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How Researchers in Paul Weiss’ Group Challenge Each Other

ACS Nano Editor-in-Chief Paul S. Weiss was a recent guest on an episode of the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s podcast, “Stories from the NNI.” During this wide-ranging interview, he discusses topics such as nanoscience’s status as an interdisciplinary field and the opportunities and challenges that come with working at the nexus of so many different disciplines. He shares what he’s learned about the field by editing a journal, and the potential for nonscientists to “impact the world beyond the nanoscale.” He also shares his hopes for the future of nano research, saying he’s surprised more emphasis hasn’t been placed on developing new tools than he expected  and adding that the new capabilities gained through better instrumentation could be the key to being able to study more complex systems.

Of course, interdisciplinary cooperation and innovation don’t just happen by themselves. So Weiss also shares how researchers in his group find ways to challenge each other. Since his group includes people from many different backgrounds, including some with medical degrees, they regularly hold “disease of the month” group meetings where a particular disease is highlighted and serves as a focal point for interdisciplinary collaboration around a common problem. “Those are very rich discussions,” he says, “Intellectually, they expand my, and our group members and collaborators, understanding of the impact we can have on the world and how what we do can take on important problems.

Click below to listen to audio from the interview:

Weiss is the UC Presidential Chair and distinguished professor of chemistry & biochemistry and of materials science & engineering at UCLA, and the founding Editor of ACS Nano. His work focuses on the ultimate limits of miniaturization in functional molecules, assemblies, and materials, the design and control of molecular and supramolecular assemblies, extending the capabilities of scanning probe microscopies, and adding a chemical dimension to nanolithography, among other pursuits. Read his research in ACS Publications journals.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its congressional authorization with a series of podcast episodes looking at the state of the industry with an expert in government, academia, or industry. The series is available on YouTube and all major podcast platforms.

ACS Publications’ Darla Henderson Talks About Preprints and the Future of Open Access

The peer review process is an important part of publishing scientific work, but it is not perfect. Work can be rejected by peer-reviewed journals simply because the research isn’t deemed important enough, while important scientific discoveries can be delayed from being announced to the world because of bottlenecks in the peer review process.

Preprint servers are one potential answer to this, and they are growing more important in an increasingly digital world. Preprint servers allow researchers to upload their preliminary findings and share them freely with other scientists before the work has gone through peer review.

Darla Henderson, Assistant Director and Publisher of Open Access Programs at ACS Publications, was recently interviewed on the Digital Science podcast about the role preprints play in chemistry today. Henderson has spent much of her career dealing with the publishing and access of information in the field of chemistry. She has been with ACS since 2008 and currently leads open access initiatives for the society.

Preprint servers are important because they make it easier to share information, Henderson said. Authors put in a great deal of research before they release anything they find, and preprints are part of that process.

“Preprints provide transparency. They show what it is that the author has done on his own and is ready to share. They also speed up the process by allowing the posting and the showing of findings earlier, and hopefully will lead to a more complex picture of the scientific process,” she told host Cameron Shepherd.

Open access journals are another way to show more of the scientific process by allowing the scientific community full access to the completed work. She said this could increase the visibility of the work, and help to increase understanding of science.

Earlier this year, ACS, with initial strategic input from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the German Chemical Society (GDCh) and other not-for-profit organizations, launched an open access preprint server for the chemistry community called ChemRxiv. It serves as a hub for preliminary work that has not been peer reviewed. ACS manages ChemRxiv on behalf of the chemistry community. ChemRxiv is powered by Figshare, an online digital repository for academic research.

“Our selection of Figshare was based on the fact that we felt that they offered a future solution that would enable scientists to have the broadest tool for communication,” Henderson said. “Figshare allows a large variety of file types to be submitted by the author, to be preserved through the triage process, and then be presented to the user in a viewer and for download of the original files at the end stage.”

The purpose of preprint servers like ChemRxiv is to speed up the researcher’s workflow and facilitate greater communication of findings within the scientific community, she adds.

Learn More About Preprints and ChemRxiv.

How to Be an Amazing Podcast Guest

So you were asked to be a podcast guest. What now? You want to make sure you’re adequately prepared for the interview so that it goes smoothly and you get your point across as effectively as possible. However, chances are this won’t be a long interview, and you’re going to have to be very concise and efficient with your answers. We reached out to some pros to learn their secrets for being a great podcast guest and delivering a great interview.

3 Tips to Be an Amazing Podcast Guest and Nail Your Interview:

Make Connections

First, if you haven’t committed to being a podcast guest and doing an interview yet, it’s important to realize that you should get your voice heard. Science is taking an increasingly important role in society, so scientists need to take opportunities to make connections and convey how these issues matter in the long run. Being a podcast guest is a great way to reach a new audience who may be unfamiliar with your work.

The expert says: “I think it’s really important for scientists to make an effort to have their voice heard, their opinions can be understood, and so they can help interpret the science in a correct and matter of fact way.” — Brent Gunnoe, Associate Editor of ACS Catalysis.

Do Your Research

Once you’ve agreed to the podcast interview, know the podcast before you go. Listen to at least one full episode before you’re featured on the show, so you know what to expect. Ask the host beforehand how much editing is done to the interviews on the show. Is the show recorded live to tape? This makes a big difference in determining your approach. Once you understand the format, you can start to hone your approach to fit the show.

The expert says: “It usually takes several iterations to get it right. And one of the problems with that is that unless it’s a big enough story, there aren’t enough iterations. And so sometimes you only have one shot at doing it. And so it’s important to spend some time thinking about how to do it in an accurate and also tasteful manner. And to make sure that it’s portrayed that way.” – Chad Mirkin, Associate Editor of Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Understand Your Audience

To prepare, you need to know who you’re preparing for. Either by asking the host, looking at comments, or figure out the demographics of the audience. This step will help you tailor your information to make your interview as successful as possible. If the audience is scientists in your field, you can use certain jargon the public may not understand. If the audience is not as familiar with the field, use modified vocabulary and tell a story to convey your message and research.

The expert says: “I think it would be talking in layman’s terms so that everyone can understand it. Once you start, you know, developing acronyms and throwing big words out there, people will just be overwhelmed and essentially just shut down in a way. So I think it’s really just portraying your message in a very simplistic and concise manner will really get your point across.” – Chris Witowski

Part of your preparation as a podcast guest should include summarizing your work in one sentence. Though your work is complex and has taken a lot of time, the podcast interview isn’t the place to get into the nitty-gritty details. Before the interview, create a one-sentence summary of the project you were invited to talk about.

The expert says: “How do you summarize the significance of what you’ve done in a very short statement because that’s what writers typically key on, that’s what people focus on. And if you have to take a paragraph or two to describe what you’ve done, you’re probably not going to get your point across.” – Chad Mirkin

Learn More About ACS Podcasts.

Honoring Future Leaders

ACS Publications’ polymer portfolio has a long history of serving the polymer science community. It is made up of three journals (Macromolecules, Biomacromolecules, and ACS Macro Letters), the oldest of which, Macromolecules, has been publishing for nearly 50 years.

To honor this legacy, while also recognizing the next generation of standard-bearers in the field, the Biomacromolecules/Macromolecules Young Investigator Award was established in 2013. It is a  collaboration between the journals and the ACS Division of Polymer Chemistry.  Each year, the award recognizes two rising stars who have made major impacts on the field of polymer science.

According to Macromolecules Editor-in-Chief, Tim Lodge, “Polymer science is a dynamic field, currently invigorated by major improvements in synthetic strategies, characterization tools, computer simulations, and theoretical understanding. This vitality is underscored by the large number of young scientists world-wide who are launching successful careers around fundamental polymer science and its applications. Accordingly, this award seeks to encourage and recognize international leaders among the next generation of polymer scientists.”

And in just 3 short years, the award has become one of the most sought-after recognitions for young researchers. Ann-Christine Albertsson, Editor-in-Chief of Biomacromolecules says, “The popularity and repute of this award is reflected in the quality of the nominations that are sent in each year and the winners who receive this honor. The journals consider this to be of great importance that the leaders of tomorrow be recognized as they will carry the torch and show the path to future discoveries and successes in the field.”

Nominees must be 40 years old or younger and have published at least one article in one of the three polymer journals in the past 2 years. A selection committee, made up of editors of the polymer journals and POLY Division representatives, carefully reviews and evaluates the nominations.

Who are these award winners?

In 2013, the inaugural recipients of this award were Raffaele Mezzenga, ETH Zurich and David Michael Lynn, University of Wisconsin–Madison. They were selected for their respective contributions to understanding self-assembly processes in polymers and the design and synthesis of biologically relevant polymers.

In 2014, Sébastien Perrier, University of Warwick and Zhiyuan Zhong, Soochow University were awarded for their research in living radical polymerizations and development of functional biodegradable polymers for therapeutic applications, respectively.

This year’s winners are Matthew Becker, University of Akron and Brent Sumerlin, University of Florida. Professor Becker was recognized for developing novel functional materials for biomedical applications and Prof. Sumerlin for his contributions to the application of polymers in preparing advanced materials for treatment of disease.

The award does not only highlight cutting-edge research in the field. It is also a way for researchers to grow their careers. Professor Zhong has since become an Associate Editor for Biomacromolecules and Professor Sumerlin is now an Associate Editor with ACS Macro Letters.

Putting the spotlight on top research

Young Investigator Award winners are honored with a $3,000 cash prize, plus $1,500 to travel to the fall ACS National Meeting. They’re also featured in the polymer journals’ monthly ACS Polymer Science Podcast. But the real honor for awardees is the symposium held in their honor at the ACS National Meeting. Both awardees present their latest research, along with distinguished invited speakers.

The Young Investigator Awards have more than accomplished their goal of raising the polymer journals’ profile and uniting this large, diverse community of chemists.

Learn more about the Biomacromolecules/Macromolecules Young Investigator Award and nominate a colleague in 2016.


Donor-Acceptor Polymers Special Issue and Podcast

In a special JACS Podcast, hear from Dr. Klaus Muellen, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, and Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society, on the importance of donor acceptor polymers and how research in this field can help solve for challenges in materials science and existing real word problems. Read the JACS Select issue, with articles from JACS, Accounts of Chemical Research, Chemistry of Materials and Macromolecules here or listen to the podcast.