The Keele Medical Research Pathway

Keele University School of Medicine is committed to producing doctors who understand the crucial role of a multidisciplinary approach to medical research in finding the causes and the best treatments for disease and illnesses. Our aim is that a Keele-educated doctor will know how to access and use the results of research and provide the best possible care for their patients.

But who does the research in the first place? As well as the many full-time scientists who work in medical research, there are doctors who choose to make medical research an important part of their work and their career. Penicillin, insulin, vaccination, the link between smoking and lung cancer; all these were discoveries made by doctors, some even when they were medical students! 

Every medical student at Keele gets to learn if research is something they may want to do as a doctor, but the Medical School also offers a novel and exciting Research Pathway. This includes a range of opportunities for medical students and early-career doctors to enhance and enrich their clinical experience and expertise and CVs, at various stages of their medical training. It is designed to find the students and young doctors who want to develop skills and a track record in research and to encourage and develop the medical researchers of the future.

Various options are available at the end of Year 3 via the Student Selected Component (SSC) route, which can provide a short (eight-week) introduction to a range of specific subject areas and research within these.

These can be undertaken as a stand-alone component done on an optional basis. However they can also form a useful lead into an intercalated degree after Year 4 (see below) and may be compulsory depending on the specific intercalated course you may choose. For example, “Learning how to do research” is a new four-week option at the end of Year 3 when students get hands-on experience of how to develop research ideas, formulate them into mini-projects, write-up some results and argue for funding for their favourite project. This is run by the Arthritis Research Campaign’s National Primary Care Centre at Keele, which also hosts a prestigious summer internship for an outstanding medical student, awarded by the National Institute of Health Research. This option can provide a lead into the MPhil Intercalated option in Primary Care Sciences or the Master's in Medical Sciences. Students wishing to undertake an MRes in Medical Humanities must compulsorily complete an SSC in an area related to Medical Humanities. In addition, there are several SSC topics in the Biomedical Sciences that can form the basis for an intercalated degree in an experimental biomedical discipline.

About a third of medical students in the UK add an additional year to the basic five-year undergraduate course in order to study a subject area of their choice in greater depth; this is called an “Intercalated Degree”.

Medical students at Keele are offered the opportunity to suspend their medical studies for 12 months, at the end of Year 4 and complete an intercalated master's degree in a subject of their choosing at a prestigious department within the university. Depending on the course selected, these degrees can be primarily taught or have a major clinical or experimental laboratory research component; they will provide modules in a range of research-related and clinical topics, and can offer the exciting opportunity to develop, carry out and publish a piece of research with a top group at Keele.

The options we expect to offer at Keele include the MMed Sci (Faculty of Health), MRes in Medical Humanities (School of Humanities), MSc in an experimental biomedical discipline at the Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine (ISTM) or a range of MA courses at Keele’s Centre for Professional Ethics (PEAK). Students flying high towards a career in research can opt instead to spend the whole year on a project and complete a dissertation to gain an MPhil research degree. Academic excellence will be the primary criterion on which we will base our decisions regarding which students will be given permission to intercalate.

Even if you decide at the end of the year that research is not for you, the experience and qualification gained will make an important contribution to your CV. See our Intercalated Degree pages for further details regarding specific intercalated degrees on offer at Keele and the application procedure.

At the end of medical school come the two Foundation years of first experience as a doctor. Keele offers a small number of Academic Foundation programmes. These provide the opportunity for research experience integrated into one of the clinical jobs in Foundation Year 1 and one of the jobs in Year 2. Although most of the Foundation experience is clinical, the Academic programmes offer a great stepping-stone for doctors developing a research track to their career. There is the opportunity to develop research projects linked to clinical experience in Foundation posts and to build on research training gained from earlier undergraduate steps in the research pathway.

The next stage for the budding doctor after Foundation years is the period of specialist training to be a consultant or general practitioner. For doctors who chose not to take an intercalated master's during their undergraduate years, the Postgraduate Department of the School of Medicine supports the option for doctors to study for and complete a master's degree during this period of their training. This includes a dissertation supervised by a clinician and a member of the academic team at Keele. This is designed as much for clinicians wishing to enhance their skills and expertise as it is for those doctors determined to become researchers.
For doctors in specialist training who have decided on the research track, and who may already have research experience from the earlier options in the Research Pathway, Keele hosts a number of attractive Clinical Training Fellowships. These support doctors to extend their specialist training period to develop ideas for a research degree such as a PhD or MD. These degrees are based on a serious piece of original research which is developed into a thesis and published papers. With a PhD or MD, you have now moved from the Keele University School of Medicine's pathway and will be firmly on the road to a career which combines clinical work with patients and the exciting and stimulating world of medical research.