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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

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