In my last post, I discussed my questionably-great revelation about how engineers and physicians both seem to have similar frameworks for problem-solving. I described my internet search for different problem-solving models and my subsequent inability to tell them apart when I failed to label them as “engineering” solutions versus “medical” solutions—a lucky misstep, as it turns out. Today, I would like to explore this a little further.
In retrospect, this really shouldn’t be such a surprise. After all, your first two years of engineering school look remarkably like a pre-med program. There are some differences, yes, but everyone has to take varying amounts of some basic courses:
- Specifically, you have to understand statistics. You probably will get a little calculus along the way [or a ton of calculus if you’re an electrical engineer], but nobody can avoid statistics. In my career, I think I have counted no fewer than five separate statistics courses along the way. You would think I would be better at it after all of that classroom time…
- Everybody takes chemistry! I don’t care how much you end up using it. It’s just one of those things. Everybody in a science field has to take at least one [often two] chemistry courses. If you go into biomedical/chemical/environmental engineering, you will probably take all sorts of higher level chemistry classes where you may encounter your pre-med colleagues and suffer through organic chemistry lab in solidarity.
- I know… The pre-med people may be groaning now. Physics isn’t always an emphasis, but many pre-med college students end up taking at least one physics class along the way. After all, those physiology classes in med school have a lot of fluid dynamics and molecular mechanics. Chemistry and physics are inextricably linked. If you learn one, it helps if you know a bit about the other. And if you go into biomedical solid state sensor fabrication, you’ll have many late nights of homework to ponder this connection.
In each of these disciplines, the Scientific Method reigns supreme. As basic scientists, this is what we’ve been taught to do. This is how our brains have been trained to solve problems. Engineers define a problem, pick a potential solution to explore and analyze their results. If it doesn’t work, they repeat this process all over again. Similarly, physicians identify a diagnosis, pick a treatment pathway, follow up with the patient to see if it worked and then adjust it as needed. Same stuff, right? In the end, aren’t we all scientists?
So why does it feel different?
DEFINING A FRAMEWORK
There are many searchable flow diagrams to represent this process. At the risk of being too simplistic or redundant, I thought it best to mash things down into some basic, generic steps that could apply to any problem-solving scientist.
Pretty generic, right? Anyone could use this: a chef in a kitchen working on a new recipe, a child building some grand Lego creation, me ordering a salad… The applications are endless! So with respect, I would ask all of you to agree that we could use this flow loop as a common framework for the next series of discussions.
For the next few articles, I will focus more in upon each of these five steps. For now, I would ask that you spend just a few minutes thinking about how things are the same rather than focusing on their differences… and yes, there are some definite differences! We’ll explore those, too, along the way. In the meantime, we’re going to stay focused on the positives.
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Photo Credit: Sam Karanja from Pixabay