What are the benefits of publishing your work in peer-reviewed journals? Does a world renowned professor spend time in the lab running experiments?
Our featured Scientist of the week, Dr. Peter Bruggeman answers these questions and talks about his work and publications. Enjoy his interview to The Science and Engineering Café.
Dr. Peter Bruggeman’s Interview
1) What made you choose plasma as your field of study?
I always had a broad interest and I had opportunities in various research fields including control theory, fluid mechanics, differential geometry and plasma science. I might have even considered briefly developing weather forecast models. Choosing a research topic for my PhD was probably one of the more difficult decisions I had to make in my research career. My limited research experience in plasma technology obtained during my master studies really triggered my interest in plasma phenomena. The understanding of atmospheric pressure plasma processes was limited while many of the other research topics I had interest in were more developed. Also the complexity of plasma research has contributed to my choice and the multidisciplinary nature of plasmas is able to feed a broad range of my interests. I want to continuously be challenged exploring new science and plasma research provides this opportunity.
At the time I started my PhD, I was very much a theoretical scientist with a strong interest in theory and modeling. The lack of fundamental understanding in plasma processes particularly for plasmas interacting with liquids forced me to shift from theory to experiments. I really believe this has been an excellent transition and I still enjoy it every day. Another determining factor in my choice for plasma was the huge societal benefit of plasma technology. Plasmas have really shaped our world in a broad range of areas and continue to do so. It is great to contribute to society through your daily research.
2) Which of the papers that you authored are you most proud of and why?
I am proud of virtually all the papers I have published. I will limit myself to four examples although there are a lot more papers that deserve to be mentioned.
I am very much proud on the Thomson scattering measurements that Simon Huebner and Sven Hofmann performed on a streamer head [Huebner et al, Plasma Sources Sci. Technol. 22 065011]. This is an absolutely unique experiment that showed for the first time the spatial distribution of the electron density in a streamer. I am only aware of modeling results showing that structure before our publication. This work was the culmination of 4 years of hard work on Thomson scattering studies of atmospheric pressure plasmas and stabilizing an atmospheric pressure plasma jet for long periods of time both temporally and spatially.
In 2013, I wrote with colleagues Schram, Sadeghi and Linss a review paper on gas temperature determination by emission spectroscopy [Plasma Sources Sci. Technol. 23, 023001 (2014)]. This paper has a very special meaning for me as it has been the culmination of work that started almost 10 years prior to the publication. We had written the paper around the time of my relocation from Eindhoven to Minneapolis so it also is for me part of my new endeavor in the USA.
For my recent work I am particularly proud on the work we have done concerning the identification of chemical reaction pathways that are crucial in plasma-bio interactions. This includes the ‘discovery’ of the formation of OCl- through atomic oxygen in saline solutions [Wende et al, Biointerphases 10, 029518, 2015] and the determination of the inactivation mechanisms of virus in solutions [Aboubakr et al, J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 204001 (2016)]. The latter work fits in a larger amount of work that investigates, most likely for the first time, plasma gas phase chemistry, liquid phase chemistry and chemical modification of proteins of the virus capsid combined. This long term detailed study is what enabled us to identify the chemical mechanism of the underlying plasma induced inactivation.
3) In your opinion, which is the most effective way to communicate your research? Journal articles, conference presentations, other?
The best way to communicate your research to the research community is without doubt peer-reviewed journal articles. Publication habits are continuously changing, but the value of peer-reviewed technical journals remains. It guarantees a level of quality because the papers are assessed by reviewers and editors. This is particularly the case for technical journals that have an editorial board composed of researchers from your own research field. It is extremely important to maintain high standards in our research field through our technical journals through unbiased and high standard reviewing practices. I want to ask, particularly the younger researchers that visit your website, to actively participate in reviewing and consider this as an important service to your research field. It is also without doubt a valuable learning experience.
Indeed conference presentations are also a very good way of communicating your research. Unfortunately too many scientists do not read regularly what is published in the key journals of our field. The only way to reach these scientists is through conferences. In addition, presentations allow you to bring a much broader vision that you normally can only effectively convey in review articles. The advantage of preparing a presentation is that it is much less time consuming than writing a review paper.
You might think, I am old fashioned but I do not see much value in all the new venues through social media and online. The noise level is just too large. I prefer the reviewer filter in peer-reviewed journals.
4) Do you spend time in the lab running your own experiments?
Working in the lab has been always one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. However as you progress in your research career, you tend to spend more and more time on enabling and organizing research in your group rather than doing the actual research. Nevertheless, I try to reserve time to work in the lab. I have less and less time to set up my very own experiments but I still work with my students in the lab and solve technical problems. I frequently tell my students that I never ask them to perform an experiment that I would not be able to do myself. I genuinely believe that this is true and I know each experiment in my lab in all its details.