Getting published in a prestigious journal such as Science or Nature is a serious feat for an undergraduate researcher. It cements your scientific reputation and boosts your pedigree as an academic. In order to get published in a high-tier journal it’s essential to understand what constitutes a certain research project as being “worthy” or not. After being published in Nature, here are some factors that made the difference in my research:
1) Research what journal you are submitting to.
Nature and Science are more general than other journals so if your research is incredibly niche or in a sub-sub-speciality then it might be less likely to get published there. Go read some recent additions to the Journal and get a feel for what they’re looking for.
2) Your principle investigators (PI’s) ability to write in an intriguing way.
These journals want to make science sound fun and exciting, so whoever is writing the manuscript needs to sell your research as innovative and impactful. Don’t underestimate your input! I was the primary editor of our Nature manuscript.
3) Consistent work.
I spent my summers researching from 9-5 most days of the week. I spent after class researching and on my days off. A lot of my work was on the computer so I was able to work at home as well. I had an open line of discussion with my PI and often pushed him to move the project forward. The amount of time I was able to pour in (except during my MCAT semester due to my PI being on sabbatical) was primarily the reason we were able to publish it during my time.
Bottom line, putting time in will earn you a spot on whatever publication you’ll be able to push out. Don’t be afraid to inquire about the progress of certain projects! PI’s are really busy and the more they know you’re serious, the better it’ll reflect in your LOR and give the impression of being very ambitious.
Getting published isn’t an essential part of your app, but it could really help if you’re going to an institution that heavily values it like John Hopkins. Let me know if you have any questions about conducting research!