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How to make the most of the BSI career development offering

The British Society for Immunology recently announced a significant expansion in the careers support we offer to our membership, including revamped schemes, new initiatives and further funding opportunities. This is a vital part of our mission to support current and future generations of immunologists throughout their careers. In this article, our Education & Careers Officer, Eolan Healy, explores the different ways in which we support our members to achieve the full potential of a highly fulfilling career in immunology through our extensive career development offering.

We know that the last 18 months has been a difficult time for many of our members. At the BSI we regularly monitor the immunology sector for the latest career development opportunities and, moreover, always listen to the needs of our membership through feedback, surveys, Forum, social media chatter, and so on. As a result, the BSI Trustees have approved the release of significant additional funds to put towards supporting our career development activities for members.

The BSI is therefore proud to announce an exciting new range of grants and schemes. Due to immunology’s fast growing and dynamic impact on the world of science and medicine and on wider society in general, those working in the field require a huge range of skills and knowledge to effectively adapt to an ever-changing career landscape. Early career immunologists, in particular, need to navigate a wide range of pathways and to effectively horizon scan a growing number of avenues.


New career support

Our new career-related offering for members can be divided into ‘career-enabling foundation support’ which helps members at all levels to thrive in their roles and includes core activities that facilitate career progression such as our Conference Grants, Communicating Immunology Grants, Carers’ Grants and career development webinar series. In addition, we have activities including offering a crèche at Congress and running our regular Winter Schools aimed at Master's students. Over the coming year, we will also be updating our 2017 Careers Report to examine what the current challenges and barriers are that immunologists face in progressing their careers. We are also launching two new grant schemes: our Regional & Affinity Group Conference Grants and our Regional & Affinity Group Carers' Grants – more on these below.

The second part covers ‘career-enhancing initiatives’ that provide more intensive and targeted support, through initiatives such as BSI Summer School and our highly popular mentoring scheme. We also plan to introduce some new initiatives over the coming months including expanding our training offering and running a masterclass series from leaders in the field, touching on specific topics. Most excitingly, we have also launched a new Career Enhancing Grant to provide significant financial support to help members progress in their careers. In this article we will take a closer look at some of the new career offerings from the BSI and give an insight into their structure and support offering.


Career Enhancing Grants

This flagship new BSI grant scheme aims to provide flexible financial support to help immunologists grasp the opportunities and tackle the challenges in their career path.

There are many different paths towards a highly rewarding career in immunology, each one with its own benefits and barriers. To provide valuable support to BSI members at all career stages, across different areas and reaching sectors beyond academia, we developed this grant scheme that allows for tailored support for individuals in our community. We launched this as a pilot initiative to complement our wider career development offering. The end goal? To give your career a boost and help you achieve your full potential.

To provide valuable support to BSI members at all career stages, across different areas and reaching sectors beyond academia, we have developed this grant scheme that allows for tailored support for individuals in our community.

The grant allows members to provide funding for any type of career-related activity that will help you go a step further in building your skillset and advancing your professional development. The amount you can apply for is variable – we accept applications for any amount from £100 up to £5,000. Grants are made by competition and assessed by our dedicated grant panel, chaired by BSI Education & Careers Secretary, Dr Donald Palmer.

This grant allows you the flexibility to be creative with your career aims and ambitions. Some examples from our members include securing funding for pilot data, taking workshops/internships in science communication or publishing, funding for new lab equipment or attending a relevant networking event. This grant covers people in all sectors of immunology, including those outside of academia, and is open to UK-based immunologists who do not already have a faculty position or personal fellowship (or equivalent).


“I’m delighted to be part of the launch of this new careers package and in particular, the new BSI Career Enhancing Grants. There’s already so much value in belonging to the Society but this greatly increases the benefits available to members. The possibilities of these grants are endless, and I encourage folks to think carefully and innovatively about how to make the most of this incredible opportunity.” Dr Donald Palmer, BSI Education & Careers Secretary

“Two years ago, I started as an ECR Trustee in the hope of supporting and promoting early career researchers. I wanted to encourage the BSI to provide more support and funding for ECRs – I’m proud to have played an important role in the development of the new and exciting BSI Career Enhancing Grants!” Dr Emma Chambers, BSI Early Career Trustee

“The BSI has provided important support for immunologists at different stages in their career, but I am fully appreciative of how tough it is to be an early career researcher in the current climate. I have worked hard to ensure our voices are heard and I’m delighted to have contributed to the development of this new Career Enhancing Grant scheme from the BSI.” Dr Calum Bain, BSI Early Career Trustee


Regional & Affinity Group Conference Grants

This new grant scheme aims to support members in attending in-person BSI Regional & Affinity Group conferences. For this pilot year, there will be 10 grants available for each BSI Regional & Affinity Group face-to-face conference, with grants awarded on a first come, first served basis to eligible BSI members. We hope this scheme will help make our events more accessible to a wider range of BSI members.

Find out more here.


Regional & Affinity Group Carers’ Grant

In addition to the already available carers’ grant for our Congress, the BSI is now proud to have a carers’ grant for our Regional and Affinity Groups’ conferences. The grant can be used to help cover the cost of care arrangements during the conference, for example, to look after children, or for additional care for the applicant themselves during the conference. The funding available is £100 for a one-day conference or £200 for a two-day conference.

Find out more here.


Medical Elective Grant

The Medical Elective Grant offers the chance for medical undergraduate students to get financial support to undertake a formal immunology-related placement in a selected laboratory for their medical elective. Medical electives can provide key experience for budding researchers who wish to acquire cutting-edge skills and develop laboratory experience. Applicants can apply for up to £1,500 (depending on the location of the placement). This grant is reviewed quarterly, with the next deadline on 1 December 2021, and applicants are asked to apply four to six weeks prior to the commencement of the placement.

An example of a previous medical elective placement funded by the BSI is that of medical student Charlotte Grant who worked in the MRC Unit in The Gambia on tuberculosis research. You can read more about Charlotte’s story here.

Find out more about the Medical Elective Grant here.

The above is a brief overview of the BSI’s new enhanced careers offering. Immunology researchers and graduates develop many skills and attributes over the course of their careers which are highly transferable and sought after by other sectors and by industry as well as academia. Nevertheless, it is a competitive environment that immunologists are in and many alternative careers such as science communications or publishing will be open to the whole of biosciences and a plethora of researchers and graduates. Availing of the careers support that the BSI offers is the ideal way for immunologists, especially at early career stages, to broaden horizons both beyond academia and within it.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic it is more important than ever to stand out from other applicants, and making the most of your BSI membership can help you achieve your career goals. Whether you want to remain in academia and use our new grants and schemes to help you take the next step or whether you want to shift into a different but related sector, the BSI is here to support and help you at every step of the way.


Eolan Healy
BSI Education & Careers Officer

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