Director, International Institute for Nanotechnology & George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University, USA
Qualities of an innovative thinker? There are many. It is essential to be inquisitive, work hard, and work intelligently. Also, don't forget to enjoy the process. Don't be afraid to take risks or make mistakes; failure is a part of learning and growing.
Making the most out of your invention… Be exceptionally critical. Identify a path to an invention to solve a problem that is worth solving and produce a product people will buy. If you wouldn't buy it, likely no one else will or should.
Picking a problem… In my group, we follow the science. Our approach is grounded in the scientific method, which allows us to explore new areas fearlessly. Fundamentally, we pursue ideas that are intellectually stimulating and that will open new avenues in science and ones that have great potential to lead to tools and processes that will benefit society.
The decade’s most important development? The most significant development in the past decade has been the use of AI and big data to address critical issues related to protein folding and materials discovery.
Most exciting development or trend? In my view, there are two: 1) The ability to measure RNA, small molecules, and metal ions within live cells. This ability will greatly enhance our comprehension of cellular function and aid in disease tracking and treatment. 2) The development of ultrahigh-throughput materials synthesis, with the capacity to produce billions of structures at a time, accompanied by screens to analyze their chemical and physical properties. This ability will revolutionize our approach to identifying materials that can solve urgent global issues.
Book for scientists? "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn.