Our History

"While many undergraduates participate in scientific research, too few have the opportunity to communicate their research and results to other students - especially outside their institutions. JYI answers this need by recognizing the significance of publication as an integral component of science and research training.

"JYI aims to provide a forum in which we as young scientists may communicate with each other and form a cohesive community across the traditional barriers of specific scientific disciplines and fields of study."


The Journal of Young Investigators (JYI) began with an idea. While doing research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Andrew Medina-Marino – a founding member of JYI and now a member its the Board of Directors – wondered why undergraduate research was so invisible. Thousands of undergraduates engage in research through independent study projects, senior theses, and summer research programs, but the scientific community rarely sees the fruits of this work. This led Andrew to the age-old question posed by scientists: Why?

The problem was that no mechanism existed for undergraduates to participate in all aspects of the scientific publication process, and thus undergraduate research remained unrecognized. On their own, many students were developing hypotheses, designing and performing experiments to test them, and analyzing the data – all things that professional scientists do. For the vast majority of these students, however, the scientific process ended there. Only a handful of undergraduates were able to proceed through the rest of the publication process and learn how papers are reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication.

In February of 1997, Medina-Marino, two friends from the National Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and two other undergraduates laid the conceptual groundwork for JYI. The five founding members – two from Swarthmore College, two from Duke University, and one from Brown University – soon became its first Board of Directors (BoD). In June, the BoD convened to form the Mission Statement.

With the Mission Statement in place, the BoD worked to recruit editorial staff and to secure financial support and professional guidance. In August 1997, JYI received financial support from Duke University, Swarthmore College, and Glaxo Wellcome, Inc. With this first round of funding secured, JYI held its first Annual Editorial Conference at Swarthmore College. This conference gave the JYI staff an opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss issues such as recruiting, funding, editing, and publicity strategies crucial to the success and survival of JYI. The next infusion of new support arrived in October when Science committed to an advisory role.

With three of the major components – editorial staff, financial support, and professional guidance – in place, paper recruitment and large-scale publicity began. January of 1998 marked a milestone for JYI with the launch of its website, www.jyi.org. After this launch, a massive public relations campaign was initiated involving numerous posters and mass e-mails. As an alternate recruiting strategy, the CEO made campus visits to Harvard University, MIT, Woods Hole Research Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and many other academic institutions to recruit both submissions and more staff. Later that fall, JYI received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The recruiting and public relations campaigns were thus very successful, and JYI soon had enough material to begin working on the inaugural issue of the online publication.

In November of 1998, the BoD – with two new members – met in Baltimore, MD, to work out the details of the first issue. On December 3, 1998, the first issue was published. The scientific community could now see the fruits of almost two full years of work.

The inaugural issue of JYI included a broad range of undergraduate-authored articles in biological and biomedical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and engineering and applied science. For example, the first issue includes undergraduate studies ranging from the movement of tidal channels in Venice, Italy, to the molecular biology of injury-healing in the nerve of a squid.

In January of 1999, JYI held its second Annual Editorial Conference in Anaheim, CA, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The student staff discussed issues relevant to JYI in a face-to-face manner, which is uncommon for such a geographically diverse organization. In addition to the critical aspects of the conference, such as detailing correct editing procedures and brainstorming about online advertising, the members of JYI were able to interact with one another socially. This social atmosphere strengthened the bonds among members and dramatically increased enthusiasm for the JYI concept.

The subsequent winter and spring were spent recruiting additional staff and more submissions for the next issue. At the same time, a new era in JYI’s history began. New BOD members were needed to replace some of JYI’s founding members. JYI had been founded on the idea that undergraduates would maintain all critical aspects of the journal, and most of the founding members had graduated and could not remain involved in the day-to-day aspects of the Journal any longer. A search was conducted within the editorial staff, and by April of 1999, four new undergraduates were chosen to fill the vacant BoD positions.

In late April, the members of both the new BoD and the original BoD met in Baltimore, MD, to discuss each new BoD member’s role and the function of the newly created Board of Trustees (BoT). It was decided at this meeting that the BoT would act in an advisory role and would include former members of the BoD and outstanding members of the editorial staff. Since that meeting, the new BoD members have spent time trying to understand and define their new positions, while seeking funding, submissions, and other support for JYI.

June 1999 was also a month of tremendous activity for JYI. Courtney Peterson, the newly elected CFO, spent a great deal of time and effort in order to secure a house for JYI in Washington, DC. Members of the JYI staff moved into the house early in the month and members of the staff have been flowing into its confines ever since. The JYI house provides an opportunity for part of the staff to work together on a daily basis – a momentous achievement for JYI. For the first time ever, critical members of the JYI staff (including the CEO, CFO, and CTO) are able to brainstorm with one another face-to-face and make decisions in a matter of minutes, rather than the hours or days needed to discuss issues in a virtual environment such as e-mail.

Mid-June, the new BoD held its first independent meeting to discuss the functions and goals of the JYI house, the upcoming issue, the role of the new Managing Editor, the third Annual Editorial Conference, and future strategies for recruiting and fundraising. Courtney Peterson also presented the Articles of Incorporation and a rough draft of the Bylaws.

This past couple of weeks, most of JYI’s time and effort were focused on the June 30th issue. Supreet Rangi, Editor-in-Chief, spent countless hours corresponding with JYI’s Section Editors to make sure that papers were reviewed. Similarly, she was in contact with many of the Journal’s Associate Editors, who wrote features and editorials for the issue.

Now our story comes to an end. The second issue has been published, and you can now see how dramatically we have grown since the first issue. From all of us at JYI, we hope you enjoy reading this issue and that you learn a lot in the process.

Richard T. Kiok

Former JYI CEO

Written June 28, 1999