Meet the preLights Ambassadors: Martin Estermann

15 June 2023

In order to keep developing preLights and respond to the needs of the community, we recently launched the preLights Ambassador scheme. Four amazing preLighters have now been appointed as Ambassadors and we caught up with all of them to chat about the things that they’re excited to bring to this role during the coming year.

Next up is Martin Estermann. Martin works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Durham, North Carolina, USA. He is eager to meet and interact with early-career researchers in the area and to help promote scientific discussion and collaboration as a preLights Ambassador.

Congratulations on joining our first preLights Ambassador team! Why did you decide to apply for the role of preLights Ambassador?

I think the main reason was to feel even more connected to the preLights community. Opportunities like this are a great way to meet new people – who are often interested in the same things – and to expand your network. I’m having a great time as a preLighter and stepping things up is therefore something that I look forward to. I’ve already learned a lot of things during my time at preLights – mostly how to properly explain things and communicate science – and I think that becoming an Ambassador will allow me to pick up even more useful skills that I can apply in my research and future career.

In your own career so far, how often have you felt part of a larger community? And how important has it been for your own academic and personal development?

I’ve tried to be and feel part of different communities throughout my career. For example, I’m part of different developmental biology societies and have always found these to be so friendly and supportive. I really enjoy sharing and finding new techniques, good images, and other things through these communities and like to keep myself informed of updates through their social media accounts.

When it comes to preLights, I’ve enjoyed collaborating on posts with fellow preLighters. It helps you learn how other people read and analyse a paper. It is fascinating to compare your own thought processes to those of others. It ultimately helps you to improve your writing by developing a better sense of what is worth communicating and how this can best be achieved. Another great outcome of writing preLights is that you end up bumping into researchers whose preprint you’ve covered – at conferences, for example. You recognise more and more preprint authors and they start to notice you as well; another way in which preLights helps you to feel more connected to your field of research.

What do you think should be the most important goal of community projects like preLights?

These community projects should be as inclusive as possible and try to avoid becoming a bubbles or echo chambers. It is therefore crucial to continuously look for ways to expand into new communities and/or countries that are underrepresented. I think it is so important to offer anyone a chance to be part of a community that helps you connect to others, allows you to ask questions, and build a network that will last and that you can rely on. Something that is especially important during these bleak times in which funding and positions are very limited.

What is your favourite thing about preLights?

What I enjoy most is being able to pick a preprint you are really excited about and use preLights to share this excitement with others. Moreover, I always like to pick preprints that could be interesting to people outside of that specific field of research – eg. it introduces a technique that has a wide range of possible applications. This angle has changed the way I pick up on new preprints and has given me a wider perspective. In the preLights that I write, I center everything around the figures. Like many others, I am attracted to pretty images, and like to share things that have caught my eye with others through my preLight posts.

During the next year, what aspect of preLights would you like to strengthen? And how would you like to achieve it?

Though we are a global community, I’d like to help preLights to expand even further. I’d start at the institution level; I’d like to help set up small events, at which you can bring up the concept of a preLight, show others how we do things and explain them how it works. I believe that setting up these small events will lead to more and more visibility through the power of word-of-mouth. I think that the Ambassadors are perfectly positioned to lead these small-scale initiatives in different places across the world and can help to define and consolidate these types of events in the future.

What are you hoping to gain from the experience in terms of your own career development?

I believe that being a preLights Ambassador will provide me with the opportunity to take a leadership role in promoting scientific discussion and collaboration. This will be a great opportunity to develop valuable skills, such as leadership, communication, and organization skills. These skills could be useful in a wide range of contexts, both within and outside academia. Moreover, I’d like to take up this role to further improve my science writing skills. I still find myself writing overly complicated, long sentences at times and could use more practice to further polish my writing.

Finally, what is something that people should know about you (but may surprise some)?

I love watching embryos develop – it’s just mesmerising. Oh and I love painting my nails.