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Publishing Research a Rite of Passage for Grad Students

October 3, 2017

Like anyone starting a Ph.D. program, Anna Ankirskaia had her doubts.

But, like anyone who ultimately completes their Ph.D., Ankirskaia had to conduct her own research and get it published. With support from Professor Patricia LiWang in the Quantitative and Systems Biology (QSB) program, she’s made it happen, publishing twice in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

“I started out very slowly in the program — to be completely honest, I probably wasn't ready for the responsibility,” said Ankirskaia, who studies biochemistry and molecular biology. “But because Patti was so patient and our postdoc was such a good teacher, I managed to pull myself together and really begin to understand what academic research means.”

Being the lead author of published research papers is a rite of passage in graduate students’ academic careers. It’s common in most disciplines and required in many.

UC Merced graduate students are no slackers when it comes to publishing, but getting lead-author status isn’t a gift. They work hard for it.

“A Ph.D. student must have completed the work that would lead to several chapters of a thesis, so this generally means several papers as lead author,” LiWang said. “When the student has obtained enough results in the lab to be able to tell a full story in the form of a publication, then they get to be the lead author on the publication.”

Jessica Ross, one of the graduate students in Cognitive and Information Systems (CIS) Professor Ramesh Balasubramaniam’s program, has been lead author on five of eight papers she has published in such journals as Neurocase, Neuroscience Letters, The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Experimental Brain Research and Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Ross began publishing in the first year of her graduate studies.

“It requires taking responsibility for the integrity of the work that is submitted and that is very important,” Balasubramaniam said. “It is a fundamental part of graduate education.”