In Solution

Before joining Northeastern’s fab­u­lous (if I do say so myself) news team about a month ago, I worked at a start-​​up chem­ical com­pany in West­wood, MA where I was sur­rounded by Erlen­e­meyer flasks and flat-​​bottomed evap­o­ra­tion ves­sels con­taining a slew of organic nano-​​materials dis­solved in toluene, xylene or, my per­sonal favorite, decahydronaphthalene.

These solu­tions, which were usu­ally a deep red color cre­ating a mad-​​scientist-​​horror-​​film kind of atmos­phere, were never the final product. They were all “in-​​process.”

This blog, which we lov­ingly call InSo­lu­tion after quite a debate over here in External Affairs, will be about the goings-​​on of var­ious research labs across North­eastern. By def­i­n­i­tion, research is an “in-​​process” activity:

Research (ˈrēˌsərCH/) Noun: The sys­tem­atic inves­ti­ga­tion into and study of mate­rials and sources in order to estab­lish facts and reach new conclusions.

The end goal is to estab­lish facts and reach new con­clu­sions. The research itself is an investigation—a process.

You may have already heard the term “use-​​inspired” pop­ping up around campus (or on the web­site that directed you to this blog). Use-​​inspired research puts inves­ti­ga­tion to use. The idea was first pre­sented in a book called Pasteur’s Quad­rant: Basic Sci­ence and Tech­no­log­ical Inno­va­tion by Donald E. Stokes. Louis Pas­teur was inter­ested not just in under­standing the nat­ural world, but also in finding solu­tions to some of the globe’s most pressing chal­lenges. Back then it was things like rabies and rotten milk, today it’s cancer, dia­betes, global warming, and cyber-​​security, to name a few.

Con­tributing to the so-​​called “knowl­edge base” is obvi­ously extremely impor­tant – without under­stand the under­lying cur­rents of our world we can’t attempt to answer the ques­tions we have about it. But as a fac­ulty member recently said to me, “this is just the starting point.” Northeastern’s sci­en­tists – fac­ulty and stu­dents alike – are taking the chal­lenge a step fur­ther as they try to put their obser­va­tions and data into solutions.

I’m here to tell you about them.

I hope you enjoy the bits and pieces of Northeastern’s research cul­ture that you find here.

Please never hes­i­tate to join in on the con­ver­sa­tion – col­lab­o­ra­tion is always an impor­tant piece of the investigation.

Photo: cenews, “Dish” August 28, 2010 via Flickr, Cre­ative Com­mons Attribution