I use the published literature often in order to see what is known about the problem. I speak to my colleagues. I read, listen and then synthesize my thoughts.
Elizabeth Gottlin's Problem Solving Skills:
Biochemistry: protein purification, enzymology, etc.
Microbiology: bacteria, phage, yeast
Molecular biology: cloning, PCR, DNA sequence analysis, etc.
Writing: grants, research papers, reports
Elizabeth Gottlin's Problem Solving Experience:
When I was a graduate student, I was married and my husband got an academic science job half-way across the country. I took my project to his lab and worked independently until I got my Ph.D. From my work, I proposed a mechanism for signal transduction in bacterial chemotaxis. I used classical enzyme kinetics to describe the activities of macromolecular complexes. This was my own insight. Big insights are not an every day occurrence, of course. By far, most of my problem solving abilities come into play during my day-to-day research, figuring out what techniques would best answer a question, or why an enzyme reaction didn't work.