Independent Research Fellows play a key role within the Department of Zoology. Currently, fellows make up approximately 40% of the academic staff within the department. We are always keen to mentor prospective fellows from both within our department, and outside our department. We have adopted a seven point fellowship development programme to support prospective fellows. If you are interested in joining our department as a fellow, please contact either a member of our staff that works in your area, or our Head of Department, Peter Holland.
1. Identifying Awards
A number of UK and International schemes provide funding for the best early career researchers to achieve independence and set up their own research groups. These include:
- Royal Society University Research Fellowships
- Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowships
- Wellcome Trust Fellowships
- NERC Fellowships
- BBSRC David Phillips Fellowships
- ERC Starting Grants
In addition, there are a number of Fellowship Schemes which act to bridge the gap between post-doctoral positions and the above Fellowships. For example, Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Research fellowships, EU Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowships, EU Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships, HFSP Fellowship, Royal Society Newton Fellowships, Royal Commission of 1851 and Daphne Jackson Fellowships.
The Department of Zoology contains many staff who held these awards earlier in their careers, many current holders of these awards and many people who have served on the panels that assess and award them. These provide feedback on which will be the most appropriate fellowship or fellowships for particular people.
2. Supporting Local Candidates.
Many staff move from graduate or post-doctoral positions within our department to their own independent fellowships. We run a yearly ‘fellowship workshop’ to introduce and demystify the process of applying for fellowships, and to explain the various ways in which the department can help (see below). Potential fellows should discuss the possibilities with their PI and/or the Head of the Department.
3. Preparing Applications
Writing a fellowship application can be a daunting process. Academic staff in the Department of Zoology have considerable expertise in writing and assessing fellowship applications. These staff provide help and support to fellows at all stages of preparing an application, from initial planning to fine tuning. As with any research paper or grant, the chance of success can be improved hugely by feedback. We provide examples of previous fellowship applications.
4. Mock Interviews
For many fellowship schemes, the final step is an interview. The best way to prepare for interview is through a mock interview. We recommend that all fellowship applicants sit at least one mock interview, usually two, with Department of Zoology staff who are experienced at sitting on fellowship panels. We have found that this has a considerable impact on success rates.
5. Support and Mentoring
All fellows are assigned a mentor who will provide support and advice to Fellows. This includes an annual formal report, which is further assessed by the head of department. The aim of this mentoring system is to: (i) aid the progression to an independent researcher and group leader; (ii) identify ways in which the department can best support and help the fellow; (iii) facilitate progression to either another fellowship or a permanent job.
The Department of Zoology is dedicated to upholding and developing good employment practice for women working in science, and has held an Athena Swan Silver Award since 2010, for its initiatives in this area.
6. Academic Success
Department of Zoology staff provide the support and advice that enables Fellows to maximize the success of their fellowship. In particular:
- Grants. Many fellowship schemes allow the fellow to apply for additional research funding to expand their research programme. As with preparing the fellowship application, advice and feedback is provided at all levels of making grant applications. New Fellows commonly have a more experienced member of staff as a PI on grants to give detailed support.
- Additional Funding Support. Oxford has a diverse range of additional funding schemes that can utilized to support research, from enabling pilot projects to funding graduate students and research staff.
- Graduate Students. Fellows holding fellowships of at least three years duration are actively encouraged to supervise DPhil (=PhD) students from their first year. Indeed, we prioritise new fellows (and new academic staff) in the competition for studentships whose funding is controlled by the department. A more experienced member of staff will be appointed as a co-supervisor to give support.
- Publications. Both quantity and quality of publications play a key role in many aspects of career progression, from obtaining fellowships to obtaining a permanent position. We ensure that all fellows are supported in how to best turn their research into the highest impact publications.
- Recognition. We have an excellent record in ensuring that our fellows are nominated for, and win, both national and international awards. These have included The Zoological Society of London Scientific Medal, Society for the Study of Evolution Dobzhansky Prize, Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour New Investigator Award, Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Medal, European Society for Evolutionary Biology John Maynard Smith Prize, American Society of Naturalists Young Investigators Award, Zoological Society of London Thomas Henry Huxley Award, and L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Awards.
7. The Next Step
Research Fellowships provide an amazing opportunity for independent research. However, they only provide funding for a certain number of years. We provide support and advice for all fellows as to how to take their career to the next level, either by a more senior fellowship, or by obtaining a permanent position. Furthermore, all fellows are encouraged to take an active role in aspects of department life that are useful to career progression, such as gaining experience in teaching if so desired. Our commitment to career progression is shown by the large proportion of our permanent staff who originally came here as Fellows.