Ivan Skachko won the InnoCentive Challenge Mechanical Joint with High Ultrasound Conductivity.
PhD in Physics, Rutgers University, NJ, USA
MS in Physics Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Moscow, Russia
Starting from high school I faced the dilemma whether to become an engineer or a physicist. I chose the latter because it seemed to me essential to get a good understanding of physical laws for either path. Eventually I understood that my true passion is designing and building things as well as solving engineering challenges. While these inclinations were of some value in my career as experimental condensed matter physicist, I was never able to apply them to a full extent. The difficulty I faced when trying to switch to something more applied, is that the employers were usually seeking for a set specific relevant skills. My assumption -- that with a solid background in physics I can do anything -- seemed to be disproved.
And then, reading Nature journals, I noticed InnoCentive Challenges. These I can just play with! Ideation (I did not know such word exists) is what I often tend to do. I picked the Challenge "Mechanical Joint with High Ultrasound Conductivity" because even though I had no direct experience with ultrasonic waves, the wave phenomena are very similar whether they are electromagnetic waves or sound. I was majoring in optics as an undergraduate, and was using radio-frequencies in my PhD work. I also have interest in mechanical engineering: I greatly enjoy working in machine shop or repairing my car or doing CAD. Surely I learnt a great deal about ultrasound while working on the Challenge.
I think that it is not a specific expertise that is crucial for solving problems but a special connection that is created between Solver and the Challenge. I am eagerly anticipating my next Challenge on InnoCentive.