Gitanjali - Assessing my Solutions

Hello fellow scientists,

Last week, I explained the process on how I narrowed down to few problems.

While I narrowed down some problems, they were all related to the rising issue of lead contamination in water and its health effects on humans. This blog will go on to explain the next steps of finding some solutions that I want to continue my research on.

From a list of prioritized problems, I started creating a solution validation and assessment table,or matrix, with criteria to evaluate the most feasible solutions that I want to explore further.

The criteria to assess the feasibility of the solution included: effort required, cost, time saved, accuracy, impact to people, technology advancements, and ease of use. I used scores for each of the criteria and added some weights to prioritize the criteria. I then multiplied the weights with score to determine the one or two that I wanted to research on.  The biggest factor in my decision was impact to common people.

I feel that I have accomplished a lot in the past month, but still have a long journey ahead of me to make the idea a reality. I have continued to learn different tool-sets in narrowing the problem and possible solutions. I was introduced to fishbone diagram while trying to understand the different cause and effect of the major problem of lead in water. This helped me understand my problem in a visual way and how they are all interrelated.

Once I understood the interconnected problems, in my research I found that the next step usually is to try various assessment tools. In my case I just used Excel sheet with scores and weights to narrow down problem. I further expanded the same sheet to narrow down solutions by adding more criteria based on the current gaps, and, my personal preferences for a final solution.

When I started this process, everything I did was by reading , taking notes and writing pros and cons, or my thoughts . I quickly learned that while there are some benefits in reading sources about problems and jumping from one problem to another and then coming up with solutions, I needed to use some simple tools to be better organized. The tools took the confusion out of multiple problem-solution combination and the final ones that I chose were based on my initial research and analysis.

Access to a 3M scientist has been very helpful in this journey so far. Dr. Shafer, my mentor, has helped me slow down my thinking process and makes sure I have thought about all the crucial steps in order to continue to the next part of it. I believe that without a 3M scientist to guide me, I would have rushed through all the steps only to find out that I missed something important. I am very thankful to have a mentor to guide me on my path.

- Gitanjali Rao