How do you progress your research and work and balance your life during this difficult time?
It has been hard to work at home for those who have a family since we have to teach our children, but this pandemic has strengthened families. Researchers should be prepared to attend fewer conferences and cope with less access to equipment.
What is your research focus?
I'm a theoretical nanoscientist investigating two-dimensional materials, such as graphene.
What aspects of your current work are you most excited about?
Modifications of graphene are needed to create more useful materials. One approach involves substituting some of the carbon atoms with other dopant atoms. It's exciting to investigate ways to control the location of the dopants.
What do you find most challenging about your research?
As a theorist, it's challenging to maintain the connection with experimentalists. It’s not easy to report new results in ways that will interest both experimental and theoretical researchers.
Why did you decide to become an Associate Editor for RSC Advances?
I wanted to contribute more to the peer-review system, rather than just undertaking reviews. I also wanted to be part of a great team of Associate Editors whose work is reflected in an acceptance rate close to 50 per cent and an impact factor above three. These are terrific numbers for a journal which publishes more than 40,000 pages each year.
How does your role as an Associate Editor contribute to the journal and to the scientific community?
I try to make fair decisions as fast as possible to help maintain RSC Advances as the leading Gold Open Access chemistry journal. I appreciate that there is somebody like me, perhaps on the other side of the planet, waiting for my decision. Sometimes I make decisions in the middle of the night in Uruguay, realising that someone in China, for example, may be in their office reading the decision as soon as I have sent it.
If you had one piece of advice for authors submitting to RSC Advances, what would it be?
Four of the five questions each reviewer is asked about every manuscript can be easily checked. First, you must discuss the results in the context of the literature, so do a final investigation of the literature before submitting. I always say to my students that there's probably somebody doing the same work as you but faster! Second, make nice figures and tables. Figures are one of the first things that will attract readers’ attention. Third, give as much technical detail as you can and try to avoid referring readers to lots of other references. Fourth, check carefully that the conclusions really are supported by the data presented, and if you have doubts add more evidence to support your conclusions. But the fifth and most problematic question is whether or not new physical insights are being presented. Every researcher’s opinion on that issue is unique. Use the cover letter to explain why your manuscript should be published, and avoid just cutting and pasting from the abstract.
What is your favourite thing about the Associate Editor role?
Being able to help authors improve their work as we converge towards a publishable account. This isn’t easy because three ingredients are needed: I must select suitable reviewers, the manuscript should describe new physical insights, and the authors should make requested modifications promptly. When these planets align and the manuscript is accepted, I am very happy.
How do you spend your spare time?
Mostly playing with Lego with my son, but I also like reading historical novels, running and listening to baroque music.
Who were your role models as a child and did you always want to be a scientist?
I have always been interested in science, but I can’t say that I had role models. There have been countless notable and inspiring researchers.
Which profession would you choose if you weren’t a researcher?
I would probably be a chef, or a period-instrument orchestra director.