Fred Davis is a winning Solver for the Challenge Probabilistic Modeling of Spending Habits.
I'm a computational biologist with a background in pharmacy and biophysics. I joined InnoCentive three years ago when a colleague mentioned the basic premise: money for good ideas. One of the favorite parts of my job is helping others solve their problems, so I thought it would be nice to have a financial reward accompany the mental challenge. I skimmed through the InnoCentive challenge bulletins for almost two years before I saw a problem that I decided to work on. It had the phrase 'probabilistic modeling' in the title, an approach that is extensively used in computational biology. It was one of the first challenge titles I could even understand! As I read the details of the challenge, it became clear that many of the concepts used to tackle biological problems would apply immediately to the challenge. It was lots of fun working against a deadline to develop an analytical solution that could really help someone make sense of their data.
I think the challenges present a great chance for scientists to look at areas beyond their own immediate interests. I was pleasantly surprised to see how directly the skills I've developed in particular narrow slices of academic science can be transferred to problems in completely different domains. Reading the challenges also introduces me to problems that I would otherwise not think of, and new tools that are useful for other problems. I've tried two challenges so far, one of which was successful. Even the proposal that was not awarded was still fun to work on and I learned some pretty interesting biology and chemistry. I look forward to helping out with other interesting challenges!
If you're even vaguely interested in the concept behind InnoCentive, I highly recommend at least signing up for the bulletins - It's just a matter of time before you come across a problem that you can solve!