Published!

On an author line including many people with doctorates, my name gets to go first.

By Ethan Bradley ’20
Date

I think a lot about the amount of time I spend in particular places on campus. As a senior, I’ve been walking around this college for four years, and there are certainly rooms inside academic buildings where I have spent more waking hours than any of the rooms I have lived in. One such room is the Petersen lab on the third floor of Samuel Mather Hall, where I have had countless early mornings and late nights. Since the summer after freshman year, I have been working on a research project with the goal of uncovering drugs that can aid in neurological disorders. 

Now, that’s finished. We wrote and submitted a paper with our findings alongside collaborators in Oregon, Germany and Missouri. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reviewed and accepted it, and it’s finally published. The craziest part is that on an author line including many people with doctorates, my name gets to go first because I put the most time into the project in the last three years leading up to its publication. It’s a big achievement, and with any big achievement comes a story.

In Professor Petersen’s office, two floors below our lab space, we read over everything one last time before hitting submit. With our names on this thing, we cannot have any glaring typos haunting us after we hit the big button and send it off to reviewers. We also read through our messages to reviewers. These three scientists requested that we do all sorts of different experiments, enough to take another year of lab work. We are resubmitting the paper with a lot more data, but not nearly as much as they are asking for. 

This is to be expected; you can’t please everyone. However, it’s important that they know exactly why we aren’t going to please them. In terms of our scientific rationale, some experiments are just out of the scope of our project. One reviewer loved our paper, another hated it, another thought we had a few things to improve. We have no clue if the thing we have poured our lives into will be accepted for publication, but right now all we can do is check for typos.

Student at a computer

Professor Petersen let me hit the submit button, but only after I waited a second so she could get a video on her phone to send to her friends. It’s an incredibly anticlimactic button. It just takes you to a submission received page that you quickly close out of. I sat in her chair and shrugged and asked her what to do now. It was 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. Quickly, we decided that submitting a paper was grounds for drinks at the Village Inn, on her. I found my lab mates and we practically skipped to the VI, so happy to be finally finished with some undetermined portion of the long process of publication. We sat down at a booth with nervous excitement about what could happen next.

At 4:11 a.m. on Sept. 17, our paper was accepted for publication. I was sick that day, and I needed to email Professor Petersen about the assignment I had due for her class. But when I opened up my email that morning, there was clearly something more exciting to talk about. Later that week, she brought a cake to our lab meeting topped with “Bradley et al.” alongside her zebrafish-painted champagne glasses (for sparkling non-alcoholic cider on special occasions). After toasting to the paper and taking pictures, we ate cake. I’ve eaten a lot of cake in lab meeting. We celebrate all sorts of things with cake: birthdays, graduate school acceptances, the end of summer science. Although, this time, sitting there eating the cake with my name on it, felt special in a different way. I owe so much to Professor Petersen, and I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone I’ve gotten to celebrate with through the years.