Q&A with Dr Eden Morales-Narváez

Q&A with Dr Eden Morales-Narváez

We chat with Dr Eden Morales Narvaez, winner of the Emerging Leaders 2020 award in JPhys Photonics, who has published 20 papers, starting with his first paper on Plasmonic colored nanopaper: a potential preventive healthcare tool against threats emerging from uncontrolled UV exposure published in 2019. Eden is now an editorial board member for the JPhys Photonics journal.

What made you decide to publish your first research paper?

“A great mentor combined with surprising results led me to publish my first paper.

I joined Professor Arben Merkoçi’s team (Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology) in early 2011. In those times, our research team was very motivated by graphene: the wonder material. So, I performed some experiments with graphene oxide and discovered that we were able to quench the photoluminescence of quantum dots with an almost 100% efficiency.

At the beginning, I did not feel convinced about this surprising results that I was getting (I believed that perhaps my results were wrong), but a chat with my mentor was really encouraging, and then my mind changed completely. I remember that he said: Yes, Eden, people in science get surprising results, people do that! So, my mentor vitalized my self-confidence, and this was simply the starting point of my first research paper and somehow my scientific journey. Nowadays, I still publish papers taking advantage of the wonder material and its photoluminescence quenching capabilities.”

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting the process to publish your paper?

“I have to confess that at the beginning I was looking for a publication related to the biomedical field, because my thesis was expected to be focused in such a field. However, when I published my first paper in the materials field, I realized that early career researchers can modify the scope of their thesis to eventually unveil new steps and future opportunities in their career.

Besides, I am now aware that writing skills are your Swiss Army knife to succeed in the process to publish your paper. Editors and reviewers demand high quality papers, but they also enjoy manuscripts nicely and clearly written, the same as the readers. Professor Osvaldo Oliveira (University of São Paulo) says that writing skills are your best investment as a scientist and he also points out that a scientist with good writing skills is much better equipped than a scientist with other kinds of skills or resources. I could not agree more with Professor Oliveira.”

What did you enjoy/not-enjoy about publishing your research?

“I enjoyed sharing and discussing my published results in conferences and presentations. Seeing that my peers were reading and citing my research was also very satisfying. But no one enjoys rejection of their manuscripts, which is also part of the journey. Rejection is discouraging, but it is also an opportunity to change the scope of your research and/or improve the quality of your manuscript.”

How can IOP Publishing help early career researchers who are starting out in their publishing journey?

“Offer webinars on writing skills, promote all type of tools which are valuable in such a journey and explain their particularities and usefulness; for example, scientific search engines, journal suggesters/finders, plagiarism detectors, journal citation reports, research metrics, etc.”

Are there any tips, tools or websites that you would recommend?

  1. Feel passionate about your field or research topic. Mix such a passion with patience and resilience, which are crucial abilities to be developed in a scientific career.
  2. Seek a mentor whose results are inspirational and motivating for you. Mentors not only shape your current career but also the future of your career.
  3. Invest in your writing skills (as highlighted by Professor Oliveira).
  4. In order to publish innovative literature, you have to be aware of the state-of-the art in your field.
  5. Read, read and read more, especially the journals you would like to publish in.
  6. Be critical, spot agreements, gaps and controversies in your field.
  7. One of your goals should be to write and publish a review article related to your thesis/research topic.
  8. Avoid plagiarism, this type of misconduct can be easily spotted by peers using tools like ithenticate.
  9. Promote your research on social media using messages easy to understand. Social media is a perfect way to reach society, decision-makers, colleagues and stakeholders. Follow and interact with inspirational colleagues on social media.
  10. If you are not sure about the target journal of your manuscript, I recommend Master Journal List. This fantastic tool helps you to find suitable journals for your manuscript depending on the title and abstract.

What did you do after you published your paper? Did you promote it? How?

“The acceptance and publication of your first paper is a very special moment. Nausea, by Beck, was playing on my computer when I received the news of the acceptance of my first publication (I will never forget it). I happily jumped from my seat and celebrated the good news with my wife. In those times, I was not particularly active on social media but I immediately had the opportunity to share my results in NanoSpain 2012 (Santander), where I received valuable feedback on my research. It was really useful to plan new experiments and future work.”

How has publishing your paper influenced your career and networking?

“As I previously mentioned, I still publish papers taking advantage of the wonder material and its photoluminescence quenching capabilities. I am also the inventor of two related patents and several of my post-graduate students are developing their thesis taking advantage of the wonder material, even in translational settings. My networking opportunities were also enhanced; for instance, together with prestigious colleagues, I have organized some special issues dealing with 2D materials in reputable journals, I have several collaborations related to 2D materials and I have been invited by many editors to review countless manuscripts related to graphene derivatives. My first paper is also one of the most cited in my list of research papers. Definitely, that first publication represents a cornerstone in my career and networking opportunities.”

What would you say to an early career researcher who is asking the question “Should I consider publishing my research?”

“Absolutely! It will boost your career!”