From Copy Editor to Editor-in-Chief: My Four-Year Journey at JYI

Author: Maya Gosztyla

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly four years since I first stumbled across the website for the Journal of Young Investigators. I had just started my freshman year of college and was looking for interesting organizations to get involved with. JYI caught my eye because it was an international nonprofit, allowing me to connect with other young researchers all over the globe and gain exposure to a wide variety of research topics. I decided to apply to be a Copy Editor, since this position would allow me to read papers both within and outside my own discipline and improve my skills in academic editing. At the time I had no idea that JYI would grow to become a huge part of my undergraduate career.

 Editor-in-Chief, Maya Gosztyla (right) and former Chief Development Officer, Sahba Seddighi (left) ran a table promoting JYI at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Conference in San Diego, CA.

Editor-in-Chief, Maya Gosztyla (right) and former Chief Development Officer, Sahba Seddighi (left) ran a table promoting JYI at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Conference in San Diego, CA.

To my delight, I was interviewed and then hired as a Copy Editor. After completing a thorough training process, I began receiving my first assignments. For each paper I would read it with a keen eye for detail, making changes that improved its clarity while correcting small grammatical errors. For larger changes I wrote comments to the authors recommending they reword a paragraph or omit redundant information. I found it so satisfying to see my recommendations greatly improve the quality of a paper by the time it reached the final published version on our website.

Just a few months after I started working at JYI, the head of my department, Managing Editor Matt Brousil (now a member of JYI’s Board of Directors), announced that he was creating a new position called Lead Copy Editor. This person would be in charge of assigning manuscripts to Copy Editors and communicating with the authors throughout the editing process. I jumped at the opportunity and soon was promoted to JYI’s first Lead Copy Editor. I enjoyed the leadership experience and the chance to interact directly with authors.

About a year after I became the Lead Copy Editor, another opportunity presented itself. Matt was graduating, and the position of Managing Editor was hiring. Matt encouraged me to apply for the role. At first, I hesitated. As an executive position, Managing Editor was a significant step up in responsibility and time commitment from Lead Copy Editor, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle everything the job entailed. In addition, I was only a sophomore, and I wondered if I was really mature and qualified enough to take on an executive role at the journal. But in the end, I overcame my anxieties and submitted my application. After an interview and a tense waiting period, I received the news of my acceptance.

Managing Editor was definitely a big shift from Lead Copy Editor. The mantra of JYI’s executive board is to “work on the journal, not in the journal.” This meant that I spent less time working directly with manuscripts, and more time planning larger projects to improve the journal as a whole. My first major project was “Best of JYI,” a print edition of the journal featuring our best publications from the previous year. It took months of hard work to get this project off the ground, but seeing the finished product made it all worth it. Best of JYI has now become an annual tradition, a legacy that I’m very proud of. Another difference of working as the Managing Editor was that I spent a lot of time interacting with the other executive board members. We had monthly meetings over Google Hangouts, as well as an annual in-person meeting. We came from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, united by our common passion for publishing undergraduate research. I remain close friends with many of the people I met on the executive board, people who I never would have met if not for JYI.

It was two years later when I undertook my final transition at JYI. By then I was finishing up my junior year of college, and the position of Editor-in-Chief became open. This time there was no hesitation when deciding to apply. I’d loved my time working as Managing Editor, and I felt ready to take on the journal’s top editorial leadership position. Working as Editor-in-Chief brought me up yet another level of abstraction. Editor-in-Chief is a uniquely challenging position because of its open-endedness. There are very few set job responsibilities or tasks you need to check off. Instead, your time is spent entirely on higher-level tasks. During my time as Editor-in-Chief, I’ve worked on projects such as drafting a five-year plan to plot the future of the journal, applying to have the journal indexed in new databases, and pursuing collaborations with larger organizations.

As of today, I’ve spent a year as the Editor-in-Chief, and nearly four years in total working at JYI. It’s been an incredible experience for me. I’ve honed my skills in scientific writing and editing, made lifelong friends, and gained experience in leading an international nonprofit. JYI has opened so many doors for me, and I can’t imagine my undergraduate career without it.