Reviewer Spotlight: Dr. Aditya Singh
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. Aditya Singh received his PhD from Indian Institute of Science Bangalore (IISc) in the Neurodynamics lab. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Obenaus Lab at University of California Irvine (UCI) studying the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury.
"I believe peer-review is one of the most important and exciting aspects of scientific exploration. As new discoveries expand the edge of knowledge, peer-review provides the necessary equilibrium across the interface of the known and the unknown. "
Aditya Singh, PhD
Tell us about your work.
Currently in the Obenaus Lab at UC Irvine, I am investigating the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on neurovascular function and cognition. I am also looking into the social and exploratory behavior effects and associated sex-differences during recovery from TBI. Using longitudinal in vivo MRI, I have found long term attenuation in cerebral blood perfusion along with social behavior deficits in a mouse model of TBI (manuscript under preparation). Next, I will be testing the role of some novel therapeutic strategies using optogenetics and 2-photon microscopy for optimal recovery of neurovascular function after injury.
How did you become interested in this line of research?
I became curious about the brain during high school when I discovered meditation. Fast forward a few fortuitous years, as the first PhD student in the Neurodynamics lab at IISc Bangalore, I got firsthand experience setting up a learning and memory lab from scratch. Since then, my long-term interest has been to decipher the puzzle of memory encoding and retrieval. I am curious about how memories are created and recalled in healthy and diseased brains. During my PhD, I conducted long-term remote memory related experiments using animal behavior and 2-photon microscopy. In my memory research, I found that uncertainty in older memories can lead to fabrication of rapidly stabilizing memories. Such higher-order memory encoding correlates with increased spine clustering in the retrosplenial cortex in vivo. Also, we find that the lack of such higher-order memory formation can be an early marker for Alzheimer's disease. It's a long-awaited work from my grad school and the manuscript is ready to be sent out for peer review soon. For my initial Postdoc years in the Neurophysics lab at UCLA and then at the Fortin lab at UC Irvine, I wanted to work with brain processes at faster timescales. So, I learned in vivo electrophysiology and did experiments involving rodent spatial navigation in real-world and virtual reality at UCLA. Thereafter at UCI, during the pandemic I conducted electrophysiology experiments to understand how brains memorize sequences of events and how such encoding would be affected under hypoxic conditions.
What do you do when not in the lab?
During my PhD in India, I was invited to deliver a talk at my elementary-high school in the morning assembly. I titled my talk “Journey from Recess to Research” and interacted with hundreds of unprivileged students who have dreams of doing scientific research. The most memorable part was being stopped by several groups of students during the day to answer all their questions as I was walking in the corridors where I started my academic journey. More recently, as the Science Ambassador for Brain Bee at the UCI Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (CNLM), I had an in depth conversation with high school students about the history of neuroscience research on memory. It’s a fantastic feeling to participate in the joy felt by students as they realize their abilities to come up with novel ideas.
I am passionate about science outreach. I have served a diverse cohort of students from high school to grad school as their mentor and I am always looking for opportunities to share my experiences with the next generation. I got to work with exceptional mentors, during my PhD in India and also as I navigated my adventurous postdoctoral journey in a novel academic and cultural landscape in the USA. Along the way, I acquired teaching and mentoring skills through several pedagogical and mentoring workshops to fuel my passion for outreach. I have contributed to several outreach events for communicating scientific knowledge to people not directly involved in the process of scientific discovery. My mentorship and outreach efforts are towards creating an equitable environment where students from all backgrounds can thrive.
Offline, I like to play sports, music, read books, and enjoy being in nature with my family and friends. Being a new dad has also been another parallel adventure that has given me a renewed sense of wonder.
What advice would you share with new reviewers?
I believe peer review is one of the most important and exciting aspects of scientific exploration. As new discoveries expand the edge of knowledge, peer review provides the necessary equilibrium across the interface of the known and the unknown.
There are several training resources for honing our peer review skills. Every reviewer should carefully read through and follow the reviewer instructions for the publications. Also, it is highly advisable to attend at least one reviewing workshop with a mentor. It is well known that we must be aware of our own biases and prevent them from interfering in the review process. During mentored reviewer training, it gets easier to identify our own biases and to learn how to prevent them from interfering while reviewing manuscripts.
To review a manuscript, I print the article double-sided and read it 2–3 times. I write notes as I read the printed manuscript, for example about any lack of clarity in expressing new ideas, terms that I need to look up, references that I need to check, etc. These notes are helpful in the final synthesis of my comments for each section/line.
I start with abstract and conclusions to identify the key findings and the central theme. Then I read the introduction to gauge the clarity in rationale and perspective in which authors view the main discoveries. After the introduction, I evaluate the methods and note any limitations in the experimental protocols followed for each of the key findings. While evaluating the results and figures, I check for necessary controls and whether each result is explained in synchrony with the central theme, creating a story-like narrative. I make notes to improve clarity for the reader to ensure results are explaining the findings and not just describing the findings. The fine line between explanation and description is again something well learnt with a mentor.
While it is crucial to ensure rigorous science, we must remember that it is real people on the other side of the table. Every manuscript has its merits and I believe our role as a reviewer is to be constructive in our response and ensure the readers can see the merits while being aware of the limitations of the study.
What is your experience as a reviewer with eNeuro's consultation review process?
I enjoy eNeuro’s consultation review process where I get to talk to the editor and other reviewers of the manuscript about our comments, before the editor sends out the final reviewer comments to the authors. A conversation between the editor and all the reviewers ensures optimal synthesis of comments and ensures a high quality of review. At the same time making the process more transparent and streamlined.
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?
I’d like to share a little story. Here at UCI, CNLM has a tradition of organizing informal lunch sessions with colloquium speakers. In spring 2021, I attended one such lunch with Prof Kate Wassum (UCLA) and asked her about how to get more reviewing experience. She suggested [SfN's] Reviewer Mentor Program (RMP). I had never heard of the RMP before so I think it should be better advertised as it is highly beneficial. I got enrolled in the program and got to work with Mike X Cohen to review a bioRxiv manuscript. I can sum up my training with him in one line: Don’t miss either the forest for the trees or the trees for the forest.
I learned to ensure that the bigger picture or the central theme of the study binds together the bits and pieces of the story. At the same time, there needs to be sufficient details to ensure rigorous scientific approach behind each claim/finding in the study. A question that we must ask as a reviewer is whether the reader can repeat the experiments with the information provided in the study? During RMP, I learned to judiciously evaluate the evidence provided in the manuscript to support each claim and ensure that the central theme of the story brings together the parts in a common thread, to help authors maintain a coherent scientific story. Another crucial aspect Mike helped me develop was proper structuring of my comments to the authors where I maintain a tone and style that brings out my genuine concerns to improve the manuscript and make the story more accessible to the readers.
I highly recommend reviewing enthusiasts to attend RMP.
Aditya Singh, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Obenaus Lab
University of California Irvine
Learn more about SfN's Reviewer Mentor Program.
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