Research Matters

In 1973, Sir Peter Mansfield used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to image soft tissue for the first time.

Jump ahead to 2010 and, because of this research, MRI scanners are now being used in hospitals around the world, and researchers are continuing to develop MRI techniques including improving breast screening and speeding up diagnoses.

Though I am a literature specialist, I work with a clinical neurologist and his team, using MRI to understand what happens in the brain when we read complicated texts such as poems. Knowing this may help patients with severe reading disorders, and it may help us understand why poetry and song is so important for millions worldwide.

Research has an impact on all our lives. Whether it is an invention that makes our lives better, or a breakthrough in experimental science that leads to more questions about the origins of the universe, research is important.

Are you currently at university and entering your final year of study but feel that a year is not enough time to explore your particular discipline? Would you like to delve deeper into the depths of research? Then read on. Whether you are an artist, a chemist, an engineer, a biologist, a physicist or a social scientist, Research Councils UK (RCUK) should be on your radar.

We are responsible for investing nearly £3bn a year in the best of British research, and fund around 35,000 people in UK universities and higher education institutions. We support people from the beginning of their research careers through to the apex of their achievements. There is often a misconception that research happens in remote places, by white-coated people in laboratories or by academics in libraries festooned with cobwebs sealed off from the world. This could not be further from the truth. Researchers in the UK are some of the best in the world, engaged with real-life problems, such as responding to pandemic flu, and working hard to achieve excellence through the application of their discoveries.

If you consider Britain’s assets - what we are good at and what we can export - we are no longer the industrial power of old. One of Britain’s major resources today is brainpower. This is the key to helping us find solutions to the problems facing the UK, and will help us move out of the economic downturn and drive future prosperity. We need to capitalise on the talent of people in the UK who, through their research, are making a real difference to society. RCUK does just that by investing in excellence - excellent people and excellent research.

Research can lead you into a variety of career paths, and not necessarily those linked directly to your discipline. Dr Liza Brooks created one of the UK’s largest snowboard companies during her PhD in engineering. She is just one example of a researcher who has used their expertise to have a direct impact. Riders on her boards have won more medals at the British Championships than those on other boards for two years running.

RCUK is the partnership of the UK’s seven research councils which cover a full spectrum of subjects. They are the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Each supports researchers in their own domain, and collectively they work to encourage researchers to work across disciplines.

Over the next few months, this column will explain more about the benefits of a research career and how you can apply for funding from RCUK. It will also explore each of the research councils in turn, giving an insight into how they support researchers in their areas.

More information about RCUK can be found at www.rcuk.ac.uk

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture