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How to prepare for a doctoral Fellowship application

How to prepare for a doctoral Fellowship application

Build preparation around:

  • Project
  • Place
  • Person
  • Training


  • Decide which group to join. Which area interests you? What is the group’s reputation? Ask current/past students for feedback and arrange to join the group for a shadowing period.
  • Will you apply with a ready made project or will you need to design a project from scratch with your supervisors?
  • Carry out a literature search Your project should address a gap in knowledge. What is the clinical need? Will it be achievable?
  • Ideally generate pilot data: this demonstrates your commitment to the project, acquisition of skills (lab/technical skills and data analysis) and will enable you to talk about the project at interview with confidence.
  • If your project will require ethical approval / any other approvals, apply for this early.
  • Contact potential collaborators early.


  • Where would be the best place to carry out your project? Consider availability of techniques/technologies, training and supervision.
  • Will your project require collaboration?
  • Would it be beneficial to undertake a secondment?
  • Consider who will form your supervisory team. Meet with them to gauge what the professional relationship might be like and ask for feedback from current/past students – can you envisage it working? What would each supervisor contribute? Are any of them well known in the project’s research area? What is their track record of supervision? How would you divide your time between them? How do you plan to be supervised (a hands-off or hands-on approach)?
  • Would it be beneficial to also have an independent mentor? Your main supervisor may be able to suggest possible mentors.


Build your CV around your Fellowship project:

  • Attend relevant conferences / talks / training sessions.
  • Deliver relevant presentations / teaching sessions /patient and public engagement sessions.
  • Present posters and publish in the relevant subject area.


  • Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACFs) may include a period of formal funded research training e.g. a postgraduate certificate in Health Research.
  • Try to undertake some project specific training. This may be local on-the-job training when you generate pilot data or through attending courses.
  • Consider whether 'soft-research skills' training would strengthen your CV e.g. science communication / patient and public engagement training etc.

Choose a funder

  • Research possible funders:

  • Check the funders’ websites for their remit – is it in keeping with your project?
  • Check the deadlines.
  • Check how much funding is offered: is it sufficient?
  • Check the eligibility requirements. Some funders require you to:

  • Find out if the funders hold events / workshops offering advice on Fellowship applications.
  • Ask peers who have successfully applied to the funder if you can see a copy of their application and discuss the interview format (although bear in mind that this may change over the years).