„Spotlight on Germany’s Young Crystallographers“ – A Special Issue of Z Krist

We proudly present to you: our Special Issue from, by and with the Young Crystallographers of the DGK!Spotlight of Germany's Young Crystallographers

Our aim was to create an informative and interactive platform for the “young” scientists, including academically young and „young at heart“. Further, we wanted to cover all areas of Crystallography. And we were quite successful: We received 13 contributions representing a master thesis as well as PhD and PostDoc work. The articles comprise different theoretical considerations, crystal growth and synthesis as well as structure solutions of insulators, pillarplexes and co-crystals. Only the Biologists were hiding from us.

Before we now present the brief history of this Issue and some honest comments by our contributors, we would like to thank all the people who made this possible! We thank all the authors, who could meet the deadline! Many thanks to our internal reviewers, who accepted the challenge to judge other people’s work despite their young age! We highly appreciate your dedication! We thank the Editorial Board and the Co-Editors of Z Krist, who managed the official review process. Big thanks also go to our industrial partners STOE, Anton Paar and Jena Bioscience, whose financial support made a little surprise possible for everyone involved. And finally, I would like to thank my team of Initiators Tina Weigel, Constantin Buyer and Jan Philipp Wöhrle. Only as a team, we have brought this project to a successful end!

Logos of STOE, Anton Paar and Jena BioscienceThe story in brief

In 2020, the Young Crystallographers planned a Meeting for October in Freiberg. Unfortunately, we had to cancel it on the last hand due to the Corona. What else could we do to bring us together scientifically? The supervisor of me and Tina at the time (Prof. Meyer, TUBA Freiberg) had the idea to collect the contributions of the wanna-be participants and to create a Special Issue. We started discussing this idea within the YC board and decided to work on it. In January 2021 we sent out letters to different Crystallographic Journals and finally decided to work with Zeitschrift für Kristallographie, which fits perfectly to the Young Crystallographers in Germany. In April, we announced the project via mailing lists and also personal mails. Until October, we received in total 13 contributions, which were released from our internal review process by the end of November, latest. This internal review was carried out by a total of 12 Young Crystallographers and was intended, on the one hand, to give the authors an initial assessment of their work and, on the other, to introduce the young scientists to the demanding work of a reviewer. Finally in March 2022, the last article was accepted and we can now proudly present our joint work.

An Initiator’s View

by Tina Weigel, Freiberg

As an Initiator of the Special Issue, I had the possibility to have a view over the complete creation process. This was very interesting, but also a big organization effort. The submission and internal review process was for me the biggest challenge. This part comprised

  • to make sure that the authors send us their contribution in time,
  • to forward the articles to the internal reviewers,
  • to make sure that the internal reviewers send us their comments in time,
  • to forward the reviews to the authors,
  • and to guide the authors through the first steps of submission, if needed.

Additionally, we were contact persons for all authors with different problems or questions until they submitted their manuscript to the journal. This was not always very easy, because sometimes we struggled with the same problems, like generating the LaTeX document from the template or not receiving emails with important information.

Being an initiator of a special issue was an exciting role and I really learned a lot, especially how I could improve my communication and organization skills, because all that work was done beside my normal work as a PhD student. Sometimes, all of us Initiators were a bit frustrated about things that came up during the time and after every problem we solved, there was a new one. However, to see the fruits of our hard work makes us very proud, especially because we managed all these challenges. We are and now very happy to see all these fantastic articles published.

An Author’s View

by Alexandra Heidecker, Munich

When I first heard about the Special Issue of the Young Crystallographers, I was really excited to contribute an article.

And the timing was perfect, as I recently obtained a fancy new crystal structure. My research is located in the field of supramolecular chemistry and it is quite challenging to get excellent crystal data. The obtained structure data was exceptional, so I was quite excited to publish the data, the occurring non-covalent interactions in our host-guest system and especially how to analyze them.

As a PhD student I often supervise short research internships for master students. During the last two years, we had to be creative and find topics, which the students could be working on from home. One idea, was to find methods to investigate crystal structures towards the occurring non-covalent interactions and how to visualize and quantify them. This internship provided lots of information regarding the above mentioned structure. Soon, me and my supervisor decided to write a paper for the Special Issue with the structure and the obtained information. The writing process was relatively long as it was the first paper I was writing on my own. But during the time I learned a lot on how to make nice figures, how to write interesting introductions and how to evaluate the results.

After finally submitting the paper draft, the internal reviewers of the Young Crystallographers took place. The reviewers had only positive comments about my article and a lot of good suggestions on how to improve the quality of the paper and especially how to provide more crystal data, which made the article more fitting for submission in the journal “Zeitschrift für Kristallographie”. Also, we received positive comments from the reviewers of the journal and we only had to implement minor revisions. Overall, it was a nice experience and I am really happy to not only have published my first first-author paper, but also my first corresponding-author paper.

A Reviewer’s View

Anonymous as Reviewers should be

This is a very inspiring project. When Melanie contacted me and asked me to support this project with a review of a paper, I was delighted to have this opportunity to support a group of young crystallographers. For me personally, this was my first time reviewing a paper and it was a novel and, of course, inspiring experience. I also consulted with my supervisors at the time and asked about the experience and specific academic details of the review process. They gave me a lot of encouragement and advice. I think that for young researchers, this opportunity is very valuable. For one, the young researchers can practice critical thinking skills, and for another, the young researchers can understand the reviewers’ perspectives and ways of thinking through the role reversal, which is beneficial for subsequent experimental design, submission positioning, and writing style. I am very supportive of this program and hope that programs like this will continue in the long run to encourage and help the younger generation of scholars to better adapt to the work of the academic community.

An Editor’s View

by Ulli Englert, Aachen

When the German general interest group of Young Crystallographers was established in 2013 in Freiberg, I was happy to be involved: on the one hand young scientists from my home institution RWTH Aachen played an active role right from the start, on the other hand I was invited to help as a senior advisor and mentor. Let me shortly tell you about my experience with the latest YC enterprise, the Special Issue in ZKrist based exclusively on contributions of young crystallo­graphers. As a coeditor, I had to read each manuscript more than once. In the first iteration, the main task was to identify suitable reviewers. The second reading was done with the referee reports side by side with the submitted article to prepare the feedback to the authors, mostly based on the reviewers’ opinion but also including my comments when appropriate. The revised version of the manuscript, together with a list of changes or rebuttals, concluded the process – all originally submitted papers could finally be accepted.

How does my experience with the YC Special Issue compare to more conventional editorial tasks involving authors of all physical and scientific ages? Let me make two points here: a) The science part submitted by the young contributors was almost flawless. b) Help from the reviewers and occasionally from my side was mostly required with respect to communication. The second aspect was no real surprise: efficient ways to put results into a broader context and to explain advantages and limits of the approach to be published are largely gained by experience. The first point, however – high quality by exclusively young scientists – turned out more positive than expected. Both aspects show me – again! – that students should get involved in the publishing process in an early stage of their academic career, ideally at the bachelor level. (The “again” in the preceding sentence has a personal background and is an hommage to two of my academic teachers who were aware of that fact decades ago.) Contributing to a peer-reviewed article can be rewarding in many ways beyond the obvious aspects of prestige and visibility. A publication is mostly a joint venture which can strengthen responsibility and promote a feeling for quality; competent feedback from a reviewer can broaden the authors’ horizons; and, finally, a readership outside the home institute or group challenges those communication skills which are only acquired by training.

Let me conclude my personal statement with a simple analogy: we train M.Sc. and doctoral students in summer schools, often in a rhythm of two or three years. How about regular special issues for young crystallographers at similar intervals?

Overview of the Contributions

Preface

Crystallography in Germany rejuvenated

Theory

Crystal Growth

Structure Solution

Properties

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