Academic Pathology Trainees (APT) Information

This section is aimed at all trainees interested in pathological research – those doing research as part of their clinical training as well as those pursuing, or intending to pursue, an academic career. 

A career in research offers great intellectual challenge and excitement, and can be immensely satisfying. Unfortunately, many trainees are put off by the competitive nature of research, uncertainty about how to combine training in both research and clinical aspects of their speciality, and the perceived difficulty of such a career choice. This section aims to set the record straight: we have asked various academics in pathology about their careers in the hope that they will inspire and encourage future academic leaders in pathology. This section also provides some information on career grade academic posts for those nearing completion of their specialist training and recently appointed consultants. 

Research Committee Trainee Representatives 

The Royal College of Pathologists is committed to strengthening the research base of the specialty, and Research is one of the four pillars of activity of the College. The College has a Research Committee to direct these activities. Dr Scarlet Brockmoeller (Histopathology) and Dr Yamini Krishna (Histopathology) are the current trainee representatives on the committee. 

The Trainee representatives attend the four-yearly meetings of the College’s Research Committee and also alternate to represent research trainees at the Trainees’ Advisory Committee. The trainee representatives can be contacted via a generic email address (research.rcpath.tac@gmail.com).

Academic training opportunities and career grade appointments

The UK has an NIHR funded academic pathway. Further there are a range of local funders and charities which are supporting and funding trainees to do research. 

There are normally three stages during the training period.

  1. Academic Clinical Fellow (ACF; ST1-ST3/4): 
    These are normally for two to three years. You should apply to enter the training programme through the routine application process and in addition you need to apply for an Academic Clinical Fellowship. There will be a separate interview and selection process for these posts but you can only take this up if you get a regular training post.  The ACF normally starts at ST1 level but other entry levels may also be possible. These posts are intended to provide a base from which a trainee at an early stage of their career can develop a passion for research and generate pilot data that will allow them to apply for funding to come out of programme and complete a PhD or MD. The posts are usually funded by the NIHR although similar posts with alternative funding may be available. They usually last for up to three years, during which the trainee should spend 25% of their time on a research project. The trainees will undergo an annual academic Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) where both academic and clinical progression will be assessed.  If individuals fail to progress in the academic stream or do not want to continue in research after they have completed the three year period then they would revert to ordinary specialist training; however the expected progression is to a funded higher degree. Details of this process can be obtained from the NIHR Integrated Academic Training Programme
  2. Clinical Research Training Fellowship (Out-of-programme experience (OOPR)): These are usually of two or three years duration and are competitively acquired positions that fund the individual to formally come out of the training programme in order to undertake research and obtain a higher degree. The key components considered by funding bodies are the track record of the supervisor, the facilities and track record of the research centre, the quality of the candidate, and the research question being asked. During a three year position you will usually undertake a PhD and in a two year post it would be an MD. Potential sources of funding for these fellowships include the Medical Research Committee (MRC), Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Academy of Medical Sciences and the Wellcome Trust along with various other charities. 
  3. Clinical Lectureship (ST3 and above): After you complete your higher degree the next step would be a Clinical Lecturer post. These posts are funded by the NIHR and are intended for individuals with a PhD or an MD who wish to undertake further research. The higher degree may have been obtained during pathology training or at an earlier date if the trainee has previous experience of research. The posts are for up to four years and enable the trainee to spend 50% of their time in the NHS to complete their clinical training and 50% in research under the supervision of a suitable academic who will mentor them to become an independent researcher. Your training time should be extended to accommodate this. Details of the Clinical Lectureship scheme can be obtained from the NIHR Integrated Academic Training Programme.
  4. Clinician Scientist Fellowship: These are four or five year posts available to clinical academic trainees with a higher degree and a track record of successful research. The grants are highly competitive and usually in the order of £1m in order to fund the applicant along with any associated technical and consumable support, to facilitate an independent research programme. Applicants are usually senior trainees coming towards the end of their clinical training and the support will bridge the gap into a consultant level post. Usually, the host institution will then commit to a tenured Senior Lecturer position on completion. Again, a range of major UK funding bodies will help to fund these posts.