Brandon is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program at Harvard Medical School, performing his thesis research in Matthew Waldor's lab. He came to Boston from Toronto in 2015 and hopes to be finished with his degree by the end of 2021.
What do you study for your thesis research in the Waldor lab?
Our group investigates a whole bunch of different intestinal bacterial pathogens. We focus on the bacterium that causes cholera, a widespread diarrheal disease that is especially problematic in impoverished areas and in regions without access to clean water or healthcare. I am mainly interested in using some cool genetic tools to ask questions about how these bacteria interact with the surface layers of our intestines.
How long have you worked with JEI?
I started working with JEI in 2016 as an Associate Editor and after a brief stint as a Senior Editor I became a managing editor in late 2018.
Why did you start working with JEI?
When I was in high school, I had the rare opportunity to conduct research with one of my biology teachers. I collected and analyzed data from a long-term study of crayfish populations in a local river and with my teacher’s help, was able to publish this analysis in a peer-reviewed journal. Having that experience of what real research is like kick-started my scientific career and has directly influenced how I think about publishing at an early age. I work with JEI because I have experienced first-hand how this process can encourage budding scientists and I want to give back and help students who are in a similar position as I was.
What was the most memorable paper you have edited, and why?
I have only edited a few papers, all of which have been great manuscripts, but probably the most memorable so far is the one that has been successfully published! The title is “Disk Diffusion Tests Show Ginger to be Ineffective as an Antibacterial Agent”. It was a well-controlled and well-thought-out analysis of whether ginger extract could inhibit bacterial growth, which the authors did not observe. This paper was also memorable to me as it reports negative data (a crucial part of the scientific process).
What is your favorite part about working with JEI?
My favorite part of working with JEI is getting to read real scientific manuscripts authored by middle and high-school students! We almost always get manuscripts of a very high quality and it is a pleasure to read them and work with the authors to craft their work into an article. Just as JEI is a journal tailored to emerging investigators, it also allows us as student editors and reviewers to practice our skills for possible future careers in scientific publishing.
What is the most challenging aspect of working with JEI as an editor?
The most challenging part would be juggling all my JEI email threads! Thankfully we have switched to a centralized system that is really helping to streamline the publication process. JEI is always working on many fronts to raise the profile of the journal and its student authors, and helping to manage that can be a bit of a (welcome) challenge.
What advice would you have for JEI student authors when writing their manuscripts?
My advice would be to always keep your hypothesis in mind and be very critical about whether it is supported or not by your data. It is not a bad thing if you reject your hypothesis! In fact, rejecting a hypothesis could very well lead you to make a new hypothesis that is even more interesting and fun to test than the last one.
What’s one interesting (or strange!) fact about you?
According to my classmates, I am extremely noticeably Canadian! While I don’t totally agree with that, I do often find myself saying “sorry”, “eh,” pronouncing z as “zed,” and am constantly on the search for an authentic poutine in Boston.