Shubham Atal is an international student from India earning his MSc Clinical Research.
The program I am pursuing here at NUIG is the Masters (MSc) in Clinical Research. It is offered as a 1 year full time taught course for international students while it’s also available as a 2 year part time course for Irish students. Clinical research is the branch of healthcare science that determines the safety and effectiveness (efficacy) of medications, devices, diagnostic products and treatment regimens intended for human use, through conduction of interventional / observational studies.
This course is for candidates who wish to move into professional roles in the domain of clinical research in industry or develop as researchers in academia. The course is delivered by the HRB Clinical Research Facility, Galway. The HRB-CRFG is a joint venture between the Health Research Board Ireland, the Saolta University Health Care Group and the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). The course has a very nicely structured curriculum and an ideal duration of 1 year, which was a perfect fit for me trying to switch from an academic to a more clinical research oriented career. The format of compulsory and elective additional modules offers great flexibility.
The MSc Clinical Research was established in 2010 and till date has produced 49 graduates who have gone on to utilise their skills successfully in various domains of clinical research and healthcare. This was the first course of its type in Ireland and remains one of the very few courses of its kind across Europe with handful of universities in UK and a couple more in mainland Europe offering such 1 year training in clinical research for international students. It has acquired a national and international reputation with ever increasing numbers of applicants since its launch. There are 34 students currently registered, both full time and part time, to the program from a variety of backgrounds.
The objective of the course is to provide education and training to a community of professionals who will enable to enhance Ireland’s reputation as an upcoming major player in the global clinical research scene. Developments are still ongoing in the field, but opportunities are opening. It wouldn’t hurt if you had prior experience though, in terms of job opportunities in Ireland after a course like this.
Typical backgrounds from which students come in the course are: Medical/Surgical (50%), Biomedical science, Life Sciences, Pharmacy, Nursing, R&D (Industry), Healthcare, Education. Typical roles that graduates can go into after the course are: Clinical Prinicipal Investigator, Trial Monitoring/Clinical Research Administration, Research Nursing, Research Pharmacy, Data Management, Quality and Regulatory affairs, Education, Pharmacovigilance, Project Coordination/Management.
Students are required to complete three compulsory modules and choose from a basket of elective modules to make up a total of 90 ECTS credits including the 30 ECTS MSc thesis. The thesis is to be completed over the 1 year period and submitted at the end of the course. In choosing a thesis topic, interests of the students are taken into consideration well, attempting to match them with supervisors in their choice of research areas.
The modules covered in the course range from basics of medical research like fundamentals of health research, ethics, basic biostatistics to a wider spectrum of elective modules like advanced biostatistics, observational research methods, clinical trials, systematic reviews, translational medicine, clinical research administration, and even ‘wider perspective’ topics like economic evaluations, project management, database development. The first semester is mostly comprised of the 3 core modules, with choices of additional 2-3 modules available. So, in that sense, the second semester can be considered quite loaded with most elective modules to be chosen from and the thesis work expected to initialize.
The course has a blended learning format wherein there are modules ‘taught’ conventionally, or ‘discussed’ or offered completely / partially in online mode. So, quite a bit of self-learning is expected, along with different kinds of assignments, which is a unique enriching experience in itself. It may require some ‘getting used to’ if you come from education systems based on didactic and proper classroom learning. The course is expected to move further towards an online delivery platform. The faculties involved in delivering the modules are very accomplished in their respective fields. Professor Martin O’Donnell who is the Program Director is a very well renowned figure in the field of vascular medicine and stroke.
Another beneficial aspect is that there are opportunities to participate in clinical research activities in the HRB-CRFG, gaining hands on experience and thereby providing students with greater opportunities in the future, having delved into the real-life setting of clinical research and associated activities. These opportunities come in form of part time paid internships / jobs and volunteer research assistantships. For the paid profiles, it is usually expected to have relevant prior work experience.
To sum up, this Master’s program is a great platform if you are looking to launch or further your career in healthcare research in industry or academia. The learning atmosphere at NUIG is stimulating and encourages you to indulge in reading, learning, discussing, analysing the nuances of the field. I would gladly recommend it to people who wish to explore opportunities to develop in clinical research in Ireland and globally.