A year ago, if a BC student set out to find an undergraduate research journal on life sciences and medical research, they wouldn’t have found one. Parisa Oviedo, MCAS ’16, is looking to change that. Oviedo, a senior pre-med Psychology major and former editor of The Heights, discovered this void about a year and a half ago while discussing a summer coworker’s involvement in a Boston University neuroscience journal.
“I remember thinking, ‘That’s so cool, a neuroscience journal—I don’t think we have one of those,’” Oviedo said. “I did some more research and found that pretty much every major college or research university in the nation has a science journal, and at one point we did as well, but it is no longer active.”
After identifying a need for a student publication at the intersection of scientific research and the humanities, Oviedo, along with her colleague and eventual managing editor Rony Thomas, MCAS ’17, began the first steps towards creating the Life Sciences Journal of Boston College (LSJ).
At the suggestion of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC), the LSJ decided that it would prefer to operate as a BC-recognized and department-sponsored publication, and officially launched earlier this year.
“This was the first time either of us had done this kind of thing,” Oviedo said. “But we ran the idea through Kathy Dunn—associate chairperson, associate professor of Biology—and from there it was a lot of exchange, meetings, emails, and eventually we wrote up a proposal.”
With the assistance of its faculty advisor, Joseph Burdo of the Biology Department, LSJ found the traction it needed from within the University and the Biology department delivered on LSJ’s request for sponsorship.
“They asked us, ‘What exactly is it that you want in a sponsorship?’” Oviedo said, remarking again that this endeavor was the first of its kind for both parties. “So we listed it out.”
According to Oviedo, high on the list of sponsorship priorities were funding, the increased visibility, and the ability to move with relative freedom within the BC community and on campus, these being among the most important upsides of official University recognition for a young on-campus organization.
Concerns about potential intellectual curtailment from the University occurred to Oviedo, but she she remained undeterred and feels that the benefits of University sponsorship outweigh the downsides.
It is easier to have University sponsorship because department recognition will help the students spread the word, she said.
“Right now, no topic is off-limits,” she said regarding potential University censorship.
Structuring and recruiting the editorial board of undergraduate and faculty minds behind LSJ was another effort that required flexibility on the part of those involved. Although it was modeled off past experience, it was largely improvised, she said. As the need for a position came up, (more recently a need for an online or graphics editor), that’s when they would decide to find one.
After the logistics of the journal were settled, content became the main focus and the magazine was divided into its main sections.
Features reports cover story topics from around the field of life sciences, Current research objectively reviews specific and recent publications in the life sciences, medical news strives to provide up-to-date news in medicine globally, but with a special emphasis on medical news from in and around Boston.
The journal also includes an opinions section for any issue related to health or science. Hoping that the wide range of subject matter will attract a broad audience, LSJ intends to take a step further and separate itself from similar research magazines by appealing to those who are not academically involved in the sciences.
“Expanding the readership of scientific and medical material is definitely a large part of the mission,” said Emma Hanlon, MCAS ’17 and associate current research editor for LSJ. “I’d like to think that maybe someone from another field picks up the magazine to learn about something relevant to them and actually takes something away from reading it. We try to facilitate that by avoiding just lazily throwing around complicated medical jargon.”
Given the fast-paced nature of life science research, LSJ primarily relies upon its comprehensive new website as its primary medium for releasing content in the interest of staying relevant.
In the long-term, Oviedo thinks that the outlook is positive for the magazine and believes that its success will be a catalyst for the scientific humanities going forward.
“A year ago, we didn’t have any scientific publications at BC,” Oviedo said. “Now, we have the Medical Humanities Journal, we have the Mendel Bioethics Journal. I think that really shows that there is an interest in this, and we have a huge scientific undergrad population, and we don’t really have a journal for that.”
Featured Image by Margaux Eckert / Heights Staff