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  • AdviceonChoosingResearchTopicsandWritingTechnicalPapers

    (Adviceforstudentsandnewfaculty)

    BruceE.LoganPenn State University

    EngineeringEnergy&EnvironmentalInstitute

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    Thebetterthetopicofyourresearch,theeasieritistopublish

    Whenplanninganavenueofresearch,realizethatsometopicsarehotter(moreimportant?)thanothers.

    Hottopicssellbetter(hopefullybecausetheyareneeded) Nano/bio/infotopics Newmaterials,energysources,etc.

    Ifyouworkontraditionalareas,suchaswastewatertreatment,itwillbeverydifficulttogetgoodcitationnumbers (Therearejustnotthatmanypeopleinthefield,anditisnotwell

    funded).

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    ImportantvsIncremental?Both!

    Mappingexpeditions Whenyoumap/surveyanarea,youalwayscomebackwithdata. Suchstudiesareuseful!...Buttheyrarelyarebigdiscoveriesorhavea

    bigimpact. MSprojectsgoodfornewresearchers,andaPhDstudentmighthave

    someofthisespeciallywhenstartingout.

    Huntingexpeditions Sometimesyoushouldgoafterthebearandignorethesquirrels Whenyoulandthebiggame,yougetabigreward Newdiscoveriesaremoreimportantthanbuildingonexisting

    information,butitismuchriskier(youmaygohungry) PhDstudentsmusthavesome(notall!)ofthesetypesofhunting

    investigations

  • TheLoganGroupplaybook(15pages,45people);Eachobjective/hypothesis=1paper

  • Theskillset Asyouplanyourtopics,thinkaboutyourexpertisearea. Distinguishyourselffromothersinthefieldyouarein; IntheUSA,westresssciencetopicswithinengineering

    fields Findauniquenicheevenatyourownlab(ifpossible) Examples

    Electrochemistry Catalysis Molecularbiology/tools

    KnowwhatyourgoalisafteryourPhDIndustry?Academia?Consulting?Thiswillaffecthowyoudevelopyourskillset.

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    Goodtopicsandtitles

    Avoiddescriptivelookseeresearchwhereyoujustvaryabunchofvariables.

    Conducthypothesisdrivenresearch Badtitleexampleandreasons

    Effectsofmaterialsonsolarpanelefficiency TheEffectsof,Analysisof,Comparisonofpapersareusually

    lowimpact

    Bettertitleexample Solarpanelsthatachieve50%conversionefficiencyusinglowcost,

    nonpreciousmetalmaterials Makethetitlereflectthetopic

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    ChoosingtheJournal:Considerthemagazinereadership

    Sciencevs Engineering Sciencetopicsgetmorereadersthanengineeringtopics Science societiesarelargerthanengineering societies

    Magazinetype Sciencemagazine:mostlybigsciencetopics,suchasmedicine,geology,astronomy,physics,materials,etc.

    Engineeringmagazines:justnotashighlycited,soifyouareanengineer,thatissomethingyouhavetogetusedto(oryouhavetodomorescience)

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    EnvironmentalScience&Technologyjournal

    Sciencepapers>>technologypapersinnumber

    VeryfewengineeringpapersinES&T VerydifficulttogetwatertreatmentorwastewaterorientedpublicationsinES&T

    Novelty/impact oftheworkisveryimportant

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    Science

    Nature

    PNAS

    ES&T

    App. Environ. Micro.

    App. Micro. Biotechnol.

    J. Env. Eng., JPS

    IJHE, Biores Technol

    Fundamental breakthrough or discovery

    New finding that is important, clear high impact

    Work that improves our understanding of a process

    Whatyouneedfordifferentjournals

  • EnvironmentalScience&Technology(ES&T) Manyjournalsnowrejectpaperswithoutreview

    Examples:Science,PNAS,WaterResearch,ES&Tothers ES&Trejects2550%ofpaperswithoutexternalreview

    SignificanceandrelevancearekeyfactorsatES&T ES&Teditorsareaskedtoconsiderforpublicationonlypapers

    ofunusual significancetothediscipline.Submissionsthatdonotappearsufficientlynovelareusuallydeclinedwithoutreviewbecauseourexperienceisthattheydonotfarewellinthepeerreviewprocess.

    Example Riseandfall(?)ofahottopicMicrobialFuelCells(MFCs)in

    ES&T 2004:FirstMFCpapernearlyrejected 20042008:LotsofMFCpapers..Ahottopic 2013:ManyMFCpapersarerejectedwithoutreview.More

    difficulttobenovelinthisfieldnow(andrelevant)

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    Planningthepaperdothisevenbeforeyoudotheexperiments

    Youdidntdoituntilyoupublishit Worktowardsaproductthatcanbepublished(nogapsinyourdata

    andarguments) Targetajournalevenbeforeyoustart!

    Dontwasteyourtimeonunimportantwork Askanimportantquestion! EstablishtheNEEDforthestudy!

    Poseaspecificandtestablehypothesis Knowyouraudience

    Know(andchoose)ajournal(andhaveabackup)

    Workoutaplanforfirstandlastauthors,andinclusionofcoauthors

  • Planthepaperatthestart

    ConstructaMockPaperratherthananoutline Mockpaper:Draftofthefindings,intheformofafewitems,andseveralfigures

    Titles: Thetitlegivesthefirstclueonwhetheritishypothesisdrivenresearch

    Avoiddescriptivelookseeresearchwhereyoujustvaryabunchofvariables.

    Badtitles=Descriptivework Effectsofmaterialson TheEffectsof,Analysisof,Comparisonofpapersare

    usuallylowimpact Bettertitles=Evolutionarywork

    XXXthatachieveimprovedenergyefficiencyusinglowcost,nonpreciousmetals

    Makethetitlereflecttheinnovationofthetopic

  • Mock paper title:States a hypothesis

    What we think we know, and what the controversy is that motivated our research(3-4 points)

    Examples of figures that we expect to produce and what they should show

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    The mock paper is a dynamic document

    Modify it as the research progresses.

    Put in actual figures as you get the data

    Graphite Fiber Brush Anodes for Increased Power Production in Air-Cathode Microbial Fuel Cells

    Add a new title

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    Eventually,youhavethefinalproduct

    Published in 2007786 citations

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    Oncethepaperiswritten DoYOUthinkyouproducedqualitypieceofwork? Isthehypothesisclear? Decisivefinding?(andnotnegativefinding) Titleinformative? Abstractclear? IntroductionshortandrelevanttoDiscussion? Figureswelldone(symbolsizes,nottoocluttered,etc.)?Goodandclearfiguresconveygoodwork!

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    Majorrevisionsneeded Sometimesareviewermakesacommentbecausethey

    wereconfusedbythewayyoupresenteditchangeittomakeitclearer.

    Makechanges! Dontjustarguewiththereviewer. Trytomakeachangeforeachcomment(ifpossible)

    Makeiteasyfortheeditorandreviewerstoevaluateyourchanges.

    Foreachcomment: Restatethecomment, Provideareplytothereviewer Showwhatchangesweremadeasaresultofthereview

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    ExampleofareplytocommentsRestate exactly (!) the comment, and put in italics

    Indent inch, then put in your reply, normal font (11 or 12 pt)

    Put in a copy of your new text, in blue, in a smaller font (say 10 pt)

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    Afterrejection,dontbedejected Justbecauseapaperisrejected,doesntmeanyou

    shouldgiveuponit. Notallreviewersarecreatedequal

    Talkthepaperoverwithacolleaguewerethereviewersfair?

    Reviewersoftenhelptoimprovetheprocess. Theycanfindflawsinyourlogicyoudidntnotice Theymaymakehelpfulsuggestionsforfuturework

    Rejectedmanuscriptscanberesubmittedtothesamejournal,buttheyareoftennotsuccessfulinchangingthereviewersminds

    Youshouldconsiderresubmittingtothesamejournalif: Thepointscanbeaddressed Youcananswerthequestionsraisedduringthereview

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    Rejectedmanuscripts Chooseanotherjournal.Didyouaimtoohigh? Consideryourreviewers.

    Whensuggestingreviewers,suggestpeoplethatyouknowarelikelytogivegoodandfairreviewssomepeoplearejustneversatisfied.

    Ifyoufeelyougotabadreviewandyouthinkyouknowwhothepersonis,thenjustrequesttheybeexcludedfromfurthersubmissions.

    Alwaysmakesomechangestoapaperbeforeresubmittingelsewhere Likelythereisaslightlydifferentaudience Oneofthereasonsforrejectionmaybeyouwerenotconvincingin

    yourpresentationofyourhypothesisorfindings.

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    Thepaperispublished! Congratulations!

    Considerwhetheryourworkwasreadbyothers. Areyouwritingenoughbreakthroughpapers(basedon

    huntingexpeditions)? Or,areyoupublishingtoomanymappingexpeditiontyperesults?

    Ifnobodyreadsorcitesyourpapers Areyouokaywiththis? Isyourworklikeacriticallyacclaimedfilmthatnobodywenttosee?

    Ifso,maybetimetoproducetheactionfilmwithspecialeffects? Doyouwanttomoveintonewareasofgreaterinterest?

  • Whynewresearchareas(notjusttopics)areimportant

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  • Creativity

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    Howtobuildincreativeworkintoyourlife

    Dontjustacquirefactsandinformationthinkaboutnewwaystolookataproblem.

    Be more creative by taking risks... Trycrazyexperiments. Evolveanewfield onethatyouwillbecomeknownfor(vs.your

    advisorsmainfield). Howtodothis? Workin3areas:

    Continueintheareaoffundingforyourdissertationwork(keepsteady)

    Findanewareabutalignedwithyourdissertationwork(evolution) Pursuecrazyidea(s)(mutation?)..thisistheMOSTFUN!

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    Dissertation: mass transfer to microbial aggregates and biofilms

    Biofilm reactors (trickling filters)

    Bacterial respiration with chlorate

    Pollutant degradation in fungal bioreactors

    Particle transport in the subsurface

    Aggregation rates in sheared reactors

    Hydrogen generation via fermentation

    Microbial fuel cellsUsing atomic force microscopy to understand bioadhesion

    Bacterial respiration with perchlorate

    Effect of fluid environment on mass transfer to bacteria

    Fractal coagulation (of aggregates)

    Aggregate formation in the ocean

    Research Topics the evolution of the Logan Lab

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    Hydrogen generation via fermentation

    Microbial fuel cellsUsing atomic force microscopy to understand bioadhesion

    Bacterial respiration with perchlorate

    H2 in microbial electrolysis cells

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    Microbial fuel cells

    Biofuel production (H2, CH4) in microbial

    electrolysis cellsA new method for water desalination

    ?what is next