Name: Jamie Thakrar

Institution: University of Bristol

Connection to the Academy:
Intern with the Policy Team in 2019 through the Wellcome Trust internship scheme.

"My three months at the Academy were a whirlwind,
and I definitely believe this was because of 
how exciting and fast-paced the work was."

What made you apply to the scheme and how was the application process?

I first became interested in the scheme during an event for first year PhD students at Wellcome, as I had always planned to get career experience outside of academia during my doctoral training. As much of work is clinical and working with human participants, I became interested in medical research policy during the course of my PhD, as I went through the rigorous research ethics approval processes and learnt more about research governance. In the following years, two other students from my programme took part in the internship scheme at the Academy and had told me it was a great place to work, so if I had needed more convincing to apply by then, then this was the final encouragement!

"The whole application process was very positive and good career experience in itself."

The application process was very clear, and I found writing the application essay to be a really interesting exercise. This was my first proper dive into the world of policy and although it took some time and research to decide on my essay topic, once I had settled on one, I became really engrossed in researching and writing it up. The interviews were not very long after the application submission, and the whole process was very positive and good career experience in itself.

What did you work on at the Academy and what was your best experience?

During my three months I had the opportunity to hop around the various projects ongoing at the Academy. Most of my work was to do with the UK science base. I attended meetings with the other national academies, attended a House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee meeting, and helped my supervisor organise regional meetings on investment in Liverpool and Birmingham. I also worked on events at the Academy including, Clinical Academia for the Future: Research Leaders and Innovators which took place within my very first week and “Achieving Universal Health Coverage in LMICs: the role of quality of care research” where I was able to assist the International team in pre-event preparation, participation on the day and also with the report from the meeting.

"I attended a House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee Meeting."

I really enjoyed the diversity of work and the opportunity to join in with so many different things, while also contributing to important work at the Academy.

What the biggest thing you’ve learnt?

The fast-pace of policy work at the Academy is in stark contrast to the long-term projects many of us work on in academia, so it was really important to understand the depth of knowledge required for a particular task in order to turn it over for a short deadline.

My supervisor and I both identified the fact that I found it very difficult to be brief when writing summaries of larger reports. It was great to be able to work on this together and with his feedback, I definitely believe that I improved my ability to be concise and grasp a better understanding of what information was most relevant.

What’s something you weren’t expecting about the internship?

I didn’t expect it to go so quickly! My three months at the Academy were a whirlwind, and I definitely believe this was because of how exciting and fast-paced the work was. They do say that time flies when you’re having fun!

You’re going back into academia for a post-doc. How can people who are planning careers in research benefit from an internship like this?

I gained a lot of insight into the world of policy through my internship, and I believe that it is very important for us as medical research scientists to engage with, and advocate for, the policies that impact our work and the people we hope will benefit from it. I learnt of many ways in which organisations like the Academy and Wellcome turn to scientists to directly inform their policy work and I plan to involve myself in opportunities to engage with them throughout my own academic career. Although my immediate plan is to apply for postdoctoral positions following completion of my PhD, I will be going into an academic career knowing there is another career I would also really love to do! It is a great feeling knowing that you have an alternative plan, and already have some experience to help you further down the line, if you need or want to make a career change.

What’s your advice to potential future interns?

Don’t be afraid to ask anybody at the Academy about their work and always ask to get involved with things you might be interested in. People are very happy to give you the experience, and also grateful for the helping hand. Also, feel confident to talk to lots of people at events and make new contacts, but most of all, really enjoy the time you have there!

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