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9 March 2023
Interview with Dr. Tsung-Rong Kuo—Winner of the Nanomaterials 2022 Outstanding Reviewer Award
We are pleased to announce the winner of the Nanomaterials 2022 Outstanding Reviewer Award—Dr. Tsung-Rong Kuo.
Name: Dr. Tsung-Rong Kuo
Affiliation: Graduate Institute of Nanomedicine and Medical Engineering, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan
Research Interests: optical sensors; biosensors; nanosensors; chemical sensors; SERS; plasmonic nanomaterials; antibacterial nanomaterials
Dr. Tsung-Rong Kuo hails from Taiwan. He received his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from the National Taiwan Normal University in 2011. His Ph.D. research topic focused on preparations of plasmonic nanomaterials as carriers for drug delivery systems. Additionally, he then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Atomic and Molecular Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. At that time, he designed and synthesized nanomaterials as contrast agents for application in molecular imaging. Afterward, he continued his postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Chemistry at the University of California (Berkeley). At Berkeley, he synthesized shape-controlled silver nanocrystals, and prepared silver nanocrystals and Langmuir–Blodgett films as surface-enhanced Raman scattering substrates. In 2015, he joined the Graduate Institute of Nanomedicine and Medical Engineering at Taipei Medical University as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2019. In 2022, he was promoted to Professor. He is currently the director of the Graduate Institute of Nanomedicine and Medical Engineering and the International Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Engineering at Taipei Medical University. His recent research interests focus on preparations of nanomaterials for application in nanomedicine. He is credited with 71 publications with 1993 citations, and his h-index is now 26.
We would like to thank the award committee for their hard work in the difficult task of selecting a winner from such a large number of exceptional candidates. We will continue to reward reviewers with the Outstanding Reviewer Award to express our acknowledgment of their efforts in maintaining the high quality and quick turnaround time of the journal, and we wish them every success in their careers.
We hope you enjoy the interview with Dr. Tsung-Rong Kuo:
1. Could you give a brief introduction of yourself to our readers?
I am currently a professor at the Graduate Institute of Nanomedicine and Medical Engineering at Taipei Medical University. I have been working as an academic researcher at Taipei Medical University for more than seven years. At my current job at Taipei Medical University, I teach nanomaterials courses to undergraduate and graduate students. I am also the advisor to the graduate students in my lab. Our research group has focused on the designs and preparations of various nanomaterials for applications such as antibacterial agents, detection via surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, and photosynthetic biohybrid systems. Most importantly, as the director of the Graduate Institute of Nanomedicine and Medical Engineering and the International Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Engineering at Taipei Medical University, I take charge of recruiting international students. Taipei Medical University has been a leader in Taiwan’s healthcare system for more than half a century. Around 6,000 students from over 40 countries are currently enrolled at TMU's ten colleges. It is ranked 384 in the QS World University Rankings 2023 and ranked 201-250 in the THE World University Rankings 2022. We encourage international students to apply to our institute and program. My lab also welcomes students who are interested in nanoscience and nanotechnology.
2. What’s the focus of your current research, and why did you choose this research field? As a reviewer, what kind of manuscripts would you prefer to review in the future?
My current research is focused on the design, synthesis, and application of nanomaterials for biomedical applications. For example, we have prepared different morphologies of CuS, including microspheres, nanosheets, and nanoparticles, for light-driven antibacterial application. Based on the results of bacterial growth curves, ROS generation, and electron paramagnetic resonance studies, CuS nanostructures have higher photodynamic antibacterial activities. Moreover, bacteria incubated with CuS nanoparticles and CuS nanosheets have exhibited substantial bacterial degradation after near-infrared laser irradiation, which can be attributed to their photothermal killing effects.
Based on my research background and current health threats from bacterial infections, I believe that the development of novel antibacterial agents is an urgent task for human sustainability. Nanomaterials with unique chemical and physical properties are very suitable for this task, as they can act as antibacterial agents to combat bacterial infections. Therefore, I chose to focus my research on the development of antibacterial nanomaterials.
As a reviewer, I prefer to review manuscripts related to my current research interests. I appreciate reading pioneering research works from other research groups before their publication, and I can benefit from these novel research results. When I review an article, I sometimes get new ideas for my own research work, which is of great help to me.
3. Which research topics do you think are of particular interest to the research community in the coming years?
Currently, our group focuses on the research topic of photosynthetic biohybrid systems. The developments of efficient harvesting and storage of solar energy can provide unlimited renewable power and also address the environmental and climate change crises. We design and develop photosynthetic biohybrid systems based on light-absorbing nanomaterials and bacteria to convert greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into valuable chemicals with high specificity and low cost. Under solar light irradiation, light-absorbing nanomaterials can produce photogenerated electrons to assist bacteria in the conversion of carbon dioxide to acetic acid. Moreover, the photothermal effect of nanomaterials can be used to increase the temperature of biohybrid systems to facilitate the growth of bacteria. However, elucidating the details of the reaction mechanisms of biohybrid systems is still an urgent task in our quest to improve conversion efficiency in photosynthetic biohybrid systems. In the near future, with the advantages of light-absorbing nanomaterials, photosynthetic biohybrid systems will reveal high-performance abilities, one of which is the ability to capture sunlight for accomplishing carbon dioxide fixation. Recently, we have published a review paper entitled “Emerging Trends in Nanomaterials for Photosynthetic Biohybrid Systems” in ACS Materials Letters. In this review paper, we collected some recent publications on the research topic of photosynthetic biohybrid systems, and we also explored the perspectives, challenges and opportunities of future practical applications of photosynthetic biohybrid systems. To read this review paper, please visit https://doi.org/10.1021/acsmaterialslett.2c00752.
4. Have you ever encountered any difficulties when conducting research? How did you overcome them?
In the early stages of my academic research, the first difficulty was applying for and receiving a research grant to set up my lab. I invested most of my research grant to buy lab infrastructure and analytical instruments. At this time, I could only provide a very small scholarship budget to recruit graduate students. Therefore, I had a very limited number of students with whom I could execute my research project. To overcome the issue of my limited research budget, I wrote many research proposals in order to attain research grants each year. I tried to apply for research grants that I could. However, writing these research proposals was very time-consuming, and thus, I did not have enough time to publish a research paper.
After my promotion to the position of professor, I had a large enough research budget to maintain my lab and provide scholarships for graduate students. However, currently, the recruitment of graduate students has turned out to be a difficult task. In Taiwan, there is a lack of graduate students; therefore, we have to recruit international graduate students to join our university. With competition from different countries, we have found it difficult to recruit international graduate students. To overcome the difficulty of our lack of lab graduate students, we try to provide high-quality research projects and a high number of scholarships in order to recruit international graduate students with outstanding research backgrounds.
5. If you have the opportunity, will you actively apply to attend academic conferences? What do you think you can learn from participating in conferences that are different from working in a lab?
I joined many local and international academic conferences when I was completing my Ph.D. During these academic conferences, I had the opportunity to display my research data via posters or talks. During communications with various other researchers and fields during the academic conferences, you can brainstorm using your own research projects. Furthermore, I had the chance to join talks given by pioneers in my field of interest and field of research during these academic conferences. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to meet old friends and make new friends. Doing academic research can be a lonely endeavor, and it is almost impossible to carry out research alone. Therefore, joining academic conferences is a good opportunity to make research connections. To this I say, why not?
As a research advisor, I also encourage the graduate students in my lab to join academic conferences. In taking these opportunities, they can practice presenting their research data to the scientific community. For me, personally, I can guide them in giving a good presentation and overcoming the fear of presenting to the public. I believe this is a win-win situation. Therefore, it is an important event when our research group joins an academic conference each year.
6. We are an Open Access journal. How do you think Open Access impacts authors?
Open Access journals make research articles freely available to anyone with internet access, without requiring a subscription or payment. In Open Access journals, readers can access and download the full text of articles without any financial barriers. Research articles published via Open Access can increase the accessibility and visibility of research, which can lead to increased citation and impact. Open Access journals have become more popular in recent years because they provide researchers with a wider readership and greater exposure of their work. Moreover, Open Access can help to address the issue of journal subscription costs, which can be a barrier to accessing research for individuals and institutions with limited resources. However, Open Access journals have also suffered various criticisms. Some claim that the article processing charges required by some Open Access journals can be prohibitively expensive for researchers, particularly those working in low-income countries. Additionally, there are concerns about the quality and rigor of some Open Access journals, as they may not have the same level of peer review and editorial oversight as traditional subscription-based journals. Overall, Open Access journals are a complex and evolving landscape that has the potential to democratize access to research and promote scholarly communication.
In my personal opinion, there are some important qualities that reviewers should have to be effective in their role. Herein, I have added a few qualities that I believe are particularly important:
- Objectivity: Reviewers should pay attention to being unbiased and objective when reviewing a manuscript. This means that the reviewers should evaluate the research work according to its merits, rather than their personal preferences or biases.
- Attention to detail: Reviewers should be careful and detail-oriented, paying attention to the unique aspects of the research work they are reviewing. Reviewers should also examine things like grammar, formatting, and citation style.
- Critical thinking: Reviewers should be able to think critically about the research work they are evaluating, identifying its strengths and weaknesses and providing constructive feedback.
- Communication skills: Reviewers should be able to clearly communicate their comments and suggestions to the author in a respectful and professional manner. This includes providing specific examples and actionable recommendations for the improvement of the manuscript.
- Time management: Reviewers should be able to manage their time effectively, ensuring that they can finish their reviews in a timely manner without sacrificing quality. This is particularly important in fields in which timely reviews are essential.
- Subject matter expertise: Reviewers should have a strong background in the research work that they are evaluating, allowing them to provide informed comments and suggestions for authors.
For more information about Nanomaterials awards, please refer to the following link: https://www.mdpi.com/journal/nanomaterials/awards.