Problem Solver

Thomas Morin

Thomas Morin

Areas Thomas Morin is Knowledgeable in:

Contamination control in manufacturing and analysis
Solid-state welding processes
Engineering design challenges
Data management & automation via spreadsheet programming

Techniques Thomas Morin Uses:

Now THERE is a worthy question!

I guess I would have to say that my primary approach is to try to gather all the readily-available information about a problem/system and look for the process bottleneck or "insurmountable" problem. Defining the problem's root cause is critical; I try to discern precisely WHY the obstacle creates a problem - or appears to create a problem, as the root problem may lie in an adjacent component or process.

If discerning the root cause does not itself suggest an immediate or obvious solution, I may re-frame the obstacle in terminology of another technology and 'solve' the problem in the new framework, then translate the solution back to original system. For instance, hydraulic problems can often be reframed as electrical problems, and vice-versa. Oftentimes I find problem solutions in different fields that have already solved a similar problem, that can be applied to the problem under study. This allows me to bring in objectively parallel solutions from other fields. Sometimes this reframing allows me to simply sidestep the original problem completely to reach a solution.

Another scheme that is sometimes successful is to "flip the binoculars", i.e. to view the problem from a perspective opposite to the original. This can take the form of starting from the end of a process and working backwards to a known starting point, or as a problem of opposite 'concentration', literally or figuratively - e.g., water in a solvent versus a solvent in water. It's a way of "steeping back" to see the implications of the problem in context, instead of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

And - it's always important to remember that if a problem 'seems' intractable, it's usually because you haven't considered every relevant factor. These other factors may not yet be known, or other "experts" may be able to shine a light on the issue. When you hit a brick wall, you may need to seek out other experts in the field for a new perspective (what would we do without Google?). I experienced this directly when working on laser-welding aluminum: A joint quality problem that appeared to be a result of inadequate surface cleaning, turned out to be a problem of excessive reflectivity (insufficient "photon coupling") caused by cleaning "too" thoroughly that resulted from over-polishing the surfaces.

Thomas Morin's Problem Solving Skills:

  1. Solid-state welding processes (friction stir, laser, ultrasonic)
  2. Environmental sampling and analyses (water, soil, hazardous waste)
  3. Aquaculture processes and equipment
  4. Materials and processes for aerospace
  5. Data management process improvement
  6. LabView programming
  7. Database design (Access, Oracle)
  8. Excel & QPro spreadsheet programming
  9. Contamination control & precision cleaning for aerospace and chemical analyses
  10. Quality assurance auditing for environmental and aerospace
  11. Engineering requirements analysis and component design
  12. Laboratory personnel management and development

Thomas Morin's Problem Solving Experience:

  1. Solved a process challenge in drug discovery molecule database development by deploying a spreadsheet analysis program to analyze molecular data combined with a very minor process tweak for the originating chemist, resulting in a reduction in development time from up to two months replete with errors, to a couple of hours with zero errors.
  2. Devised a thermoelectric power generator for deep ocean vent ("black smoker") deployment.
  3. Developed an enterprise database repository for drug discovery molecular data using Oracle 8i and SQL programming.
  4. Analyzed system requirements for a US Army-proposed portable water heater and power generation system, and devised a combined thermoelectric generator/hot water system capable of generating a kilowatt more power than required while producing ample hot water.
  5. Developed a custom gas mixture (Ar/methane) to restore the surfaces of graphite furnace tubes during the analysis cycle, saving several thousand dollars per year in new tubes.
  6. Devised a graduated-composition extrusion method for alumina/zirconia ceramic electrodes used in gas-phase fuel cells and electrochemical oxygen recovery systems.
  7. Developed a non-contaminating liquid density-based separation method to remove zircon crystals from pristine mountain soils for sub-ppb Pb isotopic analyses.
  8. Conceived and constructed more than 30 semi-closed algae- and fish growth systems for aquacultural carbon, nitrogen and oxygen isotopic labelling studies.
  9. Designed and fabricated multiple high-purity solvent purification stills for aerospace precision cleaning, allowing company to maintain its Small Quantity generator exception under EPA rules and saving thousands in annual disposal costs.
  10. Suggested the use of and space-qualified a standard off-the-shelf instrumentation vacuum valve ($1.5k) as a substitute for a customer-suggested pyrotechnic latching valve ($212K) in a proposal for orbiting inflatable habitat modules in space. Won the contract for my company and saved the client over $1M on five units.
  11. Championed a campaign and petitioned US EPA Region 9 for approval to use optical storage of environmental analysis data to replace magnetic data tapes, saving the company at least $1M in the first eleven years of use. This was the first EPA-approved use of optical storage for consent-decree-driven data in the US.
  12. Hacked corporate QC programs and streamlined data entry requirements, drastically reducing man-hours from 64-80 to 1.5 man hours, while eliminating transcription errors and increasing data accuracy to 100%. Awarded President's Award for Innovation and Creativity.
  13. Challenged by the site GM to allow him to "tell the story" of our environmental cleanup work to various government agencies, corporate overloards and the public, I envisioned and programmed an interactive Management Information System (MIS) from the same inexpensive software. Awarded President's Award for Innovation and Creativity.
  14. Designed and built a fluidized-bed bioreactor for aquaculture and residential ponds from off-the shelf components, and sold several thousand dollars worth to retail buyers and universities.
  15. Constructed a laboratory information system (LIMS) from inexpensive software, saving the company at least $35k and ongoing maintenance costs.
  16. Given the task of finding a phase-change organic material with thermal properties of water that occupied a specific volume for a sample container launched from space for atmospheric return and capture, I developed a variable volume containment system for water during phase changes. System patent pending.
  17. Fabricated an enhanced-penetration plasma injector tube for inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES), to eliminate elemental carryover of certain transition elements.
  18. Developed a liquid/liquid extraction method to remove cadmium contamination from analytical reagents for sub-ppb analyses by graphite furnace atomic absorption.
  19. Solved the problem of laser-welding an aluminum tube to a flat aluminum sheet in two months, on which the company had previously assigned three senior engineers for two years.
  20. Developed thin-sheet friction stir welding for space-based radiators, (patent pending) as a solution to problems with attaching tubes to thin sheet via laser welding.
  21. Designed and constructed a new core sampling device for environmental field sampling, solving several problems with excessive physical effort, portability, ease of deployment, and poor sample quality.
  22. Recommended a new material for containing water in an astronaut "cold pack", solving a problem with low-temperature brittleness and leakage with continuous temperature cycling; patent pending.