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In this blog post, Dr Hannah McGivern, a Tissue Handling Technician for the Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD) initiative at NDS, discusses her involvement in the NDS Virtual Work Experience Programme, and shares how fascinating and rewarding it was to talk with the students about a career in research.

What I'll take away from the work experience week: Try not to make any early rash decisions, keep options open, being a clinician is difficult but rewarding, and research and 'doctoring' aren't completely separate.

It has been our pleasure to be able to devise a virtual alternative to the annual Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) work experience programme which is typically hosted on-site at the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals, and the Botnar Research Centre. During the pandemic we have become increasingly, more reliant on technology for our work, including meetings (where we continually forget to unmute ourselves or are entertained by the antics of the family cat wondering across the keyboard!) as well as academic stimulation and education in order to continue our learning experience. Visits to the hospital with the chance to shadow clinicians were therefore replaced with virtual clinics, online lectures and live chats with early career researchers, doctors and surgeons, to name just a few; all with valuable advice to offer to prospective university students.

It was fascinating to hear that those who were not originally considering a career in research were now intrigued by the prospect. In fact, one of this year’s students remarked: “I am now considering a career in research with clinical practice, something I was completely opposed to at the beginning of the work experience week”. Having recently graduated with my PhD it was very rewarding to be able to show the possibilities a career in research can offer as well as the different directions it can take you in and the breadth of people you get to meet. Another of this year’s student participants commented: “This work placement has inspired me to undertake a career in clinical research alongside medicine”.

Additionally, it was also interesting to hear from other early career researchers who have all taken different paths in order to reach a particular stage of their career, demonstrating that there is no one path to follow.

The positive feedback we have received from both student participants and speakers has demonstrated the importance of maintaining wider societal communication and STEM enrichment activities during these difficult times, which encourage the next generation of clinicians and scientists to explore the opportunities available to them remotely to build a pathway to their future careers.

I would encourage as many of you as possible to participate in the online events and activities held by the NDS Outreach Working Group in the near future, who are currently in the process of developing a virtual experience for the Oxford Science and Ideas Festival (IF Oxford 2020). New ideas and opportunities are always welcome, so please do not hesitate to contact Louise King ( or myself ( if you would like to get involved!

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