I spoke to the lovely Melissa who is in her fifth year of medicine and Arif in his fourth year of medicine about their Project Leader roles in the Student-Led Project called  AcaMedics.

Which project do you lead? Tell us a little about it

Melissa: We are both project leaders for AcaMedics and the aim of this student-led project is to make research more accessible to medical students. We aim to foster students’ interest in research by offering high-quality projects and we present an opportunity for students to build their profiles and develop critical research skills

Tell us about your Project Leader role

Arif: We mainly oversee the daily running of AcaMedics as well as the key strategies to improve the outcomes from the previous year. This includes how we will market the project and how we will recruit volunteers.

Why did you want to become a Project Leader?

Melissa: So, for me it is twofold, so in my previous years I had done AcaMedics as a student, then I went on the next year to be one of the project coordinators. From experiencing both roles, I knew that I had a lot of ideas of how we could make the project more streamlined and cohesive. But for the leadership aspect of the role, I think I wanted to show people that there are different types of leadership as I am an introvert. I wanted to show as an introvert I can multitask, and I could still lead a team and implement new ideas to a really good extent.

Arif: Similar to Melissa, I was previously involved as a researcher and then in the same year as Melissa I was a project coordinator, so I just thought it seemed like a natural progression. So, prior to AcaMedics I had done a few human resources roles that aren’t medically related, and I really enjoyed the recruitment and development side of things. So, I thought AcaMedics was a good way to develop both interests (research and human resources).

What difference do you feel you’ve made by leading your project?

Arif : It is difficult to say because a lot of the differences we have made we see further down the line. But we hope we sort of plant the seed. We did see some of the difference we made at the end of May. The feedback we get is super positive and we get volunteers stating this was their first exposure to research. We also owe it a lot to the supervisors, individual doctors, and researchers we have reached out to. A lot of students say they want to go back and do more research. We have also managed to get some students to be published in publications.

What impact has volunteering, and leading a project had on you?

Melissa: It has really inspired me seeing students taking their first step into the research world. Just seeing their passion, dedication to research has forested my own.

How has the research conducted had an impact on the community external to UCL?

Arif: Students have gone on to publish in scientific journals or present at national and international conferences. We hope all these contributions have an impact beyond our UCL community and within the wider scientific community.

It is a great opportunity to hone the skills you already have and develop the ones you didn’t know you had

How has your network developed whilst being a Project Leader?

Arif: I I would say it hasn’t developed my networks that much because we are not as forward facing as we used to be. But when me and Melissa were working as speciality coordinators and reaching out to the doctors, I think for me that is when I developed my networks and I have gotten opportunities outside of AcaMedics, you know as I am able to meet people.

Melissa: In terms of networking as a project leader, it is more networking within the medical schools, so I would meet the younger years and I would find out about research opportunities both academically and externally.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered? How did you overcome this challenge?

Arif:  Sometimes it is to do with engagement with volunteers, we had a good number of volunteers and when a volunteer would disengage, we would then effectively delegate peoples work with in the team. It also works both sides, engagement in terms of researchers or supervisors who are difficult to reach as well, and that is when the student will reach out to us.

Melissa: Timing is everything and we wanted to implement so many things, especially from the feedback from the previous academic cycle. But just the way how our processes are structured, and we had a lot of internal deadlines to meet, we found it quite hard to implement all the ideas we wanted to. How we overcame this was we sat down together, and we looked at our goals and what we wanted to achieve by year end.

Tell us something memorable that’s happened to you whilst being a Project Leader?

Melissa: All my time being a project leader it has been through this online world, so at times it can feel quite disengaging. However, I was on campus one day and I bumped into a volunteer that I had interviewed, and they went on to an AcaMedics project. They were just so very happy and so grateful. I remember feeling in that moment that AcaMedics had really helped someone and made a difference as cheesy as that sounds.

Arif: I really like interviewing and I think a lot of them have always been grateful for the work we do and that makes it worthwhile. At least we know what we are doing is helping someone.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone thinking about being a Project Leader?

Arif: Very cliché but if you are thinking about becoming a project leader then just apply! It is a very fun and fulfilling role and you learn so much from doing it. If you are already a project leader, then use your time wisely.

Melissa: Just go for it, it is a great opportunity to hone the skills you already have and develop the ones you didn’t know you had.

Want to start your own Student-led Volunteering Project? Find out more and share your ideas with us here!