Solver Stories: Yury Bodrov

By Wazoku

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My name is Yury Bodrov – “My most inspired challenge was participating in the NASA Challenge. All of us dream of space in our childhood and for many, I’m sure, this dream remains when we become adults.”solver_1

 I was born and now live in St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m married and I have two daughters 17 and 10 years old. I have been interested in chemistry since childhood. My mother was a chemist and she instilled in me a keen interest in chemistry. My mother, my grandmother and my grandmother’s sister were heavily involved in my upbringing and education. They tried to pass on all the traditions of our family to me. Therefore, it is to them that I owe of all my future successes.

In high school I engaged in science via a research laboratory for school children and conducted research in the field of plant growth stimulants, thin layer chromatography and in the field of biologically active substances. At university, I studied the chemistry and technology of biologically active substances. I was planning a scientific career and enrolled in postgraduate studies. However, that was the time when the Soviet Union collapsed and the entire system of science in the USSR disintegrated. I was forced to leave postgraduate studies due to financial difficulties, to survive and earn money. I was in business for a while, then worked as an engineer and scientific consultant for various commercial chemical companies. This allowed me to master many new directions and become expert in the fields of chemical engineering, forest chemistry, petro chemistry and in many interdisciplinary fields.

Regardless of this experience I always wanted to do scientific research. As my scientific career was broken because of the prevailing external circumstances, I felt a significant unrealized potential in myself. Currently, I am interested in an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of nanotechnology, quantum biology, biophysics, neural networks, quantum computers and artificial intelligence. In particular, I have an idea on how to build a fundamentally new artificial intelligence system based on an innovative element created on the basis of hybrid nanostructures. My dream is to get access to a well-equipped laboratory and a good grant to implement all my ideas.

Since I have always liked to solve non-standard scientific and technical problems and I began to search for information about the existence of such problems on the Internet. It was absolutely by chance I came across crowdsourcing and discovered the opportunity to solve complex scientific and technical problems for reward. Without question, I immediately decided to participate. On the one hand, I could use my unrealized scientific potential, and on the other hand, I could make money for my family with my own mind! But it turned out that not everything is so simple. I registered on the website and started submitting my solutions for published scientific problems but all my solutions kept getting rejected!

Now, having won many challenges, I understand that my first solutions were a fiasco, primarily because they were absolutely badly framed. It’s so important to properly format solutions, and I was lucky enough to receive support and a kind of template for submitting solutions that I have been using for many years now. But even having learned how to correctly formulate and present my solutions, I won my first challenge five years after I started participating in challenges.

The first challenge I ever won was about coming up with an additive to the Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride polymer (CPVC), which in the event of a fire would prevent the combustion of this material. I suggested a smart additive that, in the event of a fire, activates and fights the fire. My solution was accepted, and I received my first award. It was a fantastic feeling! I was incredibly happy, and it helped me believe in myself. This first success kept my enthusiasm high and gave me strength to participate in other challenges.

My favorite challenge was the Open Philanthropy Project Challenge: Bioinspiration and Unusual Biology. The main task of this challenge was to describe a biological process or material that is unusual in some way that may or may not be well understood. I was interested in this challenge because in the sphere of my scientific interests there are hybrid nanostructures and functional devices and materials based on them. I had several ideas for the solution that proposed the use of bioinspiration in the development of chemical/biological sensors for various applications. In my opinion, this solution completely met the project criteria because the phenomenon of biological receptors is not fully understood and their mechanism of action is not completely clear. Unfortunately, my solution was rejected. Despite this, it’s my favorite because I get real pleasure from scientific creativity that these types of challenges provide. It gives me the opportunity to realize myself not only as a solver, but as a scientist also.

My most inspired challenge was participating in the NASA Challenge. All of us dream of space in our childhood and for many, I’m sure, this dream remains when we become adults. When I received the good news that my solution for the challenge on Keeping Food Fresh in Space won, I was extremely happy about that. I just imagined that my idea, albeit in an adapted form, could be implemented in a real NASA Mars mission. This is a great honor and it is a chance to possibly touch a lifelong dream.

One of the most surprising challenges for me was the Heart Implantation of a Medical Device challenge where I needed to propose a method of temporarily implanting a medical device inside the chamber of the human heart’s ventricle. I am not an expert in the field of medicine, but I immediately had an idea how to do this. For me, working on this project as a whole was truly way out of my comfort zone, because in order to describe the solution, you need to understand the structure of the human heart and the vessels that surround it, as well as how it functions. I had to first read many chapters from an anatomy textbook on this issue, as well as scientific articles on Percutaneous Intervention to truly understand it before working on my submission. For the solution itself, I used an analogy from physics and parallels with my experiments, which I conducted in my school physics laboratory so many years ago. In this case the combination of my newly acquired experience with my past experience allowed me to solve this challenge and I was awarded a partial reward!

Perhaps nowadays, solving challenges is more of a career than a hobby, since my main motivation to participate is my lack of fulfillment in the scientific field. If I had built a scientific career, had a professor position at the university, then I would not have taken such an active part in solving scientific and technical problems on the platform. I simply would not have enough time and energy for this, since I would be spending all my potential for scientific creativity on conducting my scientific research in my lab, and I would receive all the bonuses due to my rating in the scientific community based on the results published in scientific journals. But because I do not have this, I continue to participate and will do so in the future and the winnings keep my enthusiasm alive.

I do not use any specific approach in my submissions. I just offer a solution, I try to describe it in as much detail as possible. The solution either comes immediately, or there is none at all. And in my experience, trying to synthesize solution through painful deliberation is less effective than the solution that immediately pops into my head. Sometimes I feel like I’ve offered the perfect solution, but it is rejected as a result and other times I think my solution is weak, but I am awarded. Why? I think it depends on many factors. I have had feedback which they said that my solution was too complicated or too expensive, therefore, even if your solution is perfect, it is not always correct and this should not upset you. I think the main advice is to turn off emotions. In general, you shouldn’t care whether your solution will be accepted or rejected, because you should understand that it is absolutely useless to hope that your solution will be accepted unconditionally. Just treat it like an adventure and have fun with the creative process.

The most important advice I would like to give is that you should always go your own way. This is what will make your solutions unique. Namely, the uniqueness and variety of solutions are expected by the companies posting on the platform. Therefore, we, Solvers, must be completely different with unique backgrounds, mentality, education and thinking.

Extract from our book One Smart Crowd  – How crowdsourcing is changing the world one idea at a time. The book is available in Paperback or Kindle format here.

By Wazoku

Wazoku is an innovation SaaS business that helps some of the world’s biggest organizations to innovate at scale. Whether it’s making the most of your employee's ideas, identifying new partners to collaborate with, or exploring the boundless potential of open innovation – or all three! – Wazoku makes innovation happen.