Before the COVID-19 lockdown, I was working in a research laboratory on the development of novel materials for thin-film solar cells. At that time, my routine was going to the lab from Monday to Friday, analyzing the experiment results even on weekends, and writing the corresponding science manuscript. If you are in the academics or research area, you can even notice that interaction with the material science community was local, I mean in the same institute or the university. However, COVID-19 brings us the opportunity to seek a connection with our peers on the web.
In my experience, the interaction with researchers and students related to our field of study was carried on international meetings like the MRS-Congress. Those events happen twice a year in different locations. For example, during my doctoral research project, I attended the MRS meetings in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Boston, Massachusetts. I can confirm these events are a great opportunity to meet people working on material science to hear the news, and even to do networking for future works.
What happens if you can not attend a meeting to see your peers?
I remember the first month of the lockdown. At that moment, almost everybody was disconnected from each other, and we need to find a way to re-connect and keep working. One of the main reasons for that disconnection was all of us need to adapt to remote working (home office). I listened and experienced how the students and professor failed to establish a good communication channel. Maybe you do not know, but the Academic world is ruled by email technology. Email is great for communicating from peer to peer. However, How do you keep informed about the research updates?
You can use social networks in your favor to keep updated and interact with your peers in your research field.Jesús Capistrán-Martínez
During the lockdown, the research community did webinars and virtual conferences. After some events of this kind, I continue watching the researchers through a monitor screen. Maybe it is not a face to face interaction, but I could see the human being leading the research group or the student who did the hard work at the laboratory. New normality is not as bad as we think, but we should learn to manage the power of social networks.
Social networks (Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter) are spreading the news related to our research interest. However, there is an enormous risk of distraction once you are using them. Therefore, we have to be careful about who are we following.
Divide your social networks and conquer !
My advice for the research community is to manage your social networks to build a professional brand. In our case, it means we will open a specific account where we will talk only about topics related to our expertise. I have been doing this strategy for one year, and I have found Twitter has an active research community posting tweets about their latest researches, webinars, Ph.D., and Postdoc opportunities.
For example, in the tweet below, I posted a video of a tour in a solar cell research lab located in Oxford, UK. Being active with the community gives you the opportunity to spot the smart people doing something similar to your own work.
I encourage you to open your academic profile and start sharing with the community.
Caution: In your professional social network account, be careful with all the likes you will be giving because social networks are public, and everybody can see your activity. Build a professional brand means making an extra effort. If you want to like other activities (humor, memes, etc. ), you can do it, but at your own risk. In my opinion, this is why we are going to divide the social networks.
How am I dividing my online presence on the web?
XXI century brings us another communication rules and now the social networks are the main channel to talk. In the following list I show you How am I dividing my online presence:
- Twitter: I use it as my academic profile to share information about my expertise.
- Facebook: I only have nearly 170 connections to keep connected with my family and nearest neighbors (friends).
- Instagram: I love books, coffee, and photography. This social network keeps feeding my spirit.
What people to follow if you are doing material science for Solar Cells ?
You should do your own research but I have seen the following twitter accounts been active during all the year. Give you a chance and follow them.
- Andy Cooper – @aicooper. Research about Material chemistry (emulsions, nanoparticles, porous materials, polymer synthesis, gas clathrates, and supercritical fluids). Leader of the Cooper Group at the University of Liverpool.
- Della Gaspera Laboratory – @DellaGasperaLab . It is a research group focus on nanomaterials and nanostructured coatings.
- Steve Albert’s Lab – @AlbrechtLab. A group at @HZBde dedicated to the development of perovskite-based tandem solar cells.
- Aron Walsh – @lonepair . Leads the materials design group at Imperial College London and he is a Scientific Editor at Materials Horizont Journal.