Reviewer Spotlight: Dr. Zoltan Simandi
The quality of eNeuro depends on the effort that is generously contributed by our reviewers, who lend their expertise and time helping to ensure we publish great science. This Reviewer Recognition series introduces the research of selected reviewers, as well as their strategies for approaching peer review of a paper. Dr. Zoltan Simandi is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Cremins Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focus is to identify molecular mechanisms that drive disease-associated malfunction of the neurons.
"My advice is to only accept to review a paper when you know you will have time to submit thorough, constructive feedback on the paper that will help the authors work to improve it. And do the reviewing with such dedication as it would be your first one. It is always a privilege being asked to review other peers' work."
Zoltan Simandi , PhD
Tell us about your work.
I always marveled at the remarkable complexity of the human brain. Over the years, I found a real joy understanding the molecular underpinnings of neural cell fates in development and disease. While recent technical advances have provided unprecedented insights into the mechanisms, still we have limited understanding of how millions of cells in the brain form intricate neural networks and functions together, and we are even more unclear on why this seemingly perfect system collapse in different neurodegenerative diseases. Currently working in the Cremins Lab (University of Pennsylvania), I pursue a multi-disciplinary approach integrating genome engineering, induced pluripotent stem cell differentiation to neurons and brain organoids, and next-generation sequencing-based technologies to identify molecular mechanisms that drive disease-associated malfunction of the neurons and possibly could be used in therapy.
What do you do when not in the lab?
I am a proud dad of two, meaning that my time with them is officially my time “outside of research”. However, regardless of how hard I tried, science plays an important role in our everyday family life. My daughters' curiosity and insatiable thirst for knowledge about the world around them is so inspiring. We are always experimenting together and testing some fun “hypothesis” at home, although their favorite ones so far are those experiments where the end-product is edible. I think teaching them how to cook at a very young age, letting them to experiment with different flavors, ingredients is not just a great bonding time but probably a fun way toward loving science.
What advice would you share with new reviewers?
I remember very well my first time reviewing a paper. My PhD advisor asked me to help with a research article. I felt so privileged, and I spent a lot of time with that manuscript. And then with the papers the manuscript referenced and then with the papers the referenced papers referenced…I was so worried that I would miss something important. I also remember how I missed a big flaw in my fifth review due to leaving it to the last minute and rushing it without carefully reading it multiple times... Gladly the error was captured that time by the other reviewer, yet I felt so ashamed not noticing it.
I never left the review completion to the last minute ever since. My advice is to only accept to review a paper when you know you will have time to submit a thorough, constructive feedback on the paper that will help the authors work to improve it. And do the reviewing with such dedication as it would be your first one. It is always a privilege being asked to review other peers' work.
What is your experience as a reviewer with eNeuro's consultation review process?
There are challenging situations, where I believe an active communication between the Editor and reviewers can be very helpful over the formal, static way of review submission. A consultation during the review process offers a great opportunity to refine our comments based on each other`s concerns and still correct if some of the comments were inappropriate. This way the Editor can also more efficiently identify the key strength and weaknesses of the given work and communicate a concise summary toward the authors.
You are a graduate of SfN’s Reviewer Mentor Program. What did you learn during that mentored review that you find the most valuable in your work as a reviewer now? Would you recommend the program?
There are different ways to learn how to write a review that offer constructive feedback and ultimately help the authors to improve their paper. I was lucky that my PhD advisor, Laszlo Nagy (Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital) and later my postdoc mentor Jennifer Phillips-Cremins (University of Pennsylvania) spent time with me and shared their experience. I also learnt a lot from reviews I have received on my own work – however some of them were rather examples of “how not to write reviews”.
I think seeing good and bad examples and multiple styles will help you to improve your review writing skills. Therefore, the SfN’s Reviewer Mentor Program is a great opportunity, especially for those who are not offered by their own mentor to be involved in the reviewing process – in the SfN’s Reviewer Mentor Program experienced reviewers help the trainees to iterate their comments until it is in a format and style that serve its purpose and help the author's and the Editor`s work. I learnt a lot from my SfN mentor throughout the process. My mentor did not simply overwrite my comments, but actually gave a very detailed explanation on what she liked and did not like regarding my review, and patiently read even the third iteration.
Zoltan Simandi, PhD
University of Pennsylvania
Learn more about SfN's Reviewer Mentor Program.