How not to entirely screw-up in your early-career stage? An ABC’s for undergraduates and budding professionals in Biological Sciences

Seat back and relax. If you’re already a graduate or about finish your Biological Sciences degree, then this is for you. After four years (if you’re lucky) of ups and downs, burned eyebrows, and fun experiences. Finally, you’re a graduate. There’s diverse of career waiting for a for Biology graduate. But, a very common question among graduates is ‘where to go next?’ It sounds like a vacation to some beautiful tropical beaches –But, no. After finishing a degree many are confused about which career they will take. Many might have identified their plans ahead of time, perhaps before enrolling to the degree (as it is a common question during the admission interview: ‘how do you see yourself 10 years from now?’). The majority of biological sciences students foresee their selves to become a successful medical doctor. Way back in 2009, I enrolled to Biology, determined to proceed to medical school after finishing my undergraduates. But plans are dynamic and suddenly my long-term goals have changed. I ended up majoring in Ecology and focused my direction to working on Conservation. This decision was made after a year-long experience working as a research assistant on a project led by mentors in the field. I almost failed my anatomy course, which led to a concrete decision to back-off on my dreams in medical school. This decision was certain without remorse.


I am writing this for all the students out there. You don’t need to be on the top of the class or on Dean’s list to start-up your career and become successful in the future. It is essential that you learned a lot from your field but what you need is a right attitude and direction. Additionally, always remember that being young in your field is very challenging but fulfilling. The challenges you will encounter should strengthen and equip you better and never let it change you negatively. Most importantly your attitude both personal and professional should be your foundation and stepping stones to becoming what you want in your field and career. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but a good combination is just right.

Academia is tough (and rough!), you will be judged inadequately, envied irrationally, underestimated, and challenged but you are and will never alone.

On this piece, I will be sharing few of my insights on how not to at least screw-up your early years of a career in the field of Biological Sciences.

  1. Focus on what you aim for but be flexible. Identify and divide your goals. The short-term goals are goals achievable in at least 6 months to a year or two, and long-term goals are for at least 3 years or probably after you graduate from your degree. It is good to write down your short-term goals. Hypothetically, I noticed that goals (deadlines, meetings, reports, etc.) written and posted has a higher chance of being accomplished than those goals only written in the air. Long-term don’t need to be posted as they’re too complex, it should better stay in your mind and chunk piece by piece as short-term goals. Your short-term goals should be a tributary of your long-term goals. Focus but be open to other opportunities and make sure it worth the detour.
  2. Know yourself. Assess yourself at least every day or every month. Ask yourself on how productive you are for a certain period of time if you are doing well in your goals and plans. Asked your peers regarding your performance and capacity. If you feel confused, go back to #1. Question yourself but never doubt it.
  3. Know thy mother and thy father –your mentors. It is very important that you know the right person to work with as they will guide you to your journey. They are an essential factor in your career success. It is preferred to work with s mentor whom you feel like your mother, father or a friend –but don’t too close and make reservations. Your potential mentor should be working and knows your chosen field. It is difficult to work on something if you don’t agree on matters. Share your plans and goals with your mentor. Listen to their advice and wisdom, discuss challenges and problems ahead, argue when necessary but keep polite.
  4. Be passionate. Showing your true interest in your field is important, and you proving this by getting involved in other activities aside from just studying and attending the class. Get involved in volunteering, writing or giving talks, sports, and other experience. During the first encounter with experts or potential boss your being passionate is always a dominant edge –of course, you need this equation: passion + skills + knowledge* attitude =a perfect career!
  5. Your attitude is your master key. Yes, it is not the number one thing you should possess to successfully build-up your career. In career perspective, an attitude without direction is like a car with flat tires. It is not the first but it is your best asset and should never be compromised. Be polite when dealing with peers and colleagues especially during correspondence and personal discussion. Adjust according to your environment, respect the authority and only resist if you are clear and factual.
  6. Get involved. The best way to learn firsthand information, training, and skills in your field are by working hand in hand with the experts. Aside from the knowledge they partake, you can also develop your professional attitude towards work and people. Apply for internships, assistantship, or mentee to hone your skills. This can be a great way to find out about opportunities and can open doors for you. It can also help boost your CV and add future references in your list.
  7. Talk and discuss with your peers. Your peers –it might be your classmate, a student of the same degree from other schools, and anyone you consider as peers could be the best person to talk with about your plans, work progress, and the challenges you are facing. Yes, your peers will clearly understand what you are going through and will give you a bunch of insights. Also, you can learn new ideas and opportunities from your peers.
  8. Write about your work. The capacity to do research and write about your findings are essential to getting a good career in Biological Sciences. That’s why during undergraduate years, students must perform group or individual research to be trained in different scientific skills and methods. Writing about your work and getting published is a one way of building your name in your field and a plus factor to your potential employers. For those in their undergraduates, you can start-up blogs, student forum, essays, or short scientific communications.
  9. Try and choose carefully. Deciding which career to choose can be very difficult. Thus, it is important to test some of it first. But be strategic about what you choose to do to make sure you don’t waste your time and miss other long-term opportunities –and you don’t waste other people’s time.
  10. Join scientific societies. There are a lot of scientific societies for Biological Sciences. These societies are a great way to know more about the work of your peers, future colleagues, and experts in your field. Scientific societies also organize a yearly conference where you can learn new advances and trends, opportunities, and free access to academic literature and books (sometimes, autographed by your favorite authors). Some societies also offer travel and research grants, especially for early-career scientists –the best way to travel for free while learning.
  11. Socialize in social media. Your social media accounts aren’t just for your social life, selfies, and frustrations but also for your scientific career. Learn about opportunities and get connected with people that may not necessarily interact every day. There are a lot of Facebook groups and page where you can find a bunch of scientists and peers sharing and discussing their work. You can also interact with them but remember to be polite and make sure your correspondence is private (never post your online correspondence!). Be responsible for what you post in social media as they may judge you based on what they see. Some potential employers and colleagues also use your social media account for background check –so, once again be responsible. There are also scientific social media platforms where you can professionally involve. Try or, where you can message and freely access the work of your colleagues within your field.
  12. Expand your thinking and keep on learning. For some jobs in Biological Sciences, you may be required to take some additional training. Essential training, short-courses adds to your qualifications. In some institutions such as Academia, Masters or D. degree are a big plus. Make sure you do your graduate studies which are in line with your field or what is needed.
  13. Work hard, party harder. While building your career don’t forget other aspects of your life. Biological Science requires a lot of time but never forget you’re still a human. You will be paid according to your work not according on how much you forget your family, friends, and other things that brought you happiness. Working hard is out, working efficiently is in! Passion and perseverance are different from a workaholic. Again, divide your work and achieve one goal at a time. Take a coffee break, breath, and eat well. Travel sometime –go to beaches, go hiking. After a long day, everyone deserves a pint of beer!

Biological Science is diverse, as well as the people taking this course. There might be a difference in how we deal with the challenges and become successful. But one thing is common to all, getting a good career in biological sciences can be extremely challenging, diverse, and rewarding. There are a lot of different jobs or career paths waiting that you can get involved. Looking for a career in biological sciences can be so tricky and competitive. But never ever quit!


A simple guide for students and budding scientists on where to publish their work in Biological Sciences

In many traditional academic institutions, there’s this common academic maxim ‘Publish or Perish’, which means if you don’t publish you may lose or demote from your job position. This is the reason that many prestigious universities and research institutions puts a quota to their scientists and faculty in terms of papers publish annually, not to mention the number of a conference organized, talks, and symposia attended. The same reason why they [higher institutions] hire and fund graduate students preferably Ph.D.’s to sustain the demand and need to publish –also known as to generate knowledge that will be beneficial for the society. Also, the number of publication is a measure of funding efficacy. Many funding agencies require institutions to publish the results of their publicly funded projects. In the Philippines, not all institutions follow this rules but instead paper publications has become an integral part of tenures and promotions in many state-owned universities and research institutions. Many institutions in the country also encourage researchers to publish through incentive-based policies.

Writing and publishing manuscripts is challenging, it isn’t like learning ABC’s and 123’s. It is where you dedicate most of your daily time spent with cups of coffee (and frustrations) –perseverance, critical thinking, and creativity is a must in writing your piece (your research paper). Your starter pack includes your objectives, data from either field work or laboratory experiments and other sources, and most importantly the will to write! It is important to remind yourself that having your data and the ideas written in an A4, double-spaced, 12 points-Times New Roman, continuous line numbering, and those beautiful figures and tables aren’t enough ingredients to assure you of ‘ready-to-serve’ publications (at least we have computers today to perform the baking).

The next step is to submit your work to a journal and publisher. Your paper will pass through many obstacles: it is reviewed by the editor, sent to a ‘blind’ peer reviewer who actually knows you (and sometimes hates you for conceptualizing the idea that he/she should’ve written years ago!). After few months (sometimes years) of waiting in agony, the cake is served (sounds like delicious but it isn’t) and if you’re lucky you’ll receive ‘accepted with minor revisions’ and if not ‘rejected –there’s novelty in your work…Blah…Blah…’. Manuscript rejections is not a rare ending of your work (Tip: if you received the decision and if it looks negative, leave it for at least a day). There are a lot of reasons why papers get rejected. Occasionally rejection happens upon submission. I remember I had 4 papers rejected after less than 24 hours upon submission, and we had this ‘data-powered’ paper submitted to Ecology which was rejected not because it’s not good but it doesn’t fit the journal’s scope. Yes, the appropriateness of your work to journal’s scope is very important. You can’t publish your work on earthworms in a mammal research journals or your social science research on a proteomic journal. But it’s not only the appropriateness of your work. Your work should be in good quality, scientifically-sound, data robust, statistically correct (if needed), and there’s lot more criteria (like what I’ve said it is not easy to publish).

Every rejection it feels like you are not ‘good enough’ to publish academically or you don’t belong anymore in the arena. Sometimes it discourages you to pursue your work or write another paper because you think it will be rejected again. But, an important point to remember here is that even the established academics receive rejections. I know a lot of them and they told a lot of stories about it and I learned so many things on how to cope up with rejections and the very same reason why I am writing this, so rejections doesn’t mean the end of the world if you, as a novice in the field, also receive one. Another one, you can learn a lot from rejections, literally from

BOX 1. What is an ISI and Scopus journals?

Scopus and ISI are both top Bibliographic Citation Database. Scopus was founded by the publishing house Elsevier in 1995.  It covers nearly 22,000 titles from over 5,000 publishers, of which 20,000 are peer-reviewed journals in the scientific, technical, medical, and social sciences. However, Scopus do not calculate the Impact factor of the journal instead it calculate the h-index of the author using its digital identifier ORCID. On the other hand, Thomson Reuters Web of Science (generally known as ISI Web of Science or ISI) is owned by Thompson Reuters group. The ISI also publishes the annual Journal Citation Reports which list an impact factor for each of the journals that it tracks. Thompson Reuters Journal Masterlist is currently transferred to Clavirate Analytics™ (  It is important to take note that within the scientific community, journal impact factors play a large but controversial role in determining the kudos attached to a scientist’s published research record. ISI is also responsible for the Academic Ranking of the World Universities commissioned by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

In comparison between Scopus and ISI, a 2006 study concluded that “Scopus is easy to navigate, even for the novice user. The ability to search both forward and backward from a particular citation would be very helpful to the researcher. The multidisciplinary aspect allows the researcher to easily search outside of his discipline” and “One advantage of WOS over Scopus is the depth of coverage, with the full WOS database going back to 1945 and Scopus going back to 1966. However, Scopus and WOS complement each other as neither resource is all inclusive.

Additionally, the difference in citation records between ISI versus Scopus varies hugely by discipline. For the academics working in the Sciences, Scopus generally finds fewer citations than ISI, with the exception of our Computer Scientist. For the academics working in the Social Sciences and Humanities Scopus generally finds more citations than ISI, with the exception of the Cinema Studies academic. Hence, most journal are in Science are only found in ISI database.

the reviewer’s comments and suggestions you received, who are generally free of charge service for reviewing your paper and certainly do not reject it just for the sake of it. Reviewer’s comments are not intended to be a personal criticism of you but should be looking at as constructive criticism of the paper you have submitted. Don’t worry the number of times your work was rejected will not appear in your CV’s –so don’t be discouraged.


As a budding writer (I choose to use this word since soon you will be blooming to a very good writer), you are encouraged to submit your work on high-impact journals but not really a must. In publishing your work make sure you are keen not to publish your work on Predatory Journals. These journals are called Predatory because they profit from authors by charging high priced publication/processing fee and doesn’t provide rigorous reviews and sometimes don’t even review your work. But, doesn’t mean you pay a huge amount it is predatory, there are exemplary journals such as PLoS, BioMed central (BMC) that charge more than 1500 U$D to publish your work after the acceptance-only agreement. A good way to spot a Predatory Journal is when they flood your email with an invitation to publish, a rapid publication with questionable review system (other journals offer 1-week publication), with enormous publication charge, and awful formatting and layout. But, there’s a growing debate on the issue on predatory journals for until now there’s no proper metrics to determine this. The good way to spot a good journal is to check their editorial board, a number of published papers, and the authors who publish in the journals. It is also good to refer to your colleagues or supervisors about the quality of the journal. There is also a negative academic stereotype on Indian-based journals but it is important to take note that there are good and exemplary journals based from India that publishes good data and papers. Therefore, it is important that students and researchers know where to publish their output.

So, here I share with you a list of recommended journals for students and budding scientists based on personal readings and reviews and this may exclude other journals (but I will keep this list updated). Some of these journals were classified as Q4 Ranking journals and Digitally Indexed Journals (Web of Science and Scopus Indexed).

Please take note that these journals may be cross-disciplined and may include wide topics and scopes. It is recommended that you check the website (provided) to determine if your work fits the journal.

List of recommended journals for starters

General Biology

  1. Tropical Life Sciences Research
  2. Natural Sciences and Agriculture
  3. Biotropia
  4. Asia Life Sciences
  5. Malaysian Nature Journal
  6. Philippine Science Letters
  7. Current Science
  8. Journal of Nature Studies
  9. Journal of Sustainability Science and Management

Zoology, Entomology, and Animal Sciences

  1. Journal of Advanced Zoology
  2. Journal of Threatened Taxa
  3. Asian Journal of Animals Sciences
  4. Nematology
  5. Folia Zoologica
  6. Wildlife Biology in Practice
  7. Zoology and Ecology
  8. Tropical Zoology
  9. Forktail
  10. Herpetology Notes ;
  11. Asian Herpetological Research
  12. Herpetologica
  13. Entomological Research
  14. Insect Science
  15. International Journal of Acarology
  16. Mammal Studies
  17. The Philippine Entomologists
  18. Zoological Research
  19. Journal of Entomology and Zoological Research
  20. Raffle’s Bulleting of Zoology
  21. Current Zoology

Ecology and Conservation, Environmental Sciences, Biodiversity

  1. Biotropica
  2. Biodiversity and Conservation
  3. Journal of Ecology and Environment
  4. Ecology, Environment and Conservation
  5. Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation
  6. Environment Asia
  7. Environment and Society
  8. Biodiversity Science
  9. Subterranean Biology
  10. Endangered Species Research
  11. Ecotoxicology
  12. Journal of Biodiversity and Ecological Sciences
  13. Oryx
  14. Applied Ecology and Environmental Research
  15. Asian Journal of Conservation Biology
  16. Journal of Environmental Science and Management
  17. Ecological Questions
  18. Ecosystem and Development Journal
  19. Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity

Anthropology, Ethnobiology, Social Sciences

  1. Conservation and Society
  2. Anthropozoologica
  3. Ethnobiology and Conservation
  4. Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine

Botany and plant science

  1. Plant Archives
  2. Current Archives in Botany
  3. Journal of Plant Sciences
  4. Journal of Plant Phytochemistry
  5. Tropical Plant Biology
  6. The Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore
  7. Taiwania


  1. Forest Studies
  2. Forest Science and Practice
  3. Forest Science and Technology
  4. Journal of Tropical Forest Science

Agriculture and crop related studies

  1. Agrivita
  2. Archives of Phytopathology and Plant Protection
  3. Journal of Plant Protection Research
  4. Journal of Tropical Agriculture
  5. Crop Research
  6. Advances in Horticulture Science
  7. Tropical Agriculture
  8. Philippine Agricultural Scientist
  9. Journal of Horticultural Research
  10. Tropical and Subtropical Agroecosystems
  11. Rice

Microbiology, Health, and allied fields

  1. The Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health
  2. Modern Food Science and Technology
  3. Field Mycology
  4. Mycosphere
  5. Current Research on Environmental Mycology
  6. Folia Parasitologica
  7. Archives of Microbiology
  8. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
  9. Research Journal of Microbiology
  10. Mycopathologia
  11. Genetika
  12. Acta Microscopica
  13. Philippine Journal of Biotech

Fisheries and Aquatic Biology (including Marine Sciences/Biology)

  1. Aquatic Ecology
  2. Estuaries and Coast
  3. Coral Reefs
  4. Inland Water Biology
  5. Journal of Coastal Research
  6. Knowledge in Management of Aquatic Ecosystems
  7. Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science

Taxonomy and Systematics (Description of species, Geographic notes)

  1. Checklist
  2. Biodiversity Data Journal
  3. ZooKeys
  4. PhytoKeys
  5. Systematics and Biodiversity
  6. Biodiversity and Natural History
  7. Museum Publications in Natural History

For a complete list of all the journals you need here are the links for useful databases you can access and for more list access this website

Publishing in academia is a particularly important career step but, like all things that are worthwhile, it takes time; it also gets easier with practice. So don’t wait any longer. Start writing that paper now! Publish! Flourish!

Disclaimer: the author of this blog is neither promoting nor involved in any journals/publisher listed in this blog. The list of journals/publisher on this blog will be updated timely. Please comment below if for clarifications and additional info.