We’ve launched the ‘Researcher Spotlight’ series to shine a light on the work and varied career journeys of the researchers who publish with us. We want researchers to be able to share their own personal stories and help others draw inspiration and extract learnings that can serve as a guide for the next steps in their own careers. These interviews will provide insights and advice from researchers in different career stages and fields, from those who are just getting started in research to more experienced researchers.
In our first interview, we invite Cecilia Zumajo, a PhD candidate at the New York Botanical Garden and the City University of New York, working in seed evolution and development, to share the most effective ways she has been working with her supervisor, her career aspirations, and the challenges she has faced so far.
To select the journal that best fits to our data, we have established a methodology. We approach the subject by browsing different databases and journals for recently published articles that are similar with our topic and results. Once this first filter has been established, to select the journal, we assess the scope and aims of journals.
It is important for me to continue in this momentum of learning to broaden my knowledge, to acquire new techniques, to better establish my future as a scientist.
For this, after my PhD, I will be moving to a post-doctoral position in a relatively similar field but working with different species and using different approaches and with innovative tools in scientific research.
I think publishers could highlight the work of early career scientists. Graduate students and post docs are usually first authors, having done most of the experimental work and writing the paper submitted for publication. In general, these papers are often the result of outstanding research that publishers could highlight, opening new sections in their journal websites to bring out this type of papers.
One of the biggest challenges for me has been writing, from the manuscript to the cover letter sent to the editor. Besides the fact that the text must be organized, it must translate the methods and findings in an understandable and impactful way. Writing is one of the most important tasks of a scientist, however, there are few or no courses that teach this skill of writing scientific text. I believe that to deal with this lack of writing practice, early scientists need to be consistent and set clear writing goals and rewrite their papers as necessary without getting demoralized on the first try. Sometimes a publication is more about the way the data is presented, the quality of the text, than the quantity. The writing should be clear and should show how important the results are.
In line with the above,
I would recommend my younger self to recognize the importance of writing and pay more attention to this skill.
It is undeniable that for researchers, publications are important to make their work and results known to open job opportunities. If in sciences the passion for what is done prevails, a manuscript is the concretization of knowledge, the fruit of passionate work, often carried out in the solitude of a laboratory, transmitted to readers though its publication.
Currently, I am a PhD candidate at the New York Botanical Garden and the City University of New York, mainly working in seed evolution and development in the first plant extant lineages where seeds evolved (gymnosperms, like pine trees) in order to better understand the genes underlying the vast diversity of seed shapes.