Michael M. asked me to post about an academic journey of one of my papers, so here goes.
In November 2008, I submitted a paper, "Distributed Agreement in Tile Self-Assembly," to STOC. The paper was rejected, but the comments I got from the reviewers were superb. They were extensive and specific -- and I agreed with everything they said. I changed the paper to address each of the concerns raised, and resubmitted it to DNA 15 (the 15th Annual Meeting of DNA Computing and Molecular Programming). This time around, my paper was accepted, and I recently learned that it won the Best Student Paper Award.
Two points seem important to me.
First, I didn't (and don't) take rejection personally. I view paper submission not as an event, but as part of a process. If I get a quality rejection letter, and I improve the paper based on the comments in the letter, it's just a matter of time before an improved version of my paper will get published somewhere.
Second, the STOC PC reviewers played a role in advancing computer science, beyond just putting together a program for STOC. My experience may be unusual. One congratulatory email I received, from a well known theoretical computer scientist, basically said, "Congrats on your award, and I'm shocked that you got useful feedback from STOC reviewers. So congrats on that too." Therefore, I'd like to emphasize to anyone reviewing something, that even if a submission is not a good fit for your particular venue, providing useful feedback is scientifically important. I'm very grateful that I had reviewers who approached their role conscientiously.
I'll conclude by shifting gears into a soundbite of my paper's technical results. I was able to show connections between the geometry of self-assembling networks, and the theory of multiprocessor synchronization. For example, three-dimensional self-assemblies can simulate strictly stronger shared objects than two-dimensional self-assemblies. These connections seem to intrigue both the "nano people" and researchers in distributed computing -- and I'm now investigating synchronization problems in several subareas of natural computing. If nothing else, it looks as though it'll be a lot of fun.
A pre-proceedings version of the paper is available here.