A New Approach to Problem Solving

by Kiara Taquechel, COS

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a talk by one of Northeastern’s own, Professor Kim Lewis, a distinguished professor of biology. Dr. Lewis has made a name for himself in microbiology by what I perceive to be simple, creative solutions to problems that have seemingly stumped researchers for decades. His talk mainly focused on his work that has led to the discovery of a new drug, teixobactin, but what I most took away from it was his approach to problem solving.

Between the seminar and the dinner afterwards, one comment stood out to me. He said that biology is a science that has traditionally been founded in observations but that this view of biology can be limiting. He urged that biological questions and experiments should be approached in a logical manner, not unlike how engineers approach their own problems, to really promote hypothesis driven research. From my own personal lab experiences and coursework, this statement really struck a chord. I have found myself feeling frustrated in different settings by the seemingly inelegant, perhaps even uninspired, approach to experimental design in the field.

Dr. Lewis’ work with soil microorganisms was like a breath of fresh air for me. He recognized a roadblock and decided to bulldoze through it with a logical, creative, and simple solution in the iChip and its precursors. I currently do not have the background knowledge needed in my field of interest to even begin identifying the gaps and questions that still need to be answered but I hope that when I do, I will approach problems in a manner similar to how Dr. Lewis has approached his own work.