Science Foundation Ireland is pleased to launch the Science Foundation Ireland Fellowship Programme. This programme aims to provide successful candidates with the opportunity to develop their career through experiencing first-hand, the diversity of activities carried out by a funding agency.

Science Foundation Ireland is keen to be part of a framework that can enable researchers to seek and secure diverse career opportunities in areas such as industry, research funding and administration, public administration and Government affairs. For those individuals interested in these types of careers, the Fellowship Programme will provide an opportunity to develop key skills which may assist them in securing these types of roles.

Science Foundation Ireland’s Fellowship will be making awards to suitable candidates who wish to gain experience in a number of areas across the organisation. These awards are for a period of up to 2 years and afford a great opportunity to the holder to gain some experience of working in a research funding organisation. In addition to the experience gained through the Programme there is also a comprehensive training plan for all Fellows and opportunities to work with a mentor.

SFI Fellowship Programme Experiences

The SFI Fellowship Programme has proved very successful and, on conclusion, all fellows have secured excellent positions within international funding agencies, research offices, academia and industry. Click below to hear from some previous and current SFI Fellows about their experience with the Programme:

Dr Kate Killick

Senior Scientific Writer, Novartis

"Having the experience of an SFI Fellowship on my CV has been looked upon very favourably by employers"

 

Tell us about your Fellowship at SFI

I undertook a Fellowship at SFI from 2017 to 2019. During this time I was on the Enterprise Partnerships Team where I worked mainly on the SFI Industry Fellowship Programme. I managed the programme call document, secured a virtual panel of reviewers and prepared review summaries for a group of proposals from this call.

During my Fellowship I also had an opportunity to work on several other funding programmes.

What skills did you gain during your fellowship?

During my Fellowship I gained many skills, in particular improved written and oral communication skills. I had the opportunity to represent SFI at several external events including career events at Universities, where I discussed opportunities for early career researchers within Ireland.

Another key skill I gained during my Fellowship is teamwork, as liaising closely with other teams within the organisation is vital, as well as the ability to work to tight deadlines.

What impact did this experience have on your career?

Having the experience of an SFI Fellowship on my CV has been looked upon very favourably by employers in particular with regards to scientific writing, communication skills and project management experience, which have been very important in my current role.

My Fellowship at SFI was a great experience and I would encourage anyone who is interested to apply!

Dr Claire McDonald

Programme Manager at CU Innovations, University of Colorado

"It boosted my career prospects, and gave me opportunities I don’t believe I would have had otherwise"

 

What did you work on during your fellowship at SFI?

I joined SFI in 2015 and worked on many funding investigator-led programmes at pre-award stage.

I had the chance to join the Gender, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee. As part of this group, I had the opportunity to spearhead the development of the policy to require applicants to consider sex and gender variables in their research. That was my proudest accomplishment during my fellowship.

What impact did this experience have on your career?

It boosted my career prospects, and gave me opportunities I don’t believe I would have had otherwise. It demonstrated career opportunities outside of the traditional academic scientist path. This ‘alternate’ science path is much more suited to my skillset.

How has the fellowship helped you obtain your new role?

It gave me the project management background and experience needed in my new role. I have the kudos of having worked in a government agency that benchmarks itself to international standards – I think this is well regarded no matter where you want to go.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying?

Go for it! Be willing to lean in to all opportunities thrown your way in this position. Remember to continue looking out for job prospects after you get the position – the 2 years pass by quickly.

Dr Laura Mackey

Project Officer, National Office for Research Ethics Committees

"I have gained new skills that will open up a range of career opportunities to me in the future"

 

Tell us about your Fellowship at SFI

I started working as a fellow in December 2019 and was placed with the Research Policy Team. I supported my team in a number of diverse areas related to research policy and governance, such as Open Science and Research Integrity, development of Grant Terms and Conditions, and implementing SFI’s Gender Strategy. My day to day work was always interesting and very rewarding.

I was interested in the fellowship programme as it provided an opportunity for me to experience a career outside of academia and over the last year or so, I have gained new skills that will open up a range of career opportunities to me in the future.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying?

If you are looking for new opportunities, then I would highly recommend the fellowship programme. If possible, talk to a staff member in SFI to get an idea of the organisation and the type of work that you might be doing. Also, keep in mind how you would like the fellowship to help shape your future career endeavours when completing your application.

What skills will you take with you after your fellowship?

I have a greater understanding of the various roles and responsibilities involved in working in a funding agency and more generally in research administration. The type of work is more fast-paced and project orientated, and I have gained a number of new skills and experience as a result.

For me though, the fellowship has shone a light on the range of skills that I already have from working as a researcher (we wear many hats!), and I now have experience in applying these transferable skills to different environments. Also, I am more aware of where my own strengths and interests lie, which will influence how I approach future roles.

Shane O' Reilly

Assistant Lecturer in Chemistry, IT Sligo

"For an academic researcher, the SFI Fellowship provides an excellent insight into another component, or ‘actor’, within the national research and innovation system..."

Tell us about your Fellowship at SFI

I worked with the Strategy Team, under Peter Clifford. I worked closely with many other teams in SFI and several external stakeholders over the years while at SFI.

What projects did you work on?

There are too many to mention! I mainly worked on the reporting and monitoring requirements for SFI’s strategic plan, Agenda 2020, and the reporting requirements for SFI’s input to several national strategies (the primary one being Innovation 2020). I was also heavily involved in the design and implementation of a comprehensive stakeholder consultation to develop SFI’s new strategy for 2021-2025. This launched in March 2021 and involved significant research, data analysis, synthesis and dissemination going back to 2018. I was also involved in several projects with the Communications team, including delivering several annual SFI Summits, delivering external publications (e.g., Annual reports, infographics) and in improving processes and procedures within the agency.

What skills did you gain during your fellowship?

I think the main learnings and skills were around internal and external stakeholder engagement, and the different strategies, demands and perspectives to be considered depending on who you are dealing with. This extends to the production of data and dissemination of findings in different formats: there is a lot to consider in relation to the audience you are targeting and what they want and need to gain understanding of. For the strategy team - taking a long-term view - a lot of the work was about getting buy-in to new initiatives and fostering change. In summary, the main skills I gained were around stakeholder management and engagement and change management.

What impact did this experience have on your career?

For an academic researcher, the SFI Fellowship provides an excellent insight into another component, or ‘actor’, within the national research and innovation system. Each actor has different needs, issues, viewpoints and biases. I feel that this fellowship has given me insight and perspective on this, where most academic researchers will not have that insight. The 2+ years in the fellowship was great but it also highlighted to me that I simply love ‘doing’ research and teaching science. I can bring a lot of these experiences forward to help senior management and my colleagues in IT Sligo.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying?

Firstly, map out the project management, administrative skills and stakeholder management skills you have; they will be important to get the fellowship in the first place! Secondly, timelines can be tight and you may have little control over high-level aspects of a project or task - just relax, accept it and enjoy it! Thirdly, just say yes and volunteer to the opportunities that arise. Fourthly, your insights, opinion and work on a project will be vital - voice them! Finally, it is a great learning experience and stepping stone to good careers in the public sector; try to map out the next step in your career within the first 12 months and work towards filling in any CV gaps with your line manager.

How has the fellowship helped you obtain your new role?

It definitely helped get me my permanent lecturing position. I would note that the route I took after the fellowship is the minority but I kept research collaborations active and research publications during my time in SFI. In the interview for my current role, I found I could talk at length and in detail about the trends, issues and developments at the national and international level for scientific research, higher education and research policy. I could also showcase my administrative and diverse stakeholder engagement skills. This all impressed the interview panel and went well with my research and teaching CV.

Louise Rocks

Scientific Programme Manager, Science Foundation Ireland

" I have a greater understanding of the Irish research ecosystem and developed a network of key national stakeholders"

Tell us about your Fellowship at SFI

I joined SFI as a Fellow in 2014 to work with the Research Centres team.  My day-to-day activities during my almost two years with the team were always varied and interesting including evaluation of research outputs from awards; reviewer sourcing and preparation of briefing materials for site visits; reviewing reporting requirements, guidelines and ensuring compliance and developing case studies to illustrate the impact of SFI’s investments in STEM. 

I also took ownership of the data analysis aspect of the Research Centres programme, acting as point of contact for Research Centre Administrators, Researchers and Research Body staff: addressing queries, performing general troubleshooting and providing guidance and training and improving the consistency and reliability of the data reported by SFI.

I also had the opportunity to work with other teams from across the organisation, using my scientific expertise to drive SFI’s engagement with H2020 Nanomedicine ERA-Net, writing review summaries of proposals and participating in panel reviews for the Individual -Led programmes and assisting with cleaning, validating and analysing data for the SFI Research Outputs.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying?

The Personal Statement is a great opportunity for you to show who you are why you are a great fit for this fellowship.  Think about the elements of your CV that set you apart from other candidates and why the fellowship is important to you and how you see it helping with your career progression.

What skills have you taken with you after your fellowship?

The Fellowship was a great opportunity to, not only get an insight into the diverse workings of a funding agency and SFI-funded Research Centres, but also expand my skill sets and my network. I have a greater understanding of the Irish research ecosystem and developed a network of key national stakeholders.  I have built upon many existing skills sets, including communication, project management, problem solving etc. which will be transferable to wherever my career takes me.  But maybe most importantly, I have grown in confidence and feel I have a much clearer idea of where I want to be in 10 years’ time, and how to get there.

Hannah Dunne

Education and Public Engagement Fellow, Science Foundation Ireland

"I have a greater understanding of both the Irish research landscape and the education and public engagement landscape in Ireland. I’ve developed collaboration and creativity skills..."

Tell us about your Fellowship at SFI

My role is on the Education and Public Engagement team, working mainly on the Discover Primary Science and Maths (DPSM) programme and I also work on the team for Science Week. The DPSM programme focuses on engaging primary school students with STEM in an enjoyable and interactive way. I assist with the day to day running of the programme, from developing resources for teachers to use in their classrooms to working on the Discover Science and Maths awards. Seeing the amazing STEM work going on in schools across the country is really inspiring and rewarding! For Science Week I managed the development of a series of classroom resources for both primary and secondary schools.  

I also had the opportunity to project manage the STEAM Art Collaboration, which involved pairing five artists with SFI researchers to create artworks interpreting a scientific concept. These artworks were presented in a virtual exhibition to engage and inspire primary school students and their communities. This was a really exciting project to work on and one of the highlights of my fellowship so far! 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying?

I would recommend having a look at the SFI website to get a feel for the kind of work taking place within the organisation before applying and if you can chat to a staff member in SFI beforehand that would be really helpful too. I would highly recommend the fellowship programme to anyone looking to gain new experience! Within the programme I would recommend saying yes to any opportunities that come your way to get the most out of your fellowship. 

What skills have you taken with you after your fellowship?

I’ve developed a lot of new skills during the fellowship and I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects during my time here. I have a greater understanding of both the Irish research landscape and the education and public engagement landscape in Ireland. I’ve developed collaboration and creativity skills, as well as stakeholder management. Working across multiple projects has also helped me to build on my project management and time management skills. 

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