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SciMeetings Spotlight: Torsten John

This interview is part of a series highlighting exceptional chemists who have shared their conference poster or presentation through SciMeetings. Launched by ACS Publications as a virtual science sharing platform in March 2020, SciMeetings helps presenters increase the global visibility and extend the longevity of the research they present at conferences.

Torsten John is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the MIT Department of Biological Engineering. Below he discusses his presentation  ‘Impact of nanostructured surfaces on the aggregation of amyloidogenic peptides‘ from the ACS Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting.

What’s your research focus? What attracted you to this field?

I am a biophysical and computational chemist and study the self-assembly behavior of biomolecules in solution and at interfaces, such as cell membranes or nanoparticles. In my Ph.D. research at the Leibniz Institute of Surface Engineering (IOM) in Leipzig (Germany) and at Monash University in Melbourne (Australia), my studies focused on peptide aggregation processes in the context of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. In particular, I was interested in how nanostructured surfaces influence peptide adsorption and aggregation when they interact. For my Postdoc research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the U.S., I apply my knowledge and experience from my Ph.D. to design 2D and 3D self-assembled DNA nanostructures. I have always been excited to understand biomolecules and biomolecular processes at a molecular level and then use that knowledge to design biomaterials or strategies to combat disease.

Who are your mentors? How have they impacted your work so far?

I have been working in several research groups and thus benefited from the mentoring by many researchers. The most important people in my academic career have been my Ph.D. advisors Professor Bernd Abel (Leipzig, Germany), Associate Professor Lisandra L. Martin (Melbourne, Australia), and Assistant Professor Jelger Risselada (Göttingen, Germany). While I was enrolled as a Ph.D. student in Germany, I spent more than one year of my research time in Australia. This trained my communication skills and planning as well as coordination of my project between my advisors. The most helpful advice has been critical feedback on both my ideas and manuscript drafts, as well as the design of future research directions.

Where did you get the idea for the research presented in your talk?

At the ACS Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting, I presented a talk with the main results from my Ph.D. research on the ‘Impact of nanostructured surfaces on the aggregation of amyloidogenic peptides.’ The initial idea for this research was a combination of my interests in studying amyloid peptide aggregation and an existing DFG project that my supervisor (Professor Bernd Abel) was working on. In addition, the research was further specified in collaboration with my advisor in Australia (Associate Professor Lisandra L. Martin), particularly in the direction of peptide-membrane interactions. The goal was to understand how nanoparticles influence peptide aggregation at a molecular level, and thus potentially disease development. Nanoparticles are part of several cosmetics and exhaust fumes, and their impact on health has not been fully understood.

What do you think is the most important unsolved problem in your field right now?

In the context of peptide aggregation, many studies have been performed to study the molecular processes of folding, misfolding, and aggregation into amyloid fibrils, as well as to identify the toxic species. However, it is still very unclear whether amyloid fibrils and amyloidogenic peptides, in general, are the cause of disease or whether their aggregation is a side effect of the disease-causing process.

What advice would you give to anyone presenting a poster or talk for the first time?

I can only advise you to always present your research when you attend a conference or meeting and start doing that early on in your career. Like with many other things in life, it takes time and practice to master your communication skills. Thus, I recommend preparing it several weeks in advance of the first poster talk, even if that means you cannot present the most recent results. This provides enough time to revise it and obtain feedback from colleagues in practice presentations at, e.g., a group meeting. Several resources can be found online.

Is there added value in presenting your research on SciMeetings?

While I value the in-person exchange at physical conferences and meetings, SciMeetings enables researchers from all over the world without the need to travel access to your presentation. Further, it can be viewed at an individual time independent of the time zone, and it is available in the future so that you can direct collaborators or others to your past work.

Explore more research on SciMeetings and learn more about benefits for presenters. Interested in presenting your conference material? Join us for #ACSSpring2021, taking place online April 5-30. Register now and submit your abstract. Then, visit the Registration Resource Center to add SciMeetings on to your registration.

Present Beyond the Meeting with SciMeetings from ACS

Scientific conferences present researchers with a paradox. On the one hand, they’re great places to network and share your work. On the other hand, events limit your audience to the people attending that conference. Once the conference is over, your presentation practically vanishes. The American Chemical Society is looking to change that with the introduction of SciMeetings.

SciMeetings is a platform for showcasing scientific presentations and posters, created by ACS in partnership with the proven technology of Morressier. SciMeetings allows you to create a citable digital record of your work and share it with a global digital audience through a searchable, indexed, free-to-access portal from the most trusted name in chemical sciences.

This service is intended to provide a timely option for presenters and conference organizers of meetings postponed, delayed or canceled, such as the ACS Spring 2020 National Meeting & Expo, that was to be held in Philadelphia, PA. ACS is adopting SciMeetings for the more than 14,000 posters and talks that were scheduled for this event.

Here’s what you get when you share your work via SciMeetings:

  • Citability: Your abstract, poster, or presentation will become part of the scientific record when it’s assigned its own unique digital object identifier (DOI). This means your work can be cited by others, even before you’ve published it in a journal. The DOI also serves as a legal marker for future patents and trademarks, so your work won’t be scooped by the competition.
  • Searchability: Your work will be indexed and searchable through the ACS Publications platform, which attracts more than 150 million downloads per year. Now you won’t have to rely on your social network to get your research noticed.
  • Shareability: The research will be free-to-read for everyone around the world, under a CCBY-NCND license. That means your work will be compliant with Plan S funder mandates, and you’ll reach an even bigger audience. Your next employer, funder, or collaborator could learn about your work through SciMeetings.

Plus, you’ll be able to:

  • Track how many times your work is viewed, downloaded, or bookmarked
  • Tag your research with related keywords to enhance discoverability
  • Access work remotely, across a range of display settings for viewing online or during an in-person presentation
  • Include features you couldn’t incorporate into a traditional poster, such as animations, video and audio clips
  • Set up an author page with your bio, photo, and ORCID ID
  • Share seamlessly through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook
  • Host virtual poster session Q&As once the feature is implemented in May/June of 2020

SciMeetings is now available for content submission to those whose posters or presentations were accepted for dissemination at the ACS Spring National Meeting in Philadelphia.