I am currently working as a Deputy Head of Department for Medical Science and Public Health within the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences and I am the Faculty Lead for Internationalisation.

A head and shoulders image of Dr Angela Turner-Wilson Dr Angela Turner-Wilson

I began my research career by gathering data for a study in clinical microbiology. Data collecting is always a good place to start for any new researcher.  It puts you out in the field (real or virtual), forces you to apply ethical principles and teaches you to appreciate the fragmented nature of research.

I was then invited to work as a Research Assistant on a small study run by Professor Kate Welham which fused education and professional practice. This provided me with a strong foundation to move forward.

My first research bid 

When I started work as a lecturer in academia, I soon realised that there were many competing elements and research was simply one of these. Also, about twelve years ago, research was not especially high on the university agenda (especially for junior staff) and there was less support. 

My first attempt at putting together a research proposal was a learning experience.  I was acting as a co-investigator (Co-I) and I remember completing the various questions on the application form. It seemed to me that some were oddly worded, and others repetitive. Of course, this was a time when there was little information on websites and so, apart from telephoning funders, there needed to be some guesswork as to exactly what was required. To a certain extent, and for some smaller funders, I would say that is still the case. 

This bid attempt was not successful, but fortunately I had been warned this was not unusual, and to get used to rejection. I would say this message is still relevant for early career researchers (ECRs) today.  Keep going forward.

My first Principal Investigator (PI) role 

As time moved on there was more emphasis placed on research at BU. This was, I suspect, in part due to a wider societal interest in evidence-based findings to support decision making. The next bid I submitted was for an internal ‘seedcorn’ grant, a fantastic opportunity offered by the university for those still fairly new to research. 

I took on the role of a PI, although it is not something I would recommend at the early stage of your career. The project was great, but I had not anticipated the workload. For example, the research involved working with external partners who, understandably, had different views to those of the university. Much of my time was spent unravelling these differences and trying to find a way forward that benefited everyone. 

My advice to an ECR would be start as a Co-I, build your knowledge, and get a good understanding of your external partners, how they work, their research timescales and their underlying business models.

Dr Angela Turner-Wilson

Deputy Head of Department for Medical Science and Public Health

Expect to draw on all sorts of different skills, not only those directly associated with research. You will need to solve problems, build teams, network and use your leadership qualities.

Choose your team carefully 

Another issue is to be cautious about who you invite onto the project. People are often quite enthusiastic to be included.  However, sometimes the workload of delivering the project can become too much or interest wanes. Take time to clarify your team members commitments and try to establish if they have a genuine interest in the project. Pick your team carefully.

Finding my place 

After a few more years (and further successful and unsuccessful research projects), I eventually had the opportunity of working as a Co-I on a large international European Commission funded piece of work. This was an incredible experience as my whole research world lit up - it was great fun. The project was divided into a range of different work packages, and I led on one of these which resonated with my expertise. It was a bit like acting as a PI, without the responsibilities of the full project.  I would recommend this type of experience for a mid-career researcher who is considering taking on a PI role, but feels they need a little more insight.

By the time I took over my next project as a PI, the Research Development & Support (RDS) team at Bournemouth University was fully established. I would say to anyone who is undertaking research at BU they should try to link into the various support mechanisms, before writing a grant application. Chat to those working in RDS, check the research blog, look for specialists, such as those within the professoriate and/or those with a knowledge of working with the public. Network with other researchers external to BU. Listen, talk, ask questions and take up training opportunities, especially in areas that you may not think you need, and as you do so you will find lots of golden nuggets of useful information.

Also, I cannot finish without saying that I have finally found my home in a BU research centre. It is a great fit for me and has an outward facing philosophy. Look for a research centre, try them out (they may not necessarily be within your own faculty) and importantly just engage. Remember, research will not always be smooth sailing, but there are moments and times (perhaps meeting a participant, travelling abroad, or, importantly, seeing the outputs and impact of your work) that will contribute to the joy that is working on a research project.


A research career is hard work and at times challenging, but there is nothing like learning by doing.  Expect to draw on all sorts of different skills, not only those directly associated with research. You will need to solve problems, build teams, network and use your leadership qualities. I am still building my research profile in Global Health and am always horizon scanning for opportunities offered by the university and externally. It has been, and still is a privilege to be involved in such an exciting and rewarding part of my academic role at BU.