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Thinking Processes. By Marvi Matos. My background. College of Engineering, UPR BS, Chem E. My background. Lecturer, UW. Carnegie Mellon PhD, Chem E. Post Doc, NIST. The path is difficult to predict, however one step will direct you to the next one…. Research and Life Paths.

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thinking processes

Thinking Processes

By Marvi Matos


My background

College of Engineering, UPR

BS, Chem E

my background
My background

Lecturer, UW

Carnegie Mellon

PhD, Chem E

Post Doc, NIST

The path is difficult to predict, however one step will direct you to the next one…

research and life paths
Research and Life Paths

Working on research is analogous to choosing a life path

  • Define a goal
  • Investigate your choices
    • Research analogy is Literature Search
  • Choose a route and experience it
  • Analyze your choice
    • Has your choice helped you to pursue your goal?
  • Conclude
    • Were your expectations satisfied?

What do these steps remind you?

what about science predictions and the scientific method
What about science?Predictions and the scientific method
  • Scientific method*:
    • Define the question, Define the idea
    • Search the literature, formulate statement
    • Form hypothesis
    • Develop methodology
    • Develop proposal
    • Test hypothesis
      • Perform experiment and collect data
    • Analyze and interpret data
    • Draw Conclusions
    • Publish results

* Crawford S, Stucki L (1990), "Peer review and the changing research record", "J Am Soc Info Science", vol. 41, pp 223-228

the real laboratory experience
The real laboratory experience

You know the goal, however the justification for the research might not be so clear

  • Define the question
  • Literature search
  • Form hypothesis
  • Develop Methodology
  • Test hypothesis (collect data)
  • Analyze data
    • Is your data reproducible?
  • Interpret data and draw conclusions
  • Publish results

Sometimes difficult to find and sometimes conflicting

Could influence data analysis, could drive a biased analysis

Your idea might or might not work

Need to choose and unbiased method

The method of analysis will influence your interpretation

Peer review

decreasing the time scale my approach to be efficient
Decreasing the time scale (my approach to be efficient)

What do you think is the most important step in order to do improve efficiency?

  • Think about research…
  • All steps are relevant, but…
  • One step will help you on decreasing the time spent on making measurements or observations
  • You have defined your goal, question or problem
  • Next step  Literature Search
  • What is a Literature Search
    • Broad concept which basically mean to go back to previously published work (scientific journals), books, etc.
  • Advantage
    • It fills you with ideas
    • It provides a theoretical background to support your hypothesis, experimental design and analysis
    • It helps you on NOT re-discovering the wheel
how do you search the literature personal steps to acquire knowledge
How do you search the literature?Personal steps to acquire knowledge
  • For principles, general equations and established concepts  BOOKS
    • It is really tempting to visit the web solely, it’s easy and fast.
    • However, in general, websites are not peer reviewed references which makes them not reliable.
    • When using web tools, you need to find the original references, if you cannot find them, then the material publish is simply unreliable.
  • For scientific findings on specific topics, new experimental methods, new materials or any other possibilities  Scientific JOURNALS
    • Peer reviewed articles are the base of the scientific community
finding the right reference
Finding the right reference
  • While it is not trivial to find the right reference, here are some useful guidelines:
    • Are they:
      • Peer reviewed
      • Obtainable if other people search them
    • Do they help you on:
      • The definition of your goals
      • Developing a hypothesis
      • Narrowing down possible experimental routes
a personal encounter with the literature
A personal encounter with the literature
  • Post Doctoral Studies
    • Systematic steps that help on proposal writing
    • Proposal accepted, now what?

Find Collaborators

Define idea

Review Literature

Design PLAN

What have people done? Is my idea actually novel?

Are your results reproducible, novel and a real proof?

Back to Background review

Design Experiment

Perform Experiment

Analyze data



application of learned concepts how do you apply what you have learned
Application of learned conceptsHow do you apply what you have learned?

Tips on the application of old concepts to new problems.

  • Memory is useful, but not limiting
    • It is more useful to learn how to find an equation than to memorize the equation
  • Understanding a physical principle is more important than knowing specific details
  • Not knowing the answer  not a final answer, ASK
  • Collaborations with people from different backgrounds will enrich your experiences
  • The “answer” to your problem might be in another field (be interdisciplinary)
the engineering route
The Engineering Route

A technical journey

  • In general Engineers are “Problem Solvers”
    • Our focus is on the application of science principles to develop new processes, materials or tools in order to SOLVE a PROBLEM…
  • We are experiencing now BIG (in fact global) challenges related to:
    • Energy
    • Sustainability
    • Food
    • Health …
  • We need efficient and knowledgeable people that work transparently…
  • Are you up to the challenge?