Academic Research

If you’re keen on getting into academic research but don’t know quite where to start, look no further. We reached out to Dr Tom Turmezei for some tips on how to hit the ground running in the realm of radiological research. As well as having an impressive academic track record, Tom is the creator and host of RCR podcast The CRASH!, a series all about Clinical Radiology Academics Speaking Honestly. His research looks at how CT can be used to craft 3D images of joints for diagnosing and monitoring osteoarthritis.  

Have a read of his 5 top tips below! 

TIP 1. Identify a problem area in which you feel you can make a difference: 

“During the course of my training I became aware of how radiographs weren’t doing enough to track structural changes in osteoarthritis accurately. Then I noticed that radiographs weren’t always reliably reported and saw how this could really impact on patient care down the line.  

Observations from my clinical experiencemade me feel like this was a research problem worthwhile solving! Being able to assess disease progression sensitively and reliably in osteoarthritis can enable better detection and stratification of patients, thus optimising clinical trial outcomes. 

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Since it is now possible to image the weight bearing joint with low-dose CT, my research has shown that CT can outperform X-rays with its ability to depict mineralised joint structures in 3D. Being able to quantitatively assess joints in this way could enable clinical disease prediction and possibly even new therapy development.” 

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TIP 2. Never too early, never too late:   

“I only really got into hunting down research projects towards the end of my speciality training. For aspiring radiologists and academics, it is important to realise that whilst maximising all relevant opportunities early on is important, it is never too late to step into research.

There will always be something going on for you to get involved with, you just need to be savvy and proactive about pursuing it when you come across an opportunity. Also look for a good mentor to help you with this journey.” 

TIP 3. Make the most out of what you find:   

“Working on a research topic that isn’t directly aligned to your interests can still pave the way for unforeseen avenues aheadFor this reason, you should try to get the most out of the projects that are available to you at a given time and remember that the skills you end up building will nearly always be transferable. 

Of course, it is still important to work on something that you enjoy and to work with a supervisor that wants the best for you! 

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TIP 4.  Careers are like champagne glasses: 

“To convey my thoughts about academic career development, I’d like to use the analogy given by one of my favourite authors, Iain M. Banks. When asked about his fantastically intricate plots, readers often think that creating such work must be mind-bendingly difficult.

Similarly, successful careers in academia can be seen as quite intimidating and impossible to follow from the outside. But the way to think about it is to picture the structure of a champagne glass – you begin by forming and honing

a particular focus, the stem, and as you progress with your research, things eventually open out and diverge naturally like the bowl of the glass – but this can be over years. The networks you create and the opportunities you create will feedback to you and chances to take on more diverse work will eventually emerge.  

TIP5. Embrace being geographically limitless: 

“The pandemic has meant that swathes of research meetings and academic conferences have been moved to virtual events. For people starting out, this serves as an unmatchable chance to avoid expensive international attendance fees and access a wider array of research events online.

Now that geography is not a barrier, those hoping to get into research should squeeze as much networking potential as possible from the influx of online experts gathering on screen!”.

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In summary, establishing an academic foundation is a stepwise process and juniors should not be overwhelmed, rather see it as a journey where you accumulate experience.” 

We hope you find Tom’s insights helpful in making steps towards research in Radiology.   –   Disclaimer: Dr Tom Turmezei is a Consultant Radiologist in Norwich, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia and has no affiliation with nor received any payments from Hexarad Ltd. Twitter: @tomturmezei.