ESRC Future Research Leader award

JPG RGB LargeIn January 2015 I applied for a Future Research Leader award from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). This award scheme is a prestigious scheme through which the ESRC funds the research of a small number of early career researchers who have the potential to be future leaders in their research fields.

This was the first big grant that I have applied for and I found it very stressful writing the application and dealing with the ‘impostor feeling’ and that I was not good enough to receive this type of award, especially as I know this grant scheme is extremely prestigious and very competitive.

I received reviewers comments in June which I had to respond to, and very quickly too – they only gave me a 7-day turnaround time! The comments were generally positive and I think I was able to adequately respond to all 3 reviewers within the 2-page limit for responses, though it was tough – another very stressful time.

The ESRC had initially said that decisions would be announced in September to towards the end of my holiday in Africa I was obsessively checking my email to see if there was any news. When I returned from my trip however I checked the previous correspondence I’d had from the ESRC and discovered that in their latest email to me they had moved the decision deadline to October, so I breathed a sigh of relief – I had another month till the outcome would be known.

And on October 1st I got the email – I had been successful!!!! The ESRC have funded me for a 3-year research project titled “Measuring Recollection and Familiarity in Ageing and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)”. 

Some blurb about the project: “Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a pre-clinical phase of dementia involving cognitive decline greater than expected for an individual’s age and education level. Current methods of measuring memory processes in clinical groups are largely outdated, used inconsistently, and yield different patterns of results across studies. The aim of the planned research is to compare a range of novel methodologies in order to assess which is the most reliable and valid for use in pre-clinical dementia screening. This will aid diagnosis; increase clinician, patient, and caregiver understanding of the cognitive decline being experienced; and will benefit care pathways”.

This research is what my PhD and post-doc research have all been leading towards – I love examining the processes underlying memory and a big problem in the field is the disparate measures that researchers use. The research I will do during this grant period will allow me to examine these processes in more depth, and get back to working with older adults again to explore how these processes decline in ageing – with the goal of developing a measure that is clinically relevant.

I had totally not been expecting to get this grant, and because of the expectation of disappointment over the last couple of months I had in fact been telling myself that I didn’t really want it anyway… But when I received the email I was so excited, and so grateful! When I found out it was after I’d already got home from work and had dinner, I read the email, called my parents, and texted some friends, but I was actually going on a date that night – a first date with a new guy! It turned out to be our only date, probably partly because I was so excitable, hyperactive, and maybe a little intimidating – talking about the ~£200,000 grant that I had just won for my work – poor guy!

Now I just really want to do an excellent job and get some really worthwhile research out of the next 3 years. Exciting times ahead!

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