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Interview with a PLoS ONE frequent author: Seyed Hasnain

Professor Seyed Ehtesham Hasnain is the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hyderabad in India, and one of the most prolific authors in PLoS ONE. Last week, I interviewed Dr. Hasnain over e-mail about his work and his experience with PLoS ONE:

1. What is your area of research? How did you get into this area?

My current area of research is Molecular Epidemiology and Functional Biology of Infectious Pathogens. While H.pylori and Leptospires are pathogens of interest, the major focus is on Mycobacterium tuberculosis the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). In the over 30 years of my research career, I firmly believe that `change is the only constant in life’ and keeping this philosophy in mind, the research focus in my lab has been shifting over time.

After starting my independent research group, following my Post-doctoral training in the US and Canada on baculovirus mediated gene expression in insect cells, I switched over to tuberculosis. The reason for this shift has been the realization that publishing good papers in good journals is one thing, but having your scientific discovery make an impact on human kind is altogether different. I, therefore, deliberately chose tuberculosis because of the devastation the disease causes taking approximately one human life every 15 seconds somewhere in the world. In the background was also the excitement about the sequencing of the total genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We started by dissecting the molecular epidemiology of this pathogen in India, using the powers of DNA profiling, and then moving on to address the question of functional biology with a view to identify new diagnostics and new targets for developing inhibitors for intervention against tuberculosis.

2. You have published several papers in PLoS ONE to date. Can you tell us which one was the best received and, perhaps, why?

I have about half a dozen papers in PLoS ONE so far. The reason for selecting PLoS ONE is the impression that this journal, part of the prestigious PLoS family, transcends disciplines, something which Science and Nature does (unlike other members of the PLoS family which are more subject specific). Our work is of wide interest, therefore publishing in such a journal will attract a wider readership, as opposed to publishing in a specialized journal where specialists would primarily be drawn to your findings.

On the issue of which of my papers was the best received so far, it is hard to say because it is only about a year since we published our first paper. Our latest one has to do with diabetes and tuberculosis, a synergy which is emerging as a major concern across the world and I am sure this will also attract much greater attention.

3. Why did you and your team choose PLoS ONE to publish this work?

We chose PLoS ONE for the simple reason of the wider audience. The time that PLoS ONE takes in taking a final decision is another factor. I try to avoid journals which take months to arrive at a final decision. What I also like in PLoS ONE is the proactive due diligence on accepted papers which PLoS ONE conducts and, based on its judgment, the press releases it issues to create wider awareness outside the normal readership. In addition, their publishing platform which allows scientists to debate your published data on the net is perhaps unique to PLoS and this enables your peers, and also your possible competitors, to address questions and provide critiques.

4. What are you working on now?

My lab continues to work on molecular infection biology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and also the dissemination dynamics of this bacterium. We have some very exciting stories about some of the unique features the bacteria has for the host immune system and then finally, after the right signals are received from the host, embark on a major effort for its own dissemination and survival. We are also collaborating with other colleagues to sequence the genome of a soil mycobacterium which is of great interest to people working not only in treatment of tuberculosis but also other inflammatory disorders.

5. What was your experience of publishing with us like?

As I said earlier, my experience has been wonderful so far and I am sure I would like to publish more and more in PLoS ONE. The wider readership and the broad canvass on which it operates certainly provokes me to send my manuscripts to PLoS ONE.

Thank you for your time for the interview.

PLoS welcomes both articles and readership from the developing world and strives to make it as easy as possible for these researchers to participate in the PLoS experience. If you wish to join them, please submit your work today.

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