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Graduate School of Life Sciences

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Researcher Development

What is Researcher Development?

Researcher Development (RD) can be tricky to define!  At its heart it encompasses all of the learning and development that you might wish to experience and acquire during your time in Cambridge.  If you wanted some examples these could include:

  • Personal Skills e.g. Leadership and Resilience
  • Professional Skills e.g. Presentation Skills and Time management
  • Career-related Skills e.g. Writing CVs and Interview Technique
  • Academic Skills e.g. Paper writing and Teaching
  • Entrepreneurial Skills e.g. Commercial Awareness and Innovation

But of course you will realise that they don't always fit into neat categories and there is a lot of overlap - having a good understanding of what makes a good leader can be useful in almost every part of your PhD and life as a whole!

So what do I need to develop?

It has been said that RD is about turning Cambridge people into real world people...  That is a bit tongue-in-cheek but it is a helpful reminder that RD is there to give you skills both today and for your future, whatever that may be!  

One helpful model for thinking about the areas you might need to develop is the Vitae Researcher Development Framework.  Have a look and ask yourself if you have been working on skills in all of the sections?  Some of those areas are naturally enhanced during the everyday business of conducting research in the lab or field, but others will need some help.

As a member of the University of Cambridge you can register for access on the Vitae Website to make use of all their resources.

Now what can I do?

There are lots of resources available to you in Cambridge to help with your RD needs.  These include both formal provision of training and opportunities that you can make for yourselves.  Remember, RD it isn't just about going on a course, it is about taking those skills and using them day by day to make you a more effective researcher.  That could mean setting up a writing group in your department to work together on your first year reports, or taking on the leadership role in arranging an interdisciplinary seminar to discuss new ideas in a field.

Researcher Development Programme - the central provision of RD training in the University is provided by the RDP.  These courses are often open to students and research staff from across all schools and cover a wide range of topics.

GSLS RD Activities - the GSLS funds its own set of RD activities both at a departmental and University wide level.  These are often more specific to Life Sciences.

University Libraries, Computing Service, Careers' Service etc. - there are many providers within the University that offer RD activities in areas that you might not initially realise need developing!


The contact point for Researcher Development issues for GSLS members is Dr Ben Murton who works with the GSLS to provide guidance to anyone interested in attending or organising RD activities for Life Sciences.  Please feel free to with any questions or comments.