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School: School of Medicine, University of Leicester

Connection to the Academy: Received funding from the INSPIRE programme

Year: 2015-17

INSPIRE Lead: Professor Bob Norman

Key Projects:

  • East Midlands Medical Research Conference
  • 'SPARKS Talks'
  • The 'LINK' Initiative

The INSPIRE programme at Leicester has facilitated a range of extracurricular, student-led, research-focused activities that have highlighted the importance of medical research and the opportunities afforded by an academic clinical career to large numbers of medical students.

Most important has been the annual INSPIRE East Midlands Medical Research Conference, held over the past five years and hosted, in rotation, by Leicester, Nottingham and Norwich Medical Schools. These student-organised conferences have each brought together up to 150 student delegates from four medical schools to make oral and poster presentations of their research, to develop transferable research skills and to reflect on inspirational careers of senior clinical scientist presenters. These events have underpinned the development of networks that will serve students in their future research careers. Complementing the conferences, opportunities to practise soft research skills, including presentation skills, scientific writing and networking, have been provided through regular ‘SPARKS Talks’ evenings, at which students and established scientists present and discuss their work or published topical research developments in a social setting, and an online ‘SPARKS Bulletin’, highlighting recent exciting developments in medical research.

Addtional activities include:

  • A ‘LINK Scheme’ matches students seeking extracurricular research experience to researchers within the University and local NHS trusts. Student administrators recruit and advertise projects, collate student applications and provide mentorship and support to students during their projects. Projects have ranged from short shadowing placements, vacation scholarship projects, to longer term relationships.
  • An annual mini conference gives participating students the chance to present in a friendly environment and receive academic feedback. The student giving the best presentation is invited to represent the Medical School at an international student research conference.
  • Support has been given to permit student attendance at INSPIRE workshops and other national and international student conferences and a mock interview event is held annually to prepare those students applying to the Academic Foundation Programme.

The supported enthusiasm of a small team of engaged students has been indispensable in ensuring delivery of these INSPIRE activities. Team members gain committee experience, with attendant delegation and acceptance of responsibilities. Engagement of early years’ students has been most important to ensure continuity of experience and engagement year on year. The INSPIRE Academic Lead mentors the team to maintain impetus and to provide guidance concerning event scheduling, institutional protocols and financial regulations.

Through the INSPIRE programme, many students have been stimulated to consider incorporating their research interests into a clinical academic career.


For full details of the activities implemented by the University of Leicester, School of Medicine please visit the INSPIRE activities page.

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