Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Materials Girl: Publishing perils

[Posted on behalf of Materials Girl, who would again like to blame the editor for the title]

It’s amazing how long the process takes to obtain [publishable] data, write an intelligible manuscript, and make it through peer review. Many moons ago as a new grad student, I did HR-TEM & EDS for some chaps at another school – a submitted paper had returned with the reviewers demanding better characterization. They were collaborating with YouKnowWho, so as the new and semi-projectless group member my task was to become the microscopy girl… The updated paper was re-submitted about a year ago, and the other PI graciously added me as third author (of seven). Today I was forwarded the following rather cryptic email:

“It’s been a long strange road for this paper but at last it has found a home with [journal]. Thank you all for your hard work and patience. I’ve never had an experience like this before with a manuscript but it’s over now.” -the other PI. (YKW didn’t respond to question about what the issues were, so I am left to assume that it isn’t important.)

So what’s the moral of the story? I have no idea, I’m just happy to finally have something in my resume’s Publications section! My other papers – the legitimate ones as first author – are in draft form on my Desktop to be glanced at guiltily. YKW seems surprisingly relaxed for a professor going up for tenure soon! The only difference in his demeanour is a slightly higher sense of urgency to publish. Notably, for the past week we’ve been hashing a recent manuscript back and forth, using new data from my recent conference presentation. (Speaking of which, I had my first bona fide talk last month! Merciless grilling by YKW on slide formatting and my speaking resulted in a lot of stress, a little bit of sleep, and a nice cash award – compliments of [sponsoring company]. I’m not complaining.)

Over the last few months it finally feels like I’m a real grad student. I’ve written abstracts, made presentations, cursed at PowerPoint, worked on publications, and run around doing labwork/characterization; in between there’s been TAing, being “Lab Mom” to our 8 or so undergrads, running a new student chapter of a national society*, and putting off my own homework/studying/manuscripts to write occasional blog posts. This is normal, right?

*one of YKW’s side projects that was bestowed on me (likely to pad his resume for tenure, but you didn’t hear me say that)

Once in a while I step back and realize that a) I volunteered for this, b) I’m getting a[n insultingly low] stipend, c) I have the freedom to take breaks and procrastinate to my heart’s content. According to one of my professors, the smart people procrastinate because they can get away with it. I’ll take his word for it. Life as a minion isn’t so bad – then I remember that this is just my ridiculous 3-year Master’s, and the road to a PhD is ahead. Oh crap/hooray.


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