Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research


Fellowship application: Matthew Swire

Matthew kindly shares his experience of successfully applying for a postdoctoral award at UCL. These can take months to complete and benefit from lots of input from colleagues.

Dr Matthew Swire

25 April 2023

I was awarded an MRC Career Development Award to support the investigation of how oligodendrocytes alter neural circuits during learning.

We will train mice to learn a new motor skill and observe how the myelin on activated neurons changes with learning. We will then use genetic manipulations to disrupt pathways that may enable oligodendrocytes to sense neuronal activity and determine if these mice maintain the ability to learn motor skills.

The MRC Career Development Award is a personal fellowship that supports postdocs seeking to transition to independence by providing research staff costs and expenses for up to five years.

My application took six months in total. It started with writing a research proposal that address a question within the MRC’s remit of preventing illness, developing therapies, and improving human health. 

This six-page document needed to include details of the importance of the research, experimental approaches and the research environment. It must be your own ideas and not significantly overlap with those of your current supervisor.

After submission, the MRC send my proposal to five expert reviewers who provided an assessment of myself as an applicant, the proposed research and the host institute environment. 

Based on the scores from these reviews, I was invited to an interview. This consisted of a five-minute presentation of my proposal followed by a 25-minute interview by the MRC Non-Clinical Training and Career Development Panel. 

The questions during the interview focused on the concerns raised by the reviewers, how I plan to establish myself as an independent researcher and the implications of the findings. The panel then scored the proposals and funding was awarded to a number of the highest scoring applicants.

Throughout the application process I was incredibly fortunate to receive advice and support from colleagues both within UCL and further afield including feedback on the research proposal itself and four mock interviews.

I am incredibly grateful for the time and input I received which was absolutely integral to the success of the application.

I would highly recommend postdocs who wish to set up their own lab at UCL to apply for this scheme and am very happy to discuss my experience in more detail.


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