Aisling Conlan took the UCD Graduate Certificate in Clinical & Translational Research at the UCD Clinical Research Centre in 2013. After graduation she went to work for ICON Plc, and from 2014 she has been enrolled in the MSc Clinical & Translational Research programme. Aisling is in the UCD Ad Astra Sports Academy and as of April 2016 is in training to compete for selection for the Irish Olympic Canoe Slalom team.
Here Aisling talks about her experience on the Graduate Certificate and also the MSc programme.
Why did you choose to do the Graduate Certificate?
I was interested in clinical trials – it is an interesting and unique industry, and I wanted to be at the forefront of medical research. It is interesting to see the progression of drugs through their development.
There weren’t many relevant courses available. I found the Graduate Certificate on the UCD website and it sounded fantastic, and because it was only 12 weeks I thought it would give me a good taster into the field.
Was it as you expected?
I didn’t realise how much we were going to learn! We got loads of great hands-on experience. I went in not knowing about clinical trials, e.g. the regulatory and ethics side, and I really learned a lot. Learning about the project management of trials was great – learning about monitoring, site visits etc. The guest lecturers were excellent. It was great to hear from PIs, and also from all the different roles at the CRC. Everyone was interested in helping us.
What was most useful about the Graduate Certificate course?
Asking questions of a CRA from Roche during a monitoring visit gave a very useful industry perspective. The time with the research nurses. Seeing it all being put into practice.
What have been some highlights?
The work placement at St Vincent’s University Hospital. I spent time with the research nurses and saw the ongoing trials. I got to see Diabetes and CF trials, saw patient visits and witnessed the kinds of conversations that researchers have with their patients.
Would you recommend this course to others?
It is absolutely fantastic. I have recommended it to others.
What was most useful about the MSc programme?
Thesis writing – writing protocols – this gave me a good flavour of every aspect of a clinical trial. It is perfect preparation to be a CTA / CTM.
Would you recommend the MSc course to others?
I would definitely recommend it. The part-time structure suited me very well as I could fit it in around my work.
Anything else to add?
One of the best decisions I ever made was to do the Graduate Certificate and then follow on to do the MSc. There are no other similar courses going in Europe that are of the same calibre. Dr Doran and Dr Wallace developed such a good relationship with us as individuals – they really taught us how to become excellent researchers.