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What are the most important areas in polymer research?

Science | Researchers
What are the most important areas in polymer research?

Your chance to hear from our new Chief Editor as he discusses ways to better support the research community.


We sat down with the new Chief Editor of Advances in Polymer Technology, Dr Ning Zhu, Nanjing Tech University, to discuss his plans to develop the journal to better facilitate research communication within the polymer research community.

Read on to find out more about the most important research areas in polymers at the moment as well his advice to researchers and especially early career researchers. 

What are your key development plans for the journal as Chief Editor? 

I have been working in the field of polymer science for many years and have become very familiar with the process of academic article publishing. I've always hoped that I could give back to the community and this is my chance to play my part in facilitating research communication among my peers. This is why I gladly accepted the invitation to serve as Chief Editor of Advances in Polymer Technology. 

My goal is to continue developing the journal to improve its level of service, quality of publication, visibility and impact. 

What do you consider to be one of the most important topics in polymers at the moment? 

At the moment, I think the three most important development areas are: 

1. Controlled polymerization methodologies: the combination of new catalysts, flow chemistry and external field action to construct sequence-controlled and complex topological structures. 

2. Functional polymer materials: the development of photovoltaic, energy and biomedical polymer materials and their industrialization. 

3. Sustainable materials: the design, preparation and application of bio-based, degradable and recyclable materials. 

Do you consider Advances in Polymer Technology to be a good forum for sharing and highlighting research in this field?

I do believe that researchers should follow a paper-centric approach, meaning that when deciding where to publish our focus should primarily be on the value of the research results to the advancement of science in our field and the societal impact deriving from publishing those results open access. 

Chinese researchers have published outstanding research in Advances in Polymer Technology. By being open access, Advances in Polymer Technology makes it easier to discover relevant research and in this way serve as a forum of communication and collaboration with researchers across disciplines and locations, both in China and internationally. 

What advice would you give to a PhD researcher writing their first article?

When starting out as a Ph.D. student and with the help of your supervisor, you should really take time to go through a large amount of literature, understand the current status of global research in the field as well as the scientific problems yet to be solved.

Try to think ahead into the future – what developments are necessary? What questions need answering? Once you have a deep understanding of where the field is at and where it is heading, then you can start writing your first paper.

Focus on conducting ethically sound research and aspire to be of service to society through your contribution to the advancement of knowledge in our field. 

And most of all, enjoy the process!

What is your top tip for authors when selecting a journal?

Some researchers will choose to submit to selected top-ranked journals. I will suggest the authors do the following before making an appropriate choice: 

  • make a comprehensive assessment of the research results in a journal

  • understand the positioning and scope of target papers of the journal

What advice would you give to someone seeking to become an editor?

I strongly encourage researchers to get involved in editorial activities. We can learn a lot from each other and especially from reviewers’ assessment of a paper. Either by monitoring the peer review process as an editor or through conversations with reviewers and exchange of knowledge, everyone involved in the process of academic publishing – authors, editors, reviewers – can have a better understanding of the research at hand and more importantly have a fresh perspective on the issue being investigated.

This will help us to improve or even enrich our own research. 

About Dr Ning Zhu:

Dr. Ning Zhu is Professor at the College of Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Engineering of Nanjing Tech University. His teaching philosophy is: "teachers and students could be the same and yet different". He establishes moral values when educating students, quite a number of whom have been awarded national scholarships: "MicroMacro, Where Science Happens".

His research interests include (1) the design, synthesis and application of sustainable materials, (2) micro-scale continuous flow polymerization reactions and self-assembly, and (3) catalysis and development of functional polymers. He is a subject leader of the National Key R&D Program of China, and is in charge of different scientific research projects such as general projects and youth projects under the National Natural Science Foundation of China, sub-projects of the National High-tech R&D Program (863 Program), and development projects commissioned by Sinopec, etc.

Since 2016, Dr. Zhu has published 28 SCI papers as first or corresponding author (including co-author) in chemical  journals such as Chem Eng J, chemistry journals such as Chem Commun, polymer journals such as Prog Polym Sci and domestic journals such as Green Energy Environ. He has been granted 26 Chinese invention patents and 4 US patents and has been selected for the Outstanding Young Key Teachers Program of the Qinglan Project of Jiangsu Universities. Recently, he won the First Prize for Basic Research Results of the Chemical Industry and Engineering Society of China in 2020 (2/12) and the First Prize for Technical Invention of the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation in 2016 (5/8).


This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by David Jury and is also CC-BY.

Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2020, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.