Undergraduates publish on the Web

Richard Kiok knows a good thing when he sees it. When he got a mass e-mail from one of the founders of the Journal of Young Investigators, he immediately wrote back to find out how he could assist in the production of the fledgling Web site.

“I love undergraduate science and I also love the use of the Web to disseminate information,” Kiok said. “I thought JYI was a good way to combine both.”

JYI is the only national peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal in the United States; it seeks to promote the peer review process as an important part of science education. It was founded in 1997 by five undergraduates, two from Swarthmore, two from Duke and one from Brown. Currently, there are two Penn undergraduates on the staff of JYI , Grace Doe (EAS’01), editor-in-chief, and Mark Phong (EAS/C’99), the director of public relations.

Papers can be submitted in three categories: biological and biomedical sciences, sciences and mathematics, and engineering and applied sciences.

At the time Kiok received that first e-mail early in 1998, he was earning a B.S.E. in bioengineering (he completed that degree in May 1999). Because of his expertise, he became a reviewer for JYI engineering submissions. Kiok was promoted to chief executive officer in April 1999 after the founders graduated.

“I’m responsible for coordinating everything,” Kiok said. He does fund-raising, builds ties with such scientific organizations as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and oversees staffing and recruiting efforts.

The journal has a staff of about 40 students nationwide, from colleges such as Duke, Georgetown, Chicago, Stanford and Caltech. The students have faculty mentors.

Managing a national organization has been no easy task. Kiok said he receives about 100 “legitimate” e-mails a day and averages about 10 hours a week on JYI matters. Recently, he has been working on submitting a five-year grant proposal to the National Science Foundation so that the burden of fund-raising every year will not fall so heavily on future JYI staffers.

Kiok himself has not yet been published by his own journal, but he’s hoping. He and his senior design partner submitted their thesis about software they developed, which translates data from a portable breast tumor imaging system.

As he completes his master of biotechnology degree — and puts to bed issue number three of JYI — Kiok is getting ready to step down from his position as JYI ’s CEO.

“It’ll be tough,” he said of his imminent departure from his position, “but at the same time I think my time is almost up — I’m getting a little burned out.”

Originally published on December 2, 1999