Schwann cell regeneration at the University of Plymouth. During the past three academic years, I found myself increasingly drawn to research. Therefore, when I saw this internship advertised, I immediately began my application! I appreciate the importance of innovation in healthcare and want to be involved in positive change to patient care.

During my internship, I was based at the University of Southampton carrying out a patient and public involvement (PPI) project investigating what lay methods of disseminating arthritis research is most useful to people with arthritis. I hope that my contribution to this project will deliver impactful results. I aim to apply what I learnt in this scheme into every day practice as a Podiatrist to ensure evidence based care for my patients. This project will allow me to explore a future career in clinical research.

The internship proved to be an extremely valuable experience where I gained a great deal of knowledge and understanding of research in a condensed period of time. What exceeded my expectations were the inspiring people that I met at each institution involved in this internship. The training days proved to be a fun and informative aspect of the internship. Being able to gain insight from lead researchers in this field was invaluable, and further motivated me to work toward being a researcher. At the completion of this scheme, I have become aware of the various pathways into becoming a clinical researcher. This opportunity allowed me to form valuable networks with some great peers and mentors for future developments.

I was able to achieve my goals and am looking toward publishing my findings which may have real world applications in the future. The highlight of the internship was being able to work together with patients and public, as it truly highlighted the importance of carrying out research which matters to those affected.

I am exceedingly grateful to Versus Arthritis for this amazing experience which allowed me to develop skills that I can use in the world of research, but also to be applied to my everyday clinical practice as a community podiatrist, with the aim of improving patient-centred care. After some time in clinical practice, I hope to pursue a career in clinical research, and I believe that this internship has equipped me effectively in order to go forward with this.

Case studies: 2018 Nurse and allied health professional interns - Rebecca Robinson

Hello, my name is Rebecca Robinson, and I’m extremely grateful to have participated in the wonderful opportunity that is the Versus Arthritis Internship Programme.

Having originally grown up in Leeds, I moved to London for my studies at the University of East London (UEL) in 2015, and have recently graduated with a degree in Physiotherapy. Throughout my studies I have always been actively engaged in university life, participating in events such as opening days, mentoring, as well at representing student physiotherapists and UEL on the finish line of the 2018 London Marathon.

Having gained an interest in research while studying, particularly the qualitative field; I was fortunate enough to meet a past intern lecturing at my university. They were extremely passionate about the Versus Arthritis UK Nurse and AHP Internship scheme; and signposted this opportunity to experience and participate on the front line of musculoskeletal research within the UK.

I was fortunate enough to make it through the application process and be accepted into the NDORMS team, working with Oxford University at the Botnar Centre for Research. My time at the University of Oxford working on the BOOST Trial at NDORMS was invaluable in not only progressing my academic skills, but in forming my professional identity.

I initially went into the project expecting to get a taste of clinical research, after having developed an interest as a student. Following my time on the internship I have been able to not only experience research, but to influence its progression. Opportunities to network across multiple university sites throughout the internship, with those who are currently leading medical research, has me leaving the scheme inspired to do the same.

Working in qualitative research, helping to analyse huge amounts of data required me to be creative as well as organised in how I went about this. Alongside this, time management, reflection and an attention to detail are all skills I have exercised and progressed over the summer; all of which are transferable to my career as a physiotherapist.

Through meeting like-minded clinicians who balance a career of clinical and academic work, advice for how I can continue to integrate research into my career as a Physiotherapist have been highlighted to me. This leaves me hopeful that in the future I’ll be able to contribute to not only the care of my own patients, but to the progression of care for all patients through the advancement of research.

Case studies: 2018 Nurse and allied health professional interns - Lucy Corless

I’m Lucy Corless, a newly qualified Physiotherapist and one of the 2018 Versus Arthritis interns. I was based at the University of Salford contributing to the research group developing MSKHUB.com, an online self-management support website for people with arthritis.

I studied Physiotherapy part-time at the University of Salford whilst working as an NHS therapy assistant. Prior to this I studied Exercise & Sports Science at the University of Exeter, where I was lucky enough to work on numerous research projects, both as a participant and a researcher.

Such experiences have developed a passion for research and highlighted the importance of evidence-based practice, extending this to empower members of the public to use research findings to guide their day-to-day health decision making. This internship appealed to me as a fantastic opportunity to channel such passion, with mentorship from world-leading researchers enabling me to contribute to the continuously growing evidence-base and the sharing of such findings with the community of people living with arthritis.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Versus Arthritis intern and can’t thank everyone enough for such a wonderful experience. My time as an intern was very busy, working on two projects under the mentorship of Dr. Yeliz Prior at the University of Salford. Firstly, I was involved in the development of MSKHUB.com, an online portal to promote the self-management of rheumatic and MSK conditions. On this website users can complete the Evaluation of the Daily Activity Questionnaire to help monitor the impact of their condition on activities of daily living. I helped identify aids and adaptations people may use to help with daily activities, which will help guide future research.

The second project I was involved in was the qualitative analysis of a fibromyalgia self-management programme. The programme was designed, developed and led by my mentor in accordance to the most recent guidelines, research and clinical experience. The analysis is still ongoing but it was really lovely to see the translation of previous research, including research completed by a previous intern, into the development of the programme and its real-life application resulting in benefits to the participants.

Not only did I gain such a valuable first-hand experience of the research environment I gained insight into career options I didn’t know existed. Meeting clinical academics has proven that you can be both a researcher and a clinician, and has inspired me to modify my career ambitions accordingly. The internship has also helped me grow as a person, I am a lot more confident, can communicate more effectively and have developed my time-management skills.

Case study: Elizabeth Rosser, foundation fellow

We interviewed Elizabeth Rosser, PhD student (2010–14), Foundation Fellow (2016–19), UCL.

Please could you start by telling us a bit about your background and research interests?

After completing a BSc in Immunology at UCL, I was awarded a PhD studentship from Arthritis Research UK (now Versus Arthritis) to work with Professor Claudia Mauri (Centre for Rheumatology Research, UCL). During my PhD and now in my foundation fellowship (with Professor Lucy Wedderburn, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health), I have been interested in trying to understand how the gut-microbiota alters the development and function of B cells in experimental models of arthritis and, more recently, in human paediatric disease.

What inspired you to apply for one of our fellowships?

My PhD supervisor recommended that I apply. I was very keen to carry on my work into how the microbiota influences B cell function but translate the work from experimental models into human disease, and writing a fellowship seemed the best way to do this. I had also been inspired by watching previous fellows present their work at the annual fellow’s meetings, which I attended throughout my PhD.

What are your research highlights to date?

Getting my fellowship! After writing my own research project, and preparing for months for the interview, it is such a pleasure to see all that hard work pay off.

What has been the most challenging part of your fellowship?

My hypothesis being wrong! Though, of course, this is part of the scientific process it is always a bit disheartening to begin with. However, I think the new research that evolved afterwards is even more exciting! I have also had problems recruiting some patients to the microbiome study, unfortunately lots of children think sending poo in the post is a bit gross! I think the key to helping with this is better patient engagement, which we hope to address in the future with a Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Family Day. 

What are your plans for the future?

I have just been awarded the job of Senior Research Associate at the centre for adolescent rheumatology at UCL, UCLH, and GOSH. I am delighted that I will be able to continue my research journey with Versus Arthritis and I am extremely excited about the opportunity to work with a new clinical team. Looking further forward, I aim to apply for another fellowship in the next 3/4 years.

What doors has our fellowship funding opened?

As part of the fellowship funding I have been able to join the “Inflammatory Arthriits Microbiome Consortium”, a UK-wide consortium led by Fiona Powrie at the Kennedy Institute Oxford, which has been a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with scientists and clinicians in both the UK and USA. It has also been a real pleasure to be part of the team in my sponsor’s (Professor Lucy Wedderburn) lab. Lucy leads an amazing translational team and I have learnt so much about the importance of patient, parent, clinician and researchers participation in delivering clinically relevant research.

Do you have any advice that you would give to other researchers at this career stage?

My advice would be to talk to your peers and attend meetings. Networking really does help you understand what opportunities are out there. It is also important to be flexible with your research and to ‘go where the science takes you', some of the best parts of my research career have been the outcome of unexpected results!